Humphrey School News—November 30, 2017

What is the Most Pressing Need of Rural Areas?

Members of our community tell us what they think

We asked four members of the Humphrey School community to weigh in on a big question. 

Kelly Asche (MPP ’12), Research Associate, Center for Rural Policy and Development

Kelly AscheOn January 25, 2015, the Star Tribune published the article “Urban-rural split in Minnesota grows deeper, wider,” which described economic woes facing rural Minnesota. The exact same day, the Star Tribune published an article titled, “Rural counties in Minnesota leading economic recovery.” Which version of reality is true? There is a diverse range of challenges facing our entire state and these have different impacts on rural communities. The most pressing need is for each region in rural Minnesota to take charge of its own narrative and to articulate the unique solutions needed to solve its challenges.

Fernando Burga, Assistant Professor, Humphrey School

Fernando BurgaThe most pressing need in rural areas is for communities to acquire the capacity to deal with demographic change. With immigrant communities and other populations relocating to these areas, communities are grappling with tough questions: How can they remain competitive in a diversifying, global economy? How can the cultural values that uphold a rural way of life contribute to inclusion and foster diversity? Rural areas are places where innovation could be forged by confronting these distinctive challenges. There is a great opportunity for residents who are willing to embrace transformation.

Bernadine Joselyn (MPA ’01), Director, Public Policy and Engagement, Blandin Foundation

Bernadine JoselynRural areas need leaders. Their greatest asset is people, and we need to invest in leadership development. Local leadership is the difference between communities that thrive and those that don’t. Leadership is about organizing hope. People need to feel hopeful about the possibility of positive change and believe that what they do together can and does make a difference. By investing in leadership development, we’re helping rural communities name and claim their own future.

Steve Kelley, Senior Fellow, Humphrey School

Steve KelleyElections in many countries have revealed that rural residents are afraid for their futures and feel they are not in control of their destinies. Even closer to home, rural communities want to see themselves as part of a dynamic, prosperous future, rather than fear gradually waning as young people move to the cities. Rural residents want to be doing the cool things happening in cities; maybe their kids will come back after college. High-speed telecommunications is essential to an innovative future with economic and creative opportunities; it is tough to do cool stuff without it!

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