WDC35: Addressing the Rural Development Concerns of the Rural West

(Multistate Research Coordinating Committee and Information Exchange Group)

Status: Active

WDC35: Addressing the Rural Development Concerns of the Rural West

Duration: 10/01/2015 to 09/30/2017

Administrative Advisor(s):


NIFA Reps:


Statement of Issues and Justification

In a rapidly changing world, the issues and concerns confronting the residents and communities of the rural west are very different from the concerns of the past (Albrecht 2014). At the same time, opportunities exist for rural areas that were previously unavailable. To better understand both the problems and opportunities confronting the rural west, the Western Rural Development Center conducted a series of rural roundtables, one in each of the 13 states comprising the western region during 2009. The purpose of these roundtables was to prioritize the issues and concerns confronting the rural west and suggest options for addressing these concerns. More than 200 people participated, including representatives from educational institutions, officials from federal, state, tribal and local governments, nonprofit organizations and private business people. There was extensive agreement throughout the western region about the major concerns. The three major concerns that consistently emerged were: 1. Enhance human capacity through people-based rural development. With a decline in traditional sources of rural employment, such as natural resource extraction and manufacturing, it is increasingly apparent that the education, skills and training of many rural workers do not translate easily into the education, skills and training needed for high quality employment in today's global economy. There is a great need to better understand these concerns and then develop programs to help rural communities improve the educational and workforce skills and leadership capabilities of their residents. Training programs geared toward underserved, low income and minority populations are especially essential. 2. Create vibrant rural economies through place-based rural development. In recent decades, there has been a steady decline in employment levels in the traditional mainstays of the rural economy, which include agriculture, the natural resource industries and manufacturing. Subsequently, the traditional approaches used by communities to create economic opportunities are much less effective than in the past. In today's global world, the opportunities for resource development are limited and the traditional "buffalo hunt" for industrial firms is more costly, and the odds of success are greatly reduced. Yet, in today's global world, there are community development opportunities that were simply unavailable in previous eras. With computers, the Internet and cell phones, it is now possible for individuals and firms to be connected to the global world while enjoying the benefits of rural living. To take advantage of these opportunities, rural development efforts should focus on several options that include encouraging the emergence and growth of local firms through entrepreneurial development, creating value-added opportunities for agricultural and natural resource products, and encouraging individuals with geographically mobile or creative class occupations to utilize modern technology and establish their home in a rural community. Research and extension insights are needed to understand the benefits and costs of these various options and then develop programs to help these ideas become a reality. 3. Promote sustainable natural resource systems. From the time of the initial settlement of the western U.S., residents were attracted to areas where available natural resources allowed them to earn an economic livelihood. Much has changed in recent decades. Employment levels in resource-based industries have declined considerably. In some cases, legal and cultural changes have greatly limited opportunities for rural residents to utilize natural resources for their economic livelihood. Fortunately, in many instances there is a sustainable balance that can be achieved through open dialogue, conflict resolution, and thoughtful planning. There is a great need for scientifically sound research, balanced policy initiatives and educational forums to help rural communities make informed decisions and take appropriate action relative to natural resource issues. This proposed regional project will provide a forum to bring researchers, extension professionals, community leaders and policy makers together to better understand these issues and develop programs to address them. We envision this regional project as the forum to bring together all researchers and extension professionals involved in rural community development.
The proposed Multistate Research Coordinating Committee will provide a platform for focused community development leading to strengthened rural economies. National and regional stakeholders include:
• Land grant university research faculty;
• Cooperative Extension faculty who can identify specific research questions, and extend resultant knowledge;
• Private sector entities including financial institutions and business clusters;
• State agency personnel mandated to increase economic activity and wage/skill levels;
• Federal land management agencies and other federal agencies whose goal is to improve the lot of rural America;
• Non-profit organizations focused on rural development activities;
• Rural citizens working to improve their economic and social structure to create a positive, sustainable future.

Objectives

  1. Collaborate with research faculty, Extension faculty, private sector representatives, NGOs and federal and state agency representatives to identify focused, multistate community development research areas, which might include: (a) Regional clustered development (b) Agricultural and eco-tourism (c) Enterprise development (off-farm and on farm/ranch) (d) Alternative forestry products and markets
  2. Develop funding support for research programs through grants and contracts, that could include: (a) Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) (b) Foundation RFPs (c) Agency and private sector contracts
  3. Develop funding support for development of tailored outreach materials (including highly focused curricula) in areas such as: (a) Regional economic clusters (b) Entrepreneurial development (c) Value added opportunities
  4. Disseminate research findings and outreach materials to land grant institutions and rural communities via: (a)Policy briefs (b)Websites (on-demand training) (c)Professional journals (d) Private sector and agency newsletters and conferences
  5. Deliver training and technical assistance to extension, federal, state and NGO audiences
  6. Catalyze new relationships between land grant faculty and rural development partners nationally and throughout the Western region. Relationships could include:(a)Joint publications (b) Joint research conferences (c)Policy analysis and recommendations (d)Joint curriculum development and delivery

Procedures and Activities

• Activities to ensure collaboration among research faculty, extension faculty, private sector representatives and NGO’s will be a genuine effort to include all groups in the regional meetings and participation on specific research or extension projects as deemed appropriate by the representatives and the committee.

• Activities will include multi-state grant proposals supporting rural development. Indicators of success will include the number and amount of the grants received.

• Activities will include development and submission of grants and contracts to fund outreach activities. Success indicators will include the number of grants developed and the amount of dollars received.

• Activities to disseminate research and outreach materials will be organized across the region. Success indicators will include the number of policy briefs developed, websites offering information, professional journal publications and the number of citations in private sector and agency newsletters and conferences.

• Activities will include delivering training and technical assistance to extension, federal, state and NGO audiences. Success indicators will include the number of trainings delivered and the breadth of participation in the trainings by diverse partners.

• Activities will include co-sponsored publications, conferences, and curriculum development. Indicators of success will include the number of co-sponsored activities.

Expected Outcomes and Impacts

  • Cutting edge research focused on the unique challenges and opportunities of rural development in the West
  • Multistate collaboration on issues of relevance to economic development, quality of life, niche markets, regional economic clusters, and enterprise development in rural communities
  • Development, synthesis, and dissemination of extension curricula based on peer-reviewed, cutting edge rural development research
  • Collaborative development of future funding proposals that will enhance the research and Extension capacity of western rural development professionals
  • Engagement of the private sector, NGOs, and land grant faculty, and integration of their respective interests and objectives into a focused community development research and Extension agenda for the future

Projected Participation

View Appendix E: Participation

Educational Plan

1. Disseminate research findings and outreach materials to land grant institutions and rural communities via
o Policy briefs
o Websites (on-demand training)
o Professional journals
o Private sector and agency newsletters and conferences
2. Deliver training and technical assistance to extension, federal, state and NGO audiences
3. Catalyze new relationships between land grant faculty and rural development partners nationally and throughout the Western region. Relationships could include
o Joint publications
o Joint research conferences
o Policy analysis and recommendations
o Joint curriculum development and delivery

Organization/Governance

The directors of the various participating state institutions support the participating researchers, who are the members of the coordinating committee. The project is considered a Western Regional coordinating committee project, but will have substantial participation by states in other regions of the U.S. The coordinating committee officers are a Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson, and Secretary. Unless he/she declines to serve, the Vice-Chairperson will succeed the Chairperson. The Secretary is elected annually and the previous Secretary will succeed the Vice-Chairperson, unless he/she declines to serve. An election will be held if any officer declines to serve in his/her office. The officers will be elected from the officially designated representatives. The Western Association of Agricultural Experiment Station Directors select the Administrative Advisor who has no voting rights.

The coordinating committee will meet annually, unless otherwise planned, at a place and on a date designated by a majority vote of the committee. Minutes will be recorded and an annual progress report will be prepared by the coordinating committee and submitted through proper channels.

Literature Cited

Albrecht, Don E. 2014. Rethinking Rural. Pullman: Washington State University Press.

Attachments

Land Grant Participating States/Institutions

AZ, UT, WY

Non Land Grant Participating States/Institutions

Southern Utah University
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