Understanding the processes of demographic change is critical for economic and services planning. Often times, planning in 'rural' areas is based on an assumption of homogenous populations and drivers of change (ageing, declining traditional rural industries, adaptation to changing environments and so on). This article argues that attention to spatial, social and temporal scales reveals great diversity between places and within places with regards to demographic change and economic potential. We use evidence from seemingly incomparable case examples from the Alpine villages of Austria and the remote Indigenous communities of Australia to demonstrate that differences in mobility over time and between social groups results in very different experiences of local economies. Specifically, social groups (and individuals) experience the local within their own actor-networks. The article examines how the diverse experiences of the local might be measured, and why they are important for 'local' policy making and planning. The research is grounded in theories of social and human geography around 'fragmented development', actor-network theory and scale. � The Author(s) 2013 Reprints and permissions: sagepub.co.uk/journalsPermissions.nav.