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Exploring New Ideas at Rural Forward

Our one-day convening, “Rural Forward: Exploring Fresh Perspectives,” drew nearly 100 engaged and energetic attendees who participated in discussions focused on rural leadership development, entrepreneurship, and public policy.

During the morning session, “Seeking Common Ground: Looking Past the Rural-Urban Divide,” University of Oregon assistant professor Steven Beda presented a historical perspective of this complex topic. An academic expert in Pacific Northwest, labor, and environmental history, his research explores the history of workers in the Northwest’s timber industry and the ways rural communities have adapted to the region’s changing economy. Click here to listen to Steven Beda’s presentation. During the discussion that followed, panelists Janet Soto Rodriguez, Foundations for a Better Oregon, and Ted Piccolo, Northwest Native Development Fund, engaged in rich conversation along with Steven Beda, responding to attendee questions and comments about the rural narrative and how it shapes our cultural beliefs, behaviors, and norms. Click here to access the full session recording.

The “RuraLead Northwest: Advancing Community Leadership” session featured the RuraLead learning initiative, which is aimed at understanding the state of rural leadership development around the nation. Conversations centered around how we can take collective action toward stronger, more equitable rural communities in the Northwest. As RuraLead Field Builder Abigail Scholar articulated, “Collaboration must come from a place of equity. I think the discussions around equity often feel like a beginning point as opposed to something that should really be built into our processes to begin with. None of this work gets finished or started in a silo. We have to look at the organizations around us and the other groups, grassroots or other, that do similar work, to problem-solve together and think about what change looks like, how we can get it done, and let it be led by community.” Click here to access the full session recording.

The interactive afternoon session focused on lessons learned from the Rural Opportunity Initiative (ROI) program funded by Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The two-year in-community effort supported rural entrepreneur ecosystem building in Oregon; during the Rural Forward event, participants and entrepreneur support partners brainstormed next steps to chart a path for building stronger rural entrepreneurial ecosystems throughout the Pacific Northwest. Click here to read “Rural Entrepreneurship: Lessons Learned from Ecosystem Building in Oregon.” Click here to access the session recording, “Rural Entrepreneurship: Building on Lessons Learned.”

We are grateful to all who participated, presented, supported, and shared ideas, inspiration, and connections that helped make this event a success. Click here to visit the event page which includes session descriptions, speaker information, and session recordings. Thank you to our generous sponsors for making this event possible.

"I attended the first session. I had only planned on staying for an hour, but I just couldn't leave because the conversation was so enthralling. Thank you so much to the thoughtful panelists and excellent facilitator."
~ Rural Forward Participant

"This event inspired me to work toward a collaborative community focused network, engaging with everyone, not just elected, appointed, and recognized leaders, but all stakeholders...meaning everyone. ~ Rural Forward Participant