[I’ve held on to this post since August, a bit concerned about being critical. I think these points are worth discussing, so I’ve finally decided to share it. -Becky]
Lots about the Midwest Rural Assembly impressed me in a good way. But I found myself feeling the lack of two elements I consider critical in rural development: entrepreneurship and technology.
Entrepreneurship was part of a couple of table discussions. A local entrepreneur and I brought it into the discussion on natural resources at our table. During the “open topic” time period, the “how to retain youth” discussion table discussed teaching entrepreneurship. Other than that, it was mentioned in passing once that I know of. I realize the Rural Assemblies were started as a gathering of rural advocates not entrepreneurs, but I think it’s time to expand.
Why I think entrepreneurship matters
I heard over and over from the more experienced people in the room that the best solutions come from within. That there is no external fix; no “follow this checklist, and you’ll be fine.” People have to come up with solutions from within their communities. Who are those “people”? Many of them are local entrepreneurs. Prosperous local entrepreneurs work to fix the problems in their own communities. I will admit that this is not always the case. Some entrepreneurs do nothing for their communities. However, ignoring entrepreneurs means ignoring one of the greatest tools for developing our small towns.
I recommend that the Rural Assemblies in general seek active participation from entrepreneurs and discuss taking action to promote entrepreneurship.
Is social networking evil?
Technology was barely on the agenda. There was a table discussion on “Technology and Broadband.” Social media and social networking got its own discussion during the open topic time period, because I proposed one. People were able to freely select a table discussion to join. Then the most fascinating conversation took place. I think one third to one half of those who chose to participate in this table, spent their time sharing how bad they thought social networking was. We were treated to a fine recitation of the negatives; how it leads to less face to face communication, how it destroys conflict resolution skill development, how it is bad, bad, bad. Evil, even. These comments came from people who clearly grew up without these communication tools. Another third of those at the table chose to speak up for some of the positive aspects. And a twenty-something year old at the table pointed out that it was simply part of his reality. It just is.
And that’s my message to everyone out there. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like these new methods of communications. You’re too late to stop them. If you want to make a difference in how they are used, that’s great. But complaining won’t change anything. I suggest that the concerned and the enthusiastic get together locally. Start a monthly lunch session to share ideas, challenges and solutions. You’ll learn more and have a chance to change how these tools are used. And you might even feel better.
Overall, the Midwest Rural Assembly was a terrificly positive event. I was excited by how many people care about rural communities. I hope to see lots more action in future Rural Assemblies. And I hope rural entrepreneurs and technology including social networks will be included in a meaningful way.
Here are four more articles about the positives from the Midwest Rural Assembly:
- Working together you can build it yourself.
- USDA’s Victor Vasquez talks rural-urban connections.
- Cooperatives as an alternative business model.
- The next wave of opportunity.
New to SmallBizSurvival.com? Take the Guided Tour. Like what you see? Get our updates.
- How small town businesses can market to remote workers and turn them into new customers - May 15, 2023
- Survey of Rural Challenges 2023 results - May 8, 2023
- Rural and small town ideas from the OU Placemaking Conference IQC 2023 - April 5, 2023
- Rural tourism trends say small towns are still cool - March 27, 2023
- Move Your Money and Bank Local - March 22, 2023
- Using a building as a warehouse or storage in a small town? Put up a sign - March 13, 2023
- How to get customers in the door of small town and rural retail stores - February 19, 2023
- Check your small business website for outdated pandemic changes, missing info - January 31, 2023
- Rural Tourism Trend: electric vehicle chargers can drive visitors - January 15, 2023
- 2023 trends for rural and small town businesses - December 26, 2022
For your next encounter: social networking may be evil, but the IRS is now on twitter.@IRSnews
Kelli Gant says
Social Networking — “It doesn’t matter if
you don’t like these new methods of
communications. You’re too late to stop them.”
I can’t agree with you more. The use of Facebook has been terrific for our rural community. With a 16 miles spread between our three mountain (mostly retirement) neighborhoods, residents keep in touch with Facebook and we use our community page to announce events.
We now have 4 times more Facebook followers on our Community page than residents :-) The tourists love being able to keep in touch with their favorite vacation destination. As do the young people who grew up here and are now in big cities working or in the military overseas. I like the statistics that help focus our marketing.
“…there is no external fix; … People
have to come up with solutions from within
Spot on. We are in the middle of developing a community plan and I have been completely amazed at the brilliance hidden within our residents. The process has energized our citizens and we have some creative solutions that we will start implementing in 2011 as well as some long term projects that could help stabilize our economy.
Thank you for your great post.
Becky McCray says
Maesz, that is only slightly terrifying. ;)
Kelli, thanks for sharing your experiences. I’m particularly gratified to see that you have connected with tourists as well as residents this way.
I’m late to the discussion, but I think you raise some great points. Obviously, rural communities need more entrepreneurs. And I’d advocate that the MRA can’t achieve it’s goals unless it learns to leverage social networking as a means of connecting throughout the year.
Although I’m removed from the program development, I know that there is a dedicated cadre of volunteers who are working hard to help the MRA achieve its goals. I’m pretty sure they want to move in this direction, so your thoughts are welcomed. Just in case they they haven’t already been here, I’m make sure they are aware of your comments.
Becky McCray says
Mike, I knew you’d be by some time. I’d be interested in seeing more of both of these topics in all the Rural Assembly events, as well as MRA. Thanks for offering to share this feedback.