I have been managing this blog for just over one year (happy birthday, RFL blog!), and I wanted to take a break from our usual programming to take a look back at... our usual programming.
We have been proud to publish posts on a wide variety of topics of interest to rural American communities. The blog has featured researchers, students, policy experts, and community development practitioners of all stripes.
In the past 13 months, the blog has attracted readers from every state in the union except one (anyone have advice on how to break into the elusive Rhode Island market?), and from all over the world. Especially Canada.
Rural Futures Lab Director, Brian Dabson, laid out our vision for rural America in our very first post. We believe that rural America will continue to be an important contributor to national prosperity, but there is lots of work ahead to fully engage and develop our rural assets.
And what are our "rural assets"?
|Photo courtesy of Jeff Yost and the Nebraska Community Foundation.|
- Craig Schroeder of the RUPRI Center for Rural Entrepreneurship notes that supporting youth entrepreneurship is actually a successful economic development practice.
- Mary Snow and Noah Wilson (Rural Support Partners) and Darryl Birkenfeld (Ogallala Commons) offer personal accounts of how communities can invest in the next generation of rural leaders, right now.
- Katie McCaskey, a young entrepreneur shares her Micropolitan Manifesto.
- And Tim Collins (Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs) envisions rural schools as a vital tool for community development.
|Photo courtesy of David Kay.|
This question has led to an interesting mix of blog posts that feature the intersection between natural resources and economic development, energy, and governance issues:
- Research on economic issues ranges from how to quantify the "New Natural Resource Economy" to how the "green economy" is faring.
- In two posts, my colleague at Cornell, David Kay, explores how energy development questions get to the heart of democracy in the U.S.
- Shanna Ratner (Yellow Wood Associates) argues for new stewardship approaches across the rural-urban divide.
- A student blogger relives his research trip to West Texas and wonders how the growth of the wind industry affects community development there.
- Rich Pirog (C.S. Mott Group for Sustainable Food Systems) documents the emergence of the local food movement.
- Young farmers find a chance and a voice through the work of Jan Joannides and Renewing the Countryside.
Resources and ideas
An important feature of the blog is acting as a place to share workable ideas for communities. Our own RUPRI colleagues are a wealth of resources on the future of healthcare, defining "rural", rural-urban interdependence, resilience, and why rural America matters to the national economy.
Some of our most encouraging (and popular!) blog posts came from the rural philanthropy crowd. They have good news to offer:
- Jeff Yost (Nebrask Community Foundation) explains how "rural places have an unprecedented opportunity to transform their communities by harnessing the massive transfer of intergenerational wealth".
- Racheal Stuart (Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund) describes how social connections are making philanthropy work better in rural New Hampshire.
Are you looking for connections with movers-and-shakers in rural policy at the national level? Two of our guest bloggers offer an "inside the beltway" perspective:
- The National Association of Counties (NACO) has a Rural Action Caucus that is one voice for rural counties in Washington DC.
- Sandra Rosenblith (Stand Up for Rural America) discusses a challenge for rural communities: senior housing.
Other rural-specific resources featured on the blog include:
- The Entrepreneurship Fund offers professional support for small businesses in rural America.
- Have you heard of the Internet? Tim Collins has, and he's trying to make it work for rural community building.
- Rural places are unique, and Dewey Thorbeck sees the need for a new design discipline for rural America to call its own.
Overall, it's been a great year, and we look forward to the next one. Thank you to all our guest bloggers, and to you, our readers!
If you have an idea for a blog post, please let me know (email@example.com). In the meantime, keep on reading. And please consider commenting on how your own work or community relates to work and ideas you see featured here.
About the Author
Jen Jensen grew up in suburban Washington State but fell in love with farm life as a kid during yearly summer visits to the Champlain Islands in Vermont. Later, two years in a village as a Peace Corps volunteer in Mali, West Africa, forged the link for her between community development and rural issues. Working at RUPRI as a graduate student and now a research analyst has taught her even more reasons to admire and support the diversity, beauty, and resilience of rural people and places.
Visit the Rural Futures Lab website to download informative papers on many of the issues you read about here.