The Michael Dower Award for European Rural Resilience

In late 2022 the CCRI was saddened to hear about the death of Professor Michael Dower CBE. To honour his immense legacy, the CCRI in collaboration with the Dower family and supported by University of Gloucestershire is to establish the ‘Michael Dower European Rural Resilience Award’.

Rural Europe is at a crossroads

Rural communities confront a challenging future. Rural economies must cope with growing urban demands and dwindling natural resources. Rural policies need to adapt to fast changing social, demographic, environmental and market conditions.

Rural resilience

Rural resilience is about people who care about what’s happening to rural areas and communities.
People who take their destiny into their own hands. People who are passionate about preserving and developing their local countryside and heritage. Farmers and consumers who work together for
better farming and food systems. Climate and biodiversity activists, horticulturalists and foresters who use their skills to combat climate change and the loss of nature and diversity. People who dare
to challenge outdated structures and policies to create a more sustainable future. In short: people
who take action to make rural Europe a better place to live in.

The Award

The Michael Dower European Rural Resilience Award is intended to foster rural resilience. It is open to all Europeans who care about our common values: democracy, cohesion, solidarity and peace. It will honour and support people, communities, initiatives and alliances across the wider Europe that share these common values, cope with challenges and collaborate in pursuit of a more sustainable future.

Oland Agricultural Landscape including traditional windmill
Michael Dower and his legacy

Michael Dower (1937-2022) left a huge impression on those whom he met.  He was a successful public servant, running the Peak District National Park and the Countryside Commission, and a professor at the University of Gloucestershire. He was also a phenomenal agent of change – a passionate advocate for rural communities and a sustainable way of living, an inspiring teacher and a man of action.  

As a young man, he pioneered what became the British conservation volunteer movement. In his old age, he was planting trees in the Dorset countryside and leading local groups in responding to the climate crisis. 

Later in his career, he fell in love with Europe’s infinitely varied, and extraordinarily beautiful rural landscapes – and with their people.  His personality impressed ​many​ across Europe who shared his enthusiasm. He helped to energise a Pan-European rural movement and to set up enduring networks and institutions, many including people he had inspired.  

Michael was a European Englishman, believing in European cooperation and Britain’s place in Europe. He was appalled by Brexit which he considered to be a fatal error. Michael’s friends and colleagues, in Britain and elsewhere in Europe, have come together with his family and his university to launch this award to honour his life and his legacy. We hope that it will help achieve Michael’s vision of a better future for Europe’s rural peoples and places – and rebuild some of the bridges that have recently been broken.  

How the award will work

The award aims to encourage civic action in rural areas in the wider Europe which:  

  • preserves nature and cultural heritage,  
  • strengthens democracy and peace, and  
  • empower rural people and their civil society organisations to take their destiny into their own hands. 

It recognises the outstanding work of individuals and organisations in nurturing the protection of Europe’s rural heritage, which is to be found throughout its rich and diverse countryside. It  recognizes their efforts to respond – individually and collectively – to the growing challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss and rural depopulation.  

The prize will be awarded to individuals or civil society organisations in Europe, at biennial gatherings of the European Rural Parliament.  

The criteria for selection will include the successful engagement of communities in rural Europe, the encouragement of democratic governance, accomplishments in pan-European cooperation, and achievement in conflict mediation, social inclusion, capacity building, social innovation and other activities or action which foster and enhance rural well-being. 

Lagrasse Corbieres Agricultural Landscape

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 recognizing, 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.  

The award is established at the University of Gloucestershire, UK, which will provide secretariat services. The award may be supported by public institutions. It may not be used for private purposes or the promotion of private enterprise or political parties. 

The award itself will consist of a physical trophy; a citation to be read at the award ceremony; and funds for a bursary to disseminate the lessons learnt from the project.  

An Award Committee, supported by the University of Gloucestershire, and comprising the university together with other founders of the award and a representative of Michael Dower’s family, will oversee all aspects of the award, including: publicising the award’s existence among bodies across Europe: giving guidance on making nominations; ensuring these are made in a transparent way; handling the judging of projects; designing the award and the award ceremony; and publicising news of the winners.  

How you can help

We need funds to support the award. So, we are asking for donations from those who knew Michael and those how care about rural Europe. In this way we can get a sum of money together that will be used to attract matching grants and other kinds of support from those public institutions in Britain and elsewhere in Europe that share our concern about the crisis facing rural areas and their communities.  

Your funds will be principally used to support the bursaries awarded every second year.

If you would like to make a donation to the award fund, please contact Chris Rayfield for payment details.