Thank you to everyone who made the Radically Rural 2021 Summit a great success!
We had 23 dynamic sessions, 11 activities/mixers/live music options, plus our evening networking CONNECT event. We were joined by 75 speakers, and nearly 500 combined registrations which represented folks from 40 different states + Canada!We learned a lot producing a hybrid event for the first time ever and we are so excited to take this knowledge and make our future programming even better.
According to our survey sample results, 93% of attendees made valuable connections at the summit, whether virtual or in person.
Here are just a few examples:
“I saw someone from an organization that I’ve been trying to connect with and this event gave me an avenue to finally make that contact.”
“We are looking for funding partners and education partners; we found both!”
“Met two potential clients”
“The pop-up university in Bethel Vermont was so great. I reached out to them as I’d like to learn more about the BU and maybe duplicate it in Blyth – the next BU, the BU of Canada.”
“I attended remotely and got some good ideas to share with our members for fundraising strategies.”
“In our break-out room, I met a young mom with great ideas that I can apply to my community!”
“I connected with a potential investor”
“Multiple sessions (including the Keynote speaker) highlighted networks and partnerships – especially unlikely ones. I look forward to brainstorming potential partners that I would have never considered before as that can breathe extra energy and opportunity into our work and theirs.”
“I got some great ideas on how to increase involvement and manage diverse perspectives in our community.”
This is just the tip of the iceberg.
We are so excited to stay engaged with our Radically Rural community as the seeds planted continue to grow!
2021 Keynote Speaker
Researcher at Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development at Penn State
Dr. Sarah Rocker is a postdoctoral researcher at the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development at Penn State University in the Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education. She holds a doctorate in Rural Sociology and a Master’s in Public Administration with a focus on domestic food systems policy. Sarah’s work focuses on entrepreneurial, place-based development through the lens of food systems. In particular, she researches and consults on agri-food ‘value chain’ coordination strategies that build capacity for small and mid-scale producers, processors and markets, and foster rural and urban connections. She is passionate about sharing information on the power of networks as a research practice and applied tool for building thriving community-based economies.
2021 Radically Rural Sponsors
Click each track icon to learn more about it and its three sessions.
The Arts are an expression of our cultural roots, our reality today and our understanding of what may happen tomorrow, and, as such, are vital to the health of communities. The importance of adequate funding and that these funds represent the diaspora of the individuals in these communities and beyond feeds our sense of belonging, understanding and social development. The arts can also be an intricate part of economic development. A full spectrum of emotions and socio-economic benefits are in the hands of our painters, actors, museum curators, arts educators, and more. Join us at Radically Rural as we engage community leaders and stakeholders to build through the arts an increased community understanding and a strong sense of place.
Who Should Attend: Philanthropists, Nonprofit and Business Grantmakers and Evaluators, Municipal and City Leaders, Artists and Curators, Local arts agencies, Arts organization leaders and programming directors and development officers
Increasing Access to the Arts
Exposure to arts & cultural activities has positive health outcomes for participants. Arts access is a public health issue. But, what makes arts & cultural events accessible? We will explore the accessibility of the culture of art spaces and programming choices, a program that helps low-income populations access discounted and free tickets, and a program laying the foundation for art appreciation by providing arts education in rural communities.
Tomoyo Kawano, Associate Professor, Antioch University New England
Cierra Tunquist, Research Assistant, Antioch University/Arts Alive!
Erica Barreto, Arts and Humanities Coordinator, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts
Jen Swan-Kilpatrick (virtual), Executive Director, Arts Services Inc. (ASI)
Artist Residencies: Embedding an artist in a rural community
Creative practice is at an inflection point. From the beginning of human history, art, just like food, religion, architecture and technology, is a part of a community’s culture and identity. For the last century the arts have often been framed as a luxury or treat – financed well in urban communities through large organizations like museums, orchestras, massive performance arenas, and well-resourced theatres. Participation is passive. This has not been as true in rural areas. In rural areas community engagement and community practice, volunteerism, and participation are essential to the success of creative endeavors. The impacts of participatory arts experiences are undeniably positive – both for community health and social connection as well as for community pride and social progress. The field of creative practice is acknowledging this reality.
In this session, we will explore stories of artist residency programs where artists create work developed in process with community members to celebrate the local identity and culture, and address challenges those communities to face in creative ways. Sometimes called social practice, sometimes community practice – we will look at the impact of embedding artists in unique ways to build connections, develop community culture, and bring awareness to important community issues.
What Does Rural Creative Placemaking Look Like?
Radically Rural’s Arts & Culture Track is celebrating creative placemaking in rural communities. Session 3 will showcase the stories of 10 radical creative placemaking projects in rural communities. Stripping it down to its core definitions, creative placemaking is all about using arts & culture to develop the identity, economic vibrancy, safety, and cohesion of a community.
The field of Creative Placemaking has become a hot topic in recent years, and has seen growth in training opportunities, funding, and professionalization. Often training and funding opportunities focus on urban communities and centers, but there is fantastic work happening in our radically rural communities – some led by professionals and some led by volunteers because as we all know, rural communities don’t always have access to the same resources as urban communities.
Come to this session to discover some of the radical ideas, partnerships, and projects happening across rural communities.
The climate crisis is impacting rural communities disproportionately. These communities frequently depend on agriculture and tourism economies, but changes in weather patterns threaten both. Residents of rural communities also spend more of their household dollars on energy, studies show. Investment in energy efficiency, renewables and community solutions to electricity purchasing can provide opportunities to reduce costs, increase comfort and enhance rural living and resilience. Radically Rural seeks to provide solutions, guidelines and models for community leaders, groups and individuals to promote clean energy as a means to combat the climate crisis.
Who Should Attend: Municipal and city leaders, community, regional and statewide leaders; community organizers and energy committee members (local, regional, statewide); clean energy activists and advocates, farmers and foresters
Don’t Leave Rural America behind; Policy Changes needed for an Equitable Clean Energy Future
Roughly 50 years after cities in the US were electrified, federally funded rural membered-owned electric cooperatives rapidly transformed the quality of life in rural areas. Today, rural people are shouldering a large part of the burden of our energy system; from disproportionately high energy costs to air, land and water pollution from the fossil fuel plants and pipelines. Clean Energy and distributed systems can bring resilience and local wealth to rural communities, but they’re largely being left out of the national conversation. What major policies need to be adopted to ensure an equitable energy transition?
Benita Wells (Virtual), Chief Financial Officer, Southern Echo
Erik Hatlestad (Virtual), Energy Democracy Program Director, CURE
Brianna Knisley (Virtual), Tennessee Campaign Coordinator, Appalachian Voices
Sue Inches (Virtual), Author, Educator, Environmental Advocate, Sueinches.com
Clean Energy Transition – Rural Case Studies
The energy transition to be equitable must be accessible by all. Join our conversation on programs that work and where more is needed to ensure all populations in rural America can transition equitably.
Jude Nuru (Virtual), Director of Community Solar Initiatives, ReVision Energy
Josh Meehan, Executive Director, Keene Housing
Ryan West (Virtual) Director, Grid Modernization Technology, Eversource Energy
Young Adult Voices Working for a Clean Energy Future
Today’s youth and young people are advancing clean energy goals. Come and listen to their voices, stories of activism and why they are working for a clean and just transition.
Kayla DeVault Wendt, Anishinaabe/Shawnee public health researcher, journalist, and certified engineer
Kristen Thompson, Graduate Student, Antioch University New England
Ania Wright, (Virtual) Grassroots Climate Action Organizer, Sierra Club
Local journalism, a bedrock for informed and successful small communities, is under threat. More and more towns are losing their local news sources to the economic upheaval facing the news business and dramatic changes in the ways people get their information. We know that when a trusted local news operation leaves a town, taxes increase, bond rates worsen and community economic development suffers. Radically Rural seeks to provide ideas, solutions, and models for news organizations and communities to ensure the financial health of those operations so that residents can stay informed.
Who Should Attend: Journalists, community leaders and organizers, law- and policy-makers and government leaders.
Building Trust: Measures to secure faith in local journalism
Joy Mayer, director for Trusting News, founded the organization in 2016. She leads a panel discussion on the ways and means local journalists can improve bonds with readers and build confidence in the news they produce, all leading to a more trusting readership.
Funding News: Media organizations successfully find philanthropic help for their missions
A panel of experts provides a road map for crowdfunding, landing grants and the future of philanthropic support of newsrooms. Whether you are a for-profit or nonprofit organization, there are ways to build more community support for journalism.
Blake Kaplan, editor and general manager, Sun Herald, Biloxi, MS
Manuel C. Coppola, publisher, Nogales International, Nogales, AZ
Traci Bauer, vice president, print and digital content, Adams Publishing Group
Crazy Good: Tools to make you a better – and more efficient – journalist
Samantha Sunne, freelance investigative reporter, presents our annual “50 Ideas” program. This is a fast-paced romp through hacks, sources, tech and techniques to make you a better, smarter and savvier reporter and editor.
Each successive recession in recent history has left in its wake an ever-widening economic gap between rural communities and national trends. Along with a stunning lack of new business formation in rural America, if this trend continues after this current pandemic-induced recession, it will perpetuate ever-widening gaps in income, population, education attainment, innovation, politics, employment and opportunity. Radically Rural seeks to provide solutions, guidelines and models for community leaders, groups and individuals to create a rich culture of entrepreneurship, a thriving local economy and a vibrant community.
Who Should Attend: Entrepreneurs, economic and community development professionals, government leaders, business leaders, community and downtown advocates, entrepreneur support organizations, lenders and other business funders
Don Macke, Vice President, E2 Entrepreneurial Ecosystems
Mary Ann Kristiansen, Executive Director, Hannah Grimes Center for Entrepreneurship
Sara Powell, Program Director, Hannah Grimes Center for Entrepreneurship
Growing Rural Entrepreneurial Ecosystems – Lessons from Tupelo MS to Ord NE
One of the most powerful stories of rural community transformation in the last 50 years is Tupelo, Mississippi (38,271 in 2019). One of the most compelling emerging stories of rural community transformation is Ord, Nebraska (2,310 residents in 2019 anchoring a rural region of 10,000). Bob and Jean Stowell, husband and wife community leaders from Ord, and Don Macke curator of the Ord Story, will share lessons learned in rural entrepreneurial ecosystem building through the lens of Ord’s 50-year transformation from deep and hopeless decline to a thriving community today.
The PitchFork Challenge is a business pitch competition focused on supporting the rural entrepreneurial ecosystem. We created the PitchFork program in 2016 in response to the low startup rates in rural areas after the great recession. It was intentionally created to provide money and momentum to increase the rate of rural startups by supporting the idea phase and the early challenging years of being a small rural business. This is not just another pitch competition, but a great way to jumpstart ideas, connections, and small businesses. This session opens with a live pitch event and ends with a discussion with its organizers on how to do this in your community. The pitch portion represents the final round after a summer of coaching and two previous rounds of eliminations. In the second part of the session, attendees will leave with a highly detailed “operating manual” about how you can run a pitch event in your community. The announcement of the winner and the presentation of a cash award of $10,000 will happen at the evening’s CONNECT event.
For the Radically Rural Summit, the PitchFork Challenge offers a cash award, but this pitch event can also serve as a model to bring together banks, community organizations, individuals, and others interesting in ensuring local businesses can access local loans and local investors. Join the excitement as these local rural entrepreneurs pitch their business and receive the “operating manual” on how to run this event in your own community. We’ll share all that we learned in putting this challenge together so you can take it back to your rural area and create something similar, but also unique to your region. The PitchFork Challenge How-To Guide is available on the Hannah Grimes Center’s website. We hope today’s event will inspire more rural entrepreneurs everywhere to start a business.
Facilitated by: Hannah Grimes Staff
Emcee: by Alison Chisolm, Entrepreneurship & Innovation Program Coordinator, River Valley Community College
Marcia Passos, editor of The Business Journal of Greater Keene, Brattleboro & Peterborough.
Joshua Cyr, Sr Director of Startup Initiatives, NH Tech Alliance Owner
Linda Rubin, Owner of Frisky Cow Gelato
Roy Wallen, CEO of Directional Healthcare Advisors, LLC
Timothy Pipp, Beeze Tees Screen Printing
Creating Capital Access in Rural Communities – Lessons from NetWork Kansas
NetWork Kansas is one of rural America’s most robust and longest-running statewide rural entrepreneurial ecosystem in the USA. Foundational to NetWork Kansas’ success is its ability to attract business capital for increasing capital access in rural communities throughout Kansas. The NetWork Kansas Capital Model is designed to be lean, high- impact and build local capacity to process venture financing both within its Entrepreneurial-Communities Program and other capital access strategies. Imagene and Steve will share this model and illustrate how it is impactful in providing capital to rural entrepreneurs in both non-COVID times and during the COVID Pandemic Recession.
Why should we as individuals in our communities care about our community healthcare infrastructure? A community that cares about its health and health care landscape, positions itself to attract new businesses and residents, keep young families in town, lower costs for employers, help the elderly age gracefully in place and create high quality jobs.
Your rural healthcare landscape is changing! The complexity of rural health care makes it important to think of each piece as part of a whole system. Communities need to support everything working together in tandem, not as individual competitors but as a healthcare ecosystem where each piece is valuable and necessary. It is for that reason that Radically Rural presents a new, seventh track to its offering which focuses on health care. The intention of this track is to provide context and vocabulary for interested laymen to begin to understand what a rural healthcare ecosystem looks like and learn about positive steps that other rural communities like their own are taking to build broad health in their community.
Who Should Attend: Community organizers, municipal and city leaders, activists, philanthropists and healthcare workers.
Keeping Healthcare Alive and Thriving in Rural Communities
Is your rural community struggling to attract and keep health care providers, especially after COVID-19 took a huge toll on rural health systems? How can your community use technology and telehealth to make sure health services are there for you when you need them? Telehealth technology and training programs like Project ECHO can help keep health providers connected to their colleagues and the most up-to-date care. Learn how other rural communities are succeeding at bringing specialized care closer to home, retaining their health professionals, and attracting new ones to town!
Jeanne Ryer, MSc, EdD, Director, NH Citizens Health Initiative
Deborah Cross, Family Nurse Practitioner, White Mountain Community Health Center
Julia Johnston, Behavioral Health Coordinator, Tri-County Health Network
Robin Nelson, Director of Nursing, Maplewood of Cheshire County
Lisa Bean, MDS Nurse and Clinical Reimbursement Coordinator, Alpine Healthcare Center
Sanjeev Arora (Virtual), Founder and Director, Project ECHO
Where Do We Turn?
Rural stakeholders now more than ever need to focus on life in rural communities and all the determinants that help rural communities be more well. The session will explore how to grow strategic partnerships at the regional, state, and local levels that can result in radical differences in the health of small towns with few resources. Session participants will be led through an exercise to help you consider and share resources for where to turn when you want to make a difference in the health of your rural community.
Need help creating or sustaining excellent healthcare in your community? There is help available and much of it is free. We will have national experts who can help you access resources and discuss how to create systems that work.
Learn about the resources available at the state and national level that can help you innovate, collaborate, and identify opportunities. This session will present an introduction to using the Rural Health Information Hub to find resources, opportunities, data, and tools that are available to improve healthcare and wellbeing. We will highlight model programs that have been successful in rural communities across the nation as well as cover key issues that affect the health of rural populations, such as access to healthcare, social determinants of health, health equity, and the rural health workforce.
Kristine Sande, Program Director, Rural Health Information Hub
Teryl Eisinger, CEO, National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health
Alisa Druzba, Director, New Hampshire Rural Health and Primary Care Office
Funding Excellent Healthcare
There is a renaissance in interest in rural health from the foundation community. Participants will be challenged to consider converging factors that influence of the growing foundation footprint in rural health, health disparities between rural and urban, and the interconnectedness between health and human service issues in rural America. Join us for a primer on rural grant seeking and understanding how relationships with funders can be built for mutual good.
A panel of experts will provide information and discussion on financially supporting healthcare in your community. In addition to philanthropic opportunities, federal and state funding will also be presented.
Funding excellent health and healthcare is a challenge for any community, but rural communities have unique opportunities and obstacles to ensure equity for healthcare and to make communities more well. This session will provide participants with a radically different framework for addressing health: focus on the assets of the community and find funding that’s a fit for the unique capacity of your community. The session will include strategies and key questions to consider when seeking grants, resources for finding funding opportunities, and positioning for the future with private foundations.
Land use permeates conversations in rural communities, from forestry to cattle grazing, to farming and to recreation. The livelihoods of these towns are often tied to the surrounding landscape and lands. Because the health of this land is impacted by the climate crisis, communities must act, adjust and adapt. Join Radically Rural as we introduce how people can better connect to the land for economic, social and healing benefits.
Who Should Attend: Farmers, Agricultural Service Providers, Environmental Professionals, Public Health Professionals, Planners, Students of Environment and Agriculture Programs, Community members interested in improving the agricultural economy of their region, Community members interested in improving public health and land stewardship
Rural as Refuge?
Anecdotal evidence from the United States and elsewhere suggests that urban residents moved to rural communities as a response to the COVID19 pandemic. Prior to this, much urban to rural migration was driven by individuals and households seeking out new residential locations in areas offering unique environmental qualities. This session reports on urban to rural migration trends at the national scale in recent years focusing on evidence of rural migration during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. This macro scale perspective is followed by evidence from a set of Vermont case studies exploring migration’s impacts on rural communities and asking new residents what they make of their new rural homes. We conclude by discussing the ways in which in-migration can serve as a force of community improvement and reinvestment highlighting how rapid in-migration may influence landscapes, planning, civic engagement, and social life in small towns.
Exploring Nature, Renewing Communities
More and more rural communities are embracing the natural landscape as a cornerstone of their economy. During this session, we will share success stories of communities across the nation that are keeping outdoors recreation front and center for the health of their people and economy. Improved health outcomes, increased tourism dollars, and enhanced land stewardship and sense of place for local residents is the result of activities such as hunting, fishing, hiking, and biking.
Stephanie Bertaina, Senior Policy Analyst, U.S. EPA Office of Community Revitalization
Megan Lawson (virtual), Economist, Headwaters Economics
Elyse Peters (virtual), Former Director, Walker County Health Action Partnership
Caitrin Maloney, Co-Owner, Sustainable Trailworks
Sarah Pelkey, Economic Development Coordinator, Town of Poultney
Native Tribal Nations Lead on Environmental Stewardship
Tribal Nations and Indigenous communities across America are leading the way in addressing climate change and the greatest environmental challenges of our time. This session will demonstrate how Tribal Nations are using traditional/Indigenous knowledges (T/IKs) and Western knowledge to create actions and strategies in their climate adaptation and resiliency planning efforts. Our guest speakers will provide examples of what Tribal Nations and Tribal organizations are doing across the country to address climate change impacts. Tribal Nations have sustained their cultural heritage and knowledges that are deeply rooted in the ecosystem which provide inspiration and motivation to ensure that future generations have access to healthy water, soil, and strong wildlife populations.
Nikki Cooley, Diné (Virtual), Co-manager, Tribes & Climate Change Program – Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals (ITEP)
Casey Thornbrugh (Virtual), Tribal Climate Science Liaison, United South and Eastern Tribes
Shavonne Smith(Virtual), Environmental Director, Shinnecock Environmental Department
Main Streets are the socio-economic centers of rural communities. Their ability to thrive is essential to the continued economic success of small cities and towns, and these centers imbue their residents with a sense of place. This awareness is often tied to the past, inextricability set in the present and looking toward the future. Facing challenges of today means keeping Main Street surviving and even thriving. Tomorrow’s future doesn’t mean leaving everything behind but, rather, acknowledging what to save and what to improve. Reimagining Main Streets can enliven stakeholders and residents in fundamentally new ways. Join us at Radically Rural as we explore the rebirth of Main Street and the positive impacts available to rural communities.
Who Should Attend: Business owners and professionals, municipal and city planners, community members, volunteers and individuals interested in community revitalization.
A Living Downtown: Contemplating the Transition from CBD to DBC
Over the coming decades, we may very well take part in the transformation of our downtowns and village centers, from what we used to call the “Central Business District” to what we might more accurately refer to as the “Dedicated Biodiversity Commons.” How does biodiversity relate to the programmatic and physical space of our beloved Main Street?
Biodiversity refers to the “variety of life in the world or in a particular habitat or ecosystem.”
To adapt to the New Economy, our Main Street habitat could, by necessity, become a more complex, diverse, and interdependent agglomeration of private business entities, public-private business projects, social services, cultural attractors, and public space, all thriving in a medium of networked technology and interactive user interfaces. As our physical environments become more supportive of our natural environment, this new ecosystem could learn from and mimic natural systems. Our streets, shops, schools, gardens, and commons could reflect an evolved set of economic and social drivers that support one another with the kind of inherent efficiency that exists in our natural, rural landscapes.
Research and design director Rik Ekstrom will launch the Main Street program by identifying a number of potential catalyst conditions that rural communities, towns and small cities might seize on, enhance and manipulate in order to more successfully effect this transition to the “Dedicated Biodiversity Commons.” The session will include remarks by guest speakers engaged in initiatives that are anticipating these opportunities and developing planning guidelines, products and services that may be the backbone of this evolving ecosystem. A breakout session will engage participants in their own brainstorming about opportunities and/or constraints in their communities or organizations.
Rik Ekström, Managing Director and Research Coordinator, ARExA
Ben Rankin, Principal, Human Capital Investments
Layne Braunstein (Virtual), Leader, Creative, NBBJ | ESI Design
Derek Lumsden, CEO/President, Polished Productions Consulting
Co-Designing Main Street in the New Economy
Today’s small cities and rural towns are emerging from the past couple of years in serious need of some good news. While the challenges of making a vibrant and resilient downtown are numerous and complex, we also now have the knowledge – hard won through our collective experience – that almost anything is possible. Our communities have come together in innovative and creative ways to take care of one another, to tweak the rules in order to find collective economic opportunity, and to see beyond convention when conventional means and methods fall short. We have emerged as idealists, inventors and problem solvers. We are experts.
This session will provide a foundation on which government administrators and other local leaders can build an effective process for driving economic and social well being through research, communication and consensus building. Starting from the principle that the most knowledgeable experts are engaged citizens, we will introduce participatory design as a way to achieve nuanced, home-grown solutions to a wide range of a community’s challenges. Attendees will leave with a strong understanding of how to enable community-led development.
Facilitated by Seven Willow Collaborative’s Jessica Healy, participants will set the stage by discussing the current state of affairs in their hometowns, as well as some national trends and change catalysts. The New Jersey State Office of Innovation’s Jessica Lax will lead participant groups through a series of exercises and discussions designed to demonstrate three critical components of co-design: stakeholder engagement and information gathering, analysis and coding, and vision communication. Participants will return to their communities, organizations, or municipal governments with another critically important tool for unlocking untapped expertise and building consensus in their communities.
Gathering In The Commons: Hosting Authentic Experiences in Rural Communities
An American community addresses economic uncertainty and trending demographic shifts by transforming itself into a destination for annual events and gatherings. Everyone’s jealously aware of the success stories: Telluride, Austin, Indio. But are these stories really success stories in the long run and who benefits from this success? When does the celebration of local culture and character become superseded by the promotion of larger, national business interests? How does a community effectively weigh the opportunities and potential impacts of these kinds of events? How might a community assess its existing resources, honestly-yet-creatively define a narrative, and plan for the kind of infrastructure that will be required? And, perhaps most importantly, how might a community attract and plan for the kinds of events that represent the future of cultural experience, in-person networking, collaborating and idea-sharing?
This session will look at how rural and exurban communities might take advantage of the current post-vaccine excitement around IRL events and outdoor/natural environments to host gatherings to reinvigorate their local economies. Presenters will provide different perspectives, from long-time residents, local organizers, and outside promoters, and debate the meaning of “success.” A panel discussion will address the growing importance of authenticity and meaningful connection at future gatherings, and the unique opportunities that small communities can take advantage of in providing these kinds of environments.
Architect, urbanist, and teacher Darrick Borowski, AIA (ARExA, WeWork, Edible Infrastructures) will present observations about the idea and practice of convening over time and identify some guiding principles for future events. A panel discussion will feature participants and planners, comparing past and present lessons learned, data, and ideas about the future. Finally, participants will have the opportunity to weigh in on how Keene, NH has successfully/not successfully adapted to the Radically Rural Summit and how Radically Rural benefits from being hosted by Keene.
Ashley Boling, Festival Organizer, Telluride, CO
Josh Emig, Co-Founder, Editor, Network Communities
Darrick Borowski, Architect/Urbanist, Educator, Design Strategist, ARExA / SVA
Maryann Kristiansen, Founder and Executive Director of Hannah Grimes Center for Entrepreneurship