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Award is launched in memory of former professor

University of Gloucestershire has launched a new Europe-wide award to recognise excellence in promoting the resilience of rural landscapes and rural communities by individuals, communities and organisations, in memory of a former professor.

The Michael Dower Award for European Rural Resilience – named in tribute to the University’s former Visiting Professor of European Rural Development, and supported in partnership with the European Rural Parliament – will recognise efforts to respond to the growing challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss and rural depopulation across Europe.

The award aims to encourage a broad range of civic action that preserves nature and cultural heritage, promotes innovative ways to foster and enhance rural wellbeing, and stimulates cooperation between rural communities.

Michael Dower, who died aged 88 in November 2022, was appointed Visiting Professor at the University in 1996, where he worked and collaborated closely with its Community and Countryside Research Institute (CCRI) for more than 15 years.

A former Director General of the Countryside Commission and chief officer of the Peak District National Park, Michael made an extraordinary contribution to thinking and action in the field of rural policy and action, in Britain and across Europe.

Professor Janet Dwyer OBE, from the CCRI, said: “Michael was a tireless advocate for rural areas in the UK, Europe and beyond. He had a long and distinguished career focused on supporting the rural environment and a track record of making a real, positive difference to people’s lives. 

“We are delighted to announce the launch of the Michael Dower Award for European Rural Resilience to recognise the outstanding work of individuals and organisations in nurturing the protection of Europe’s rural areas and people.

“The kind of work that might be recognised could be practical, or research-based, but leading to practical results. It should help to bring about changes in policies or practice, by recognising, for example, what a community has done to protect nature or adapt their lives to the pressures of climate change.

“It could be a publication, a film or video, an exhibition, or a pack of teaching and training material – almost anything that brings about change for the better.”

An award committee of the founding partners and Michael’s family will oversee all aspects of the new award, including the criteria and arrangements for submitting entries for the prize, which will be available on the CCRI website when finalised.

The winner’s prize, which will include a trophy and funds to help disseminate the findings of the winning project, will be awarded at biennial gatherings of the European Rural Parliament, next due in 2024.