By Taylor Sarman, Partner at Mahonia Public Affairs and RDI Board Member
The impact of government decisions on our daily lives has likely never been more clear: daily updates about public health, unemployment, business closures, and eviction moratoriums has us all paying more attention to the daily news cycle than ever before. And many people became more politically active as a result. While the events of 2020 and 2021 were life-changing for many of us, the realization that becoming involved in local, state, and federal governing processes can directly impact our quality of life has achieved a level of clarity that will hopefully continue as the world settles into its new normal. Civic engagement makes government better.
Let’s make sure government money and support gets to rural places. We understand that rural people are resourceful; they know how to stretch a dollar because they are used to making do with less. We need to ensure that rural gets its fair share of the pandemic recovery resources coming from the federal government, and that those resources are accompanied by assistance to administer the funds. Rural runs on volunteers, and they need support to apply for and distribute dollars. RDI is committed to representing rural interests at the state and federal level by advocating for legislation that helps rural communities, participating in national coalitions to represent rural interests, and organizing virtual conversations to raise awareness of rural issues.
Let’s support rural people as they navigate government processes. As local, state, and federal governments worked tirelessly to provide services during the pandemic, we saw much of the business of governing shift to virtual. While we recognize that making public policy decisions virtually has its limitations, people from rural communities who normally can’t afford the time or money it takes to make frequent trips from far and remote places to their state capitols could participate more fully in government. Our hope is that some changes to access become permanent. In addition, RDI is committed to provide training in understanding government, strategic communications, coalition building, and other skills to rural leaders to improve their efficacy in making policy changes that support their community vision.
Let’s build a network of rural communities to increase our influence and make sure our voices are heard. If we want rural perspectives to be considered, we need to ensure our elected officials understand our needs and see that many rural places have the same challenges, concerns, and opportunities. To that end, rural people need to connect with one another, have conversations about their experiences and interests, and realize a shared vision that can be communicated to our elected leaders in a way that demonstrates we can speak with one voice. RDI has been hosting virtual Community Conversations about current issues in rural public policy, and we’ve created the PNW Rural Action Network to provide information about pending legislation, available resources, and other tools to help rural leaders make change.
Rural Development Initiatives (RDI) is a nonprofit that has been working alongside rural people since 1991, supporting their efforts to create vital rural places. We understand that achieving that vision includes understanding, advocating, and implementing changes to ordinances and laws at the local, state and federal level to get things moving in a new and hopeful direction. We look forward to continuing that work to achieve sustained rural community and economic vitality.