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4 Types of regions

Field of application

The 4 types of regions workshop could also be defined as 4 types of different local reality workshop. Folds of application can be the following:

  • To #reflect with students on their #business plans and reflect on the business plans in relation to the location they want to realize the business model
  • To reflect with businesses from the locality (e.g. where the University is located) about different #strategies for improving their business opportunities
  • To work with development organisations responsible for the promotion of businesses and locations or suburbs on the identification of different intervention strategies for strengthening the local economy

Resume / Brief description


The 4 types of region workshop differentiates between 4 economic and dynamic realities in locations, suburbs and regions. It helps to identify declining, marginalized, emerging and dynamic spaces (in a city or in a region) and defines with the participants typical characteristics of these spaces. Based on the differentiation of a location along these four realities, it provides the chance to define and reflect on business models, network initiatives and concrete support interventions to support the development of these spaces according to their framework condition and development dynamics. “Context matters and requires differentiated intervention or business models”, is the key message of the. Tool in a very concrete way it helps to identify these different strategies accordingly. 

Target group

Students, consultants, development agencies, businesses, max. 20 participants


  • Define business and intervention models according to the different contexts and dynamics in places
  • Promote the reflection on the location where a business is planned to become active or identify new market opportunities
  • Realize that different spaces are driven by different dynamics. These dynamics shape also the business landscape and the opportunities to develop this place in a sustainable way





When to use:

  • Workshop format can be used with students, businesses or development organisations. The number of participants should not extend 20 persons.


  • 1 pin board, 1 flipchart, markers, moderation cards


  • The time of the workshop requires 2-3 hours.

Implementation - Overview

The methodology is realized in 3 phases   


Implementation - Guidelines








1.1.  Explaining two key development indicators

  • The 4 types of region matrix emerged out of observations from geography and local development experience. It uses two key critical factors that shape the development of a location or space: 1) the development of its physical and institutional infrastructure, and 2) the dynamics of the leading business sectors. Institutional infrastructure involves regulations, values, and norms but also the quality and the existence of existing support organisations and services.
  • The first step of reflection with businesses and other participants is the question: What are key success factors that a place requires to keep a dynamic development path? 

1.2. Design and explanation of the 4 types of region matrix

  • The facilitator presents the two critical factors and has prepared two opposing expressions for them with which the matrix is designed on a pin board.


  • The facilitator asks then the participants in each quadrant: How would you call this place under these circumstances? The differentiation between declining, marginalized, emerging and thriving territories, spaces or suburbs is explained to them. The quadrants are named with cards (see example below).



2.1. Exercise on different dynamics and characteristics in a place

  • Students or other local participants have to reflect in which place their city of birth was (declining, emerging, marginalized, dynamic?)  when they were born.
  • After a short reflection on the results, they are then asked to reflect on the place where the same location is positioned today.
  • What becomes obvious is that the development dynamics of a place is changing over time. Very dynamic locations can fall into crisis, decling ones can newly emerge. Being aware of changing dynamics and about the logic of the matrix is key in this exercise.
  • After this first reflection the participants are asked to define in groups the main characteristics of the 4 types of locations. In 4 groups each of them have to write moderation cards on main characteristics of one of the places (1 group for identifying main characteristics of a declining space, 1 group for identifying main characteristics of a marginalized space etc.).
  • The cards are then presented on the pin board and pinned in the different quadrants. Further characteristics are discussed and added in the plenary.  

2.2. Reflections on requirements for different realities

  • The facilitator asks the participants: If you look into the different dynamics and characteristics in the places, what comes into your mind? What is required to change the spaces on the right vs. on the left side?
  • After this reflection the facilitator presents two main observations.



  • One of the key observations that the facilitator is pointing out is that the places on the left require change initiatives. They also ask for new business models that provide support to these changes and that offer newly required products. Places on the right are rather requiring further upgrading and coordination to improve continuously the institutional and physical infrastructure. This involves also the creation of innovative networks of businesses and support organisations.



3.1. Identification of key considerations and influential factors

  • Depending on the target group the facilitator asks the participants on where they want to open their business, have their business located (with students, businesses) or where they want to promote economic development (with support organisations e.g. development agencies or clusters)
  • Then the group reflects on the different influence the respected locational characteristics of the space have on their intervention or business model.


3.2. Identification if concrete business model or intervention initiatives

  • The final step of the workshop is oriented towards identifying concrete activities according to the participant’s group. This can include e.g. to develop new business opportunities in the different spaces according to the concrete context requirements, to adjust or innovate business models or to reflect about development initiatives (e.g. skills development, business network initiatives or service provision) to promote the development of these locations.
  • The initiatives that come out of this process can be concretized through action plans for the way forward.

Example of application:

Description of the context

The Four Types of regions workshop was used in a setting with representatives of development organisations that wanted to identify more differentiated interventions within different locations with their respected dofferent contexts. The workshop was held during an Academy on Local Economic Development organized by Mesopartner.


Starting point

The participants reflected on critical success factors that define the dynamic of a space. Based on thes factors the facilitators presented the 4 types of regions on the panel (see phto of the basic matrix above).


Sensitization on the logic of the matrix

The reflection on dynamics of a place the participants were born. The following two photos are coming from two lectures for SEPT on Regional Competitiveness in the Master course in Vietnam. In this case the matrix was designed with tape on the floor and the students had to position themselves first in the quadrant where their birth place was located when they born and then where this place is now in its development efforts. It showed the dynamics of Vietnam as an emerging country in the rural and city areas. Most of the locations where students were born moved from a declining or marginalized place towards an emerging and dynamic place within the last 20 years.

image-1621429830284.png  image-1621429835524.png



The identification of characteristics

The identification of characteristics of the different locations was the next step in the process. The following pin board demonstrates the results of local development agency representatives that reflected on characteristics and



Examples of results were the following:

  • In declining spaces: uncertainty, frustration, holding to the past, expectation of improvement, unbalanced situation, traditional thinking, traditional infrastructure, strong traditional lobby groups
  • Marginalized spaces: hopelessness, Angst, pessimism, resignation, vicious circle, stagnation
  • Emerging spaces: positive uncertainty, mentality to try out, new possibilities emerging, hope of progress, organisation of businesses and stakeholders is starting
  • Dynamic spaces: modern organisatons, strong networking, continuous adjustment of professional organisations 


Identification of development initiatives

As a final step the participants reflected on first possible initiatives rom which some are mentioned in the following:

  • Declining spaces: Reorientation services for transitional businesses, promotion of new start-ups in potential sectors, promotion of organisation of new business networks with progressive businesses
  • Marginalized spaces: Basic entrepreneurship trainings, life quality improvement, working with the willing and younger generation, improving the attractiveness of the locations
  • Emerging spaces: Promotion of organisations of networks and new demanded services, promotion of new business models, improvement of locational actors like infrastructure, network governance and platforms for business meetings
  • Dynamic spaces: Cluster promotion, specialisation of businesses and services  


Templates, Graphics for download

Handout for a Four Types of Regions Workshop (with focus on the development of locations):

Handout 4 Types of Regions.pdf


Additional format/references


Mesopartner (2018): Typology of regions and meso organisations, Mesopartner Annual Reflections 2018, p.12.