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Finding rural community resilience: Understanding the role of anchor institutions

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Ruth McAreaveyORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Across Europe there is evidence that rural space has become more highly desired than before the pandemic as urban dwellers escaped to the perceived safety of the countryside. Whether or not this is a permanent trend remains to be seen, but it has brought to the fore the diversity of rural space, with some places faring much better than others. Indeed, with increased attention on so called ‘left behind’ places, the question of why some communities are resilient seems pertinent. Relatedly, why is it that others remain marginalised in terms education and health outcomes, economy, amenities and quality of life. Change can arise from longer-term issues such as economic restructuring or austerity, or it could be due to a sharper shock such as the pandemic or the exit of the UK from the EU (Brexit). And yet the reason behind uneven responses is not fully understood. This article examines how rural communities deal with challenges arising from change and the role of different organisations in this process. Drawing from extensive empirical evidence from a study based in England, the article identifies key traits of a resilient rural community. The research reveals that the process of resilience is not something that can be easily pinned down, nor is it a matter that is ever finished. It shows how the specificity of place, including the existence of anchor institutions, can enhance community resilience. In a rural context, a network of local institutions scaffold together to create an anchor network. Co-existence is therefore a key component of rural community resilience as it provides a range of important resources that is not solely reliant on a single organisation. Wider socio-economic context including deliberative state action also plays a role. But even so, the loss of resources, such as reduced public spending (austerity), does not actually mean a community will wither. Crucially the extent to which a community can move beyond survival seems to be limited in places without a range of anchors.

Publication metadata

Author(s): McAreavey R

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Rural Studies

Year: 2022

Volume: 96

Pages: 227-236

Print publication date: 01/12/2022

Online publication date: 14/11/2022

Acceptance date: 19/10/2022

Date deposited: 04/11/2022

ISSN (print): 0743-0167

ISSN (electronic): 1873-1392

Publisher: Elsevier Ltd


DOI: 10.1016/j.jrurstud.2022.10.014


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Funder referenceFunder name
Defra, Project No. 28358, Rural England