BESST aimed to stimulate economic development of rural areas based on the environmental distinctiveness of the partner regions. Therefore the project developed and tested a new approach (“Virtuous Spiral”) by linking spatial and economic development with environmental conservation to improve the quality of life in rural areas.
Combining the assets of environment and heritage the BESST project has developed opportunities for small-scale tourism economic activities in rural peripheral areas. This led to a new and increased awareness of the environmental qualities and heritage of the involved regions.
Businesses used local environmental assets as a means of promoting their business. Connecting economy and environment and creating a well-known label for environmental friendly businesses created a win-win situation for the entrepreneurs.
One of the main achievements was that BESST increased local ‘pride in the places’. A new awareness of, and pride in their environmental qualities and heritage, and a growing recognition of and pride in their neighbours, colleagues and businesses was established.
This raised the awareness to live in ‘a place with a future as well as a place with a past’ and that the locals were able to create a better future for themselves and their communities. During the implementation a powerful sense of shared values was built up by the public administrations and private businesses. It was based on mutual respect and driven by the principle of caring for, and using, the environment.
In many cases the project has exceeded expectations and achieved or inspired unforeseen lasting benefits. A survey on the impacts of the project revealed positive effects on businesses: The marketing, promotion and networking opportunities created by BESST were significant. Furthermore, businesses were encouraged to use ICT more effectively and new collaborations created new business and social links and greater community cohesion.