Supplement to “Connecting Rural Worlds”
The Center for Rural Strategies sees improving rural access to broadband Internet as one of its key issues. “Communication is a fundamental human right” is the first principle of a National Rural Assembly policy group on the issue.
No surprise, then, that the CRS is finding interesting ways to use the Internet.
The Daily Yonder, www.dailyyonder.com, is a rural news Web portal published by the Center. Its editor is former Kentuckian Bill Bishop, who in recent years has developed a national reputation for his book studying “way-of-life” segregation, The Big Sort. The Yonder publishes intriguing articles whose subjects range from the rural grocery crisis to analysis of agricultural policy to a consideration of which 2010 Final Four team was the most rural (or “Yonderific,” as the article puts it).
Rural Strategies is also using an intriguing storytelling software developed by the Australian software company Feral Arts. PlaceStories uses links ranged across a map to embed a variety of film clips and still images (or “postcards”) and allows users to post their own content. It’s viewable on a page put together for the National Rural Youth Assembly (http://ps3beta.com/map/#/cmty=ruralassembly) but Davis sees the Center employing it for a variety of future uses.
The Rural Archive, www.ruralarchive.com, still a work in progress, it’s a collection of contemporary high-resolution photography, trying to redress what Davis says is a dearth of available rural photographs as newspapers have cut back their coverage of rural areas. The photos are “things you don’t often see in the media when rural comes up—so no barns, or cows,” says Shawn Poynter, the Rural Strategies employee who is director (or curator—the organization isn’t hung up on titles) of the collection.
In recent years, the Center’s initiatives have branched creatively into all kinds of endeavors.
The National Rural Assembly is a coalition aimed at, in Davis’ words, “building consensus around a different kind of rural policy for the country.” It began as an initiative at the Kellogg Foundation that included a national gathering of rural groups. Under the Center’s management, the annual meetings have continued, but the Assembly has changed into a continuing body, doing ongoing work on such issues as access to broadband, transportation, health care, and the environment. (Its statement of principles, the Rural Compact, can be read online at www.ruralassembly.org/rural-compact.) In April 2010 it held a National Rural Youth Assembly in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Donors Ourselves is a documentary video and book that grew out of the Center’s Community Philanthropy Initiative. They show the development of local philanthropic efforts in two locations that aren’t often paired—Kenya and Tennessee—and draw lessons that can be applied in other rural locales.
The Rural Tracker is a nonpartisan poll of rural voters in “battleground” counties that the Center commissioned in 2004, 2006, and 2008. (It was not taken in 2010 but should be back in 2012.) It’s shown that rural voters are a key swing vote—while they usually tend to vote Republican, the national elections that Democrats win are the ones where they pick up significant numbers of rural votes (as Obama did in 2008). “Before we did it, you never heard of any tracking of rural voters,” Davis says. In 2008, “all the networks were following rural voters.”
To read the Kentucky Living February 2011 feature that goes along with this supplement, go to Connecting Rural Worlds.