RRDCs release findings from National Listening Sessions on Rural Community, Economic, and Workforce Development

Today the nation’s four Regional Rural Development Centers (RRDCs) are releasing their findings from a comprehensive initiative aimed at identifying the critical investments needed to build community capacity and improve quality of life in rural America. Their report, Investing in Rural Capacity: Comprehensive Summary of National Rural Development Stakeholder Listening Sessions, can be used by a broad audience of practitioners, decision makers, and government agencies to inform where programmatic efforts and resources may be most effective in tackling key issues facing rural communities.

The report summarizes results from the initiative’s eight virtual listening sessions, which convened stakeholders to identify rural development investments they viewed as the highest priorities for U.S. rural communities on the immediate horizon. These dialogues, which were facilitated by members of the Land-Grant University Cooperative Extension Service, included four sessions conducted at the regional level focusing on issues of regional importance, and four national sessions on topics of widespread importance, including:

  • Broadband and the Digital Divide;
  • Rural Innovation and Entrepreneurship;
  • Workforce Development, Training and Education; and, 
  • Community Planning, Leadership and Governance.

Participants—who represented a wide range of stakeholder organizations including Land-Grant Universities, nonprofits, government agencies, and others—were asked to identify, discuss, and prioritize future investments, including education, outreach, technical support, research, and other efforts. Several themes emerged from the eight listening sessions. Participants identified the need to:

  • support and increase collaborative efforts across disciplinary, organizational, and geographic boundaries; 
  • inform decision making through place-based and community-engaged research and best practices; 
  • involve underserved groups and pursue greater equity; and
  • build climate and related economic resilience into local, regional, and national planning. 

The report provides eight overview summaries—one for each of the national topics explored during the listening sessions, and one for each of the four geographic regions. It also integrates additional qualitative data from a national survey conducted in Fall 2021, building on the survey’s quantitative findings published in October 2021. The entire report, as well as topic-specific and region-specific sections of the report, are available for download on the RRDC website: https://bit.ly/RRDC-listening-sessions

Funding to conduct this initiative was provided by the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) via a Cooperative Agreement (Federal Award Number 2019-41595-30123) and via the New Technologies in Agricultural Extension Program, which is coordinated by the Extension Foundation. The Regional Rural Development Centers (RRDCs) are funded to strengthen the capacity of local citizens to guide the future of their rural communities. They are charged with conducting research and outreach programming that builds the capacity of the Land-Grant University System to address crucial needs in our nation’s rural communities. Each RRDC serves a defined geographic region and tailors its programs to address the particular needs and priorities of stakeholders within its boundaries. They also collaborate on issues that span regions, and in turn connect their regional partners to emerging Federal issues and priorities. Learn more at https://rrdc.usu.edu.