Smart Solutions

Digital Third Place

A community building serving as a multifunctional digital hub, which provides broadband internet connection, a range of rooms and spaces and support services for individuals or companies in the area.

Implemented inArvieu

Country : France

What’s the solution?

This digital community space is a form of Third Place (Tiers Lieu) which is defined as being separate from the home (‘first place) and work (‘second place’) – other examples can include churches, cafes and barbers shops. In this specific form, it includes private and shared offices, co-working rooms, spaces where seminars, conferences or training events can be organised, and other facilities such as a relaxation room.

As well as the physical infrastructure, the digital third place should be the location for the provision of much needed support services for the implantation of new citizens or companies in the area. All these services are a way to transform the village into a more attractive location to both live and work for companies and citizens, helping to reverse cycles of decline.

The digital third place is a great solution to be built and implemented through citizen participation and public-private partnership.

What makes it smart?

“Le Jardin” is a smart solution since it helps to tackle the rural area’s depopulation issue through digital solutions and the creation of a resource centre. The multiplication of opportunities offered by the creation of “Le Jardin” ensures the village development.

  • The main lever of the practice is to create a resource centre, which makes the place attractive for companies and citizens.
  • The solution ensures the digital connectivity needed for modern professional life in ways that support an effective work-life balance for individuals
  • It connects with local businesses and natural assess; including hotels, restaurants, natural park providing a boost to their profile supports the development of circular economy
  • It facilitates citizens’ access to services including entrepreneurship and business development support.
  • The creation of this resource place is a way to help building interaction between citizens and to ensure an active village life, with the idea of shared spaces and activities.

“Le Jardin” was developed through a strong public-private partnership which ensures the dynamic and the sustainability of the initiatives.

The solution demonstrates:

  • Digital innovation thanks to a shared broadband internet connection, a platform for local products (Loco-motivés), web technologies and training, which conduces to the creation of a “digital activity zone” or “Zone d’Activité Numérique” in French.
  • Social innovation as it gathers all the essential services in one place: the post office, tourism information, media library, cultural events, exhibitions… and provides a support for new inhabitants and companies by developing a participative approach with citizens.

Business innovation as the third place implies a 350m2 space for co-workers, open 24/7, a meeting room, a kitchen and veranda with the management of the co-workers’ community, the welcoming of training, conferences, computer support, technical support… and a lot of flexibility with a “nomad” pricing for co-workers (half-day, full day, 5 days).

How is the solution implemented?

  • Engage in a diagnosis of your territory and share it with the citizens. It will lead to define assets and issues of the territory, in order to answer citizen’s concerns.
  • Develop a public-private partnership with companies supporting the approach and build your project in synergy with different stakeholders,
  • From this diagnosis, you could develop one part of the project, step by step, starting by investing in the digitalisation of the village (open WIFI, digital and computer room…).
  • To monitor this project, create a facilitator job to ensure that the link is made between the population, the village and the third place.
  • Create new services that did not exist in the village and which could attract new companies and families, such as associations, partnerships with local farmers, cultural events or activities.
  • Adapt your infrastructures to the need of the existing companies in the village or in the area, and create an easy access to work-space and technology.

In what local context has it been applied?

Arvieu is a mountainous rural village with 800 inhabitants. Located at 30km from Rodez (23000 inhabitants), this area is suffering from depopulation due to its location and the lack of opportunities. In the digital age, the lack of broadband connection has contributed to the departure of young workers going to cities and then, to a reduction of local activities and a lack of the village’s attractiveness.

Who was behind the implementation?

Laëtis is a cooperative and participatory association specialised in website creation and digital, which was set up in collaboration with a large number of partners in 1998. Laëtis developed Le Jardin thanks to a public-private partnership together with:

  • Arvieu municipality
  • The community of communes Lévézou-Pareloup
  • Citizens
  • The organization “La Cordée” (for the co-working spaces)

What was the local journey?

“Le Jardin d’Arvieu” is the result of the dynamic created by the cooperative Laëtis since its installation in Arvieu, in 1998. As the village and the company were suffering from isolation and depopulation, Laëtis and its founders started to think about how to make Arvieu a digital and attractive village.

  • The cooperative Laëtis specialized in website creation and digital, was set up in the village in 1998. Welcomed freely in a building of the village for the two first years, by the municipality, Laëtis was then composed of 3 employees.
  • Laëtis, facing the lack of opportunities in the village, proposed to the municipality to create a job for developing cultural projects in the village and to bring new activities in the area.
  • From this idea, in collaboration with Laëtis the municipality decided to open a media library and a cyber-base in 2007, to make the village better connected.
  • At the same time, the “Cantou” a place gathering public services (the post office, cultural and digital services) was created in the same buildings as the future third place.
  • In 2012, thanks to the internet development in the municipality, and from the idea of the founder of Laëtis, the “Loco-Motivés” platform was developed. It aims to help inhabitants to get local food products and be delivered in the village through internet.
  • While all these initiatives contributed to the village development, the municipality started in 2014 a territorial diagnosis with the participation of citizens. The diagnosis results were shared with the inhabitants during public meetings and helped to define important issues for the community.
  • Citizen’s participation as well as the collaboration between the municipality and Laëtis led to the idea of developing a third place including co-working rooms, training, art exhibition… to revitalise the village.
  • In 2015, the municipality as well as Laëtis communicated about these ideas and worked in partnership with “la Cordée” (company specialized in the development of co-working spaces) to implement co-working spaces in the village.
  • In 2018, from all these achievements, Laëtis and the municipality chose to promote their initiatives in the region and the county and to disseminate their model. At the same time, the municipality took the initiative to renovate a building to create a cultural space, as well as rooms for training and conferences.
  • The communautés de communes (federation of municipalities), convinced by the project, chose to finance the renovation of the co-working building, under its investment in economic development.
  • Through this process, the model of Arvieu led to the formalization of a “Digital Activity Area” (“Zone d’Activité Numérique” which is a label created by Arvieu) with all the activities mentioned hosted in the village’ ancient convent.
  • In 2017, Arvieu was awarded the “Smart Village Ruralitic” title.
  • In 2018, the multiplication of the activities proposed by Arvieu (co-working, conferences, training, local food access, media library, cyber-base) led to the creation of a job hosted by Laëtis to promote the approach and to share the model.
  • “Le Jardin d’Arvieu” was officially opened in 2019 as a third place dedicated to digital and cultural initiatives, after the complete renovation of the convent.
  • In 2020, as Arvieu became well-known in France, the village welcomed a new project. Thanks to the investment of Laëtis, a group of young persons engaged in the green transition settled in an old castle of Arvieu named “le Domaine de Montfranc” and set up a place to train people on environmental and social transition but also to welcome new inhabitants in the area.

What have been the main outputs & results?

Through this public-private partnership model developed throughout the process, the village of Arvieu developed a real community-focused place in “Le Jardin”.

  • The co-working space hosts around 10 co-workers all year, who live in Arvieu with their families
  • These initiatives led to the setting of around 30 families in the village
  • The initiatives led to the creation of two jobs to manage “Le Jardin” (one hosted by the municipality and one managed by Laëtis).

What does it bring the village/community?

The digital third place can make an important contribution to answering the demographic crisis of the area by:

  • providing greater opportunities for people to work in the village
  • supporting the creation of new job opportunities in the village
  • supporting diverse associative and cultural activities in Arvieu
  • reinforcing the link with local farmers, who participate in the Loco-Motivés platform
  • contributing to create a positive image and to recreate the link with citizens who participated in the project development

Arvieu now benefits from a high recognition at the local level but also at the national level as it is part of a French third-place network and of “Fabrique de Territoire” (an initiative to encourage the implementation of third places in France) since October 2020.

What’s needed

Financial resources

Financial needs:

The initial investment of 960 000 euros was needed for renovation of the convent, development of the different activities related to “Le Jardin”…

Funding received:
Community of Communes of Lévézou-Pareloup296,945 €Buildings renovation (for co-working spaces, convent…) and funding for the development of the Digital Activity Area
Aveyron County125,000 €Contribution to the territorial marketing and welcoming of new population
Occitanie Region100,000 €Contributes to the development of “Le Jardin”
National Fund213,084 €To fund the development of the Digital Activity Area
European Fund65,630 €Contributes to the development of “Le Jardin”
Laëtis300,000 €Development of the third place

Human resources

• One person to develop the cultural animation of the village

• One person to promote and communicate about “Le Jardin” and to develop the marketing strategy

Physical resources

• A building for co-working spaces (offices, meeting rooms, bar, kitchen…)

• A building for public services (computer room, media library, tourism information…)

• A space for exhibitions, events or conferences (for public information, cultural events)

• Digital tools (broadband internet connection, computers, WIFI connection, copier…)

What to do…

  • Communicate about what you want to do and how it should contribute to the local development
  • Make the link between the associations, the companies, shops and farmers in the area, to define common objectives
  • Ensure public-private partnership to create new opportunities
  • Exchange with other villages which developed the same kind of initiative
  • Analyse the assets and issues of your territory, before engaging a third place approach
  • Involve the community and citizens in the designing and the definition of the services needed in the village

and not to do

  • Do not engage in the approach without having involved citizens in the definition of the project
  • Do not built the project unilaterally, without engaging actively local stakeholders in the approach
  • Do not launch this type of project if there is not already a strong community link

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