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2005 National Conference on Sustaining Rural America

2004 National Conference on Job Loss and Recovery



Sustaining Rural America: Defining a Common Future

September 23-24, 2005
At the University of North Carolina – Pembroke

Sponsored by the Center For Community Action
And the UNCP Regional Center

Conference Rationale and Working Groups

On September 23-24, 2005, rural leaders, organizations, policymakers, and researchers will gather from across the U.S. in order to deliberate and define common strategies for sustainable, rural development. Our rural communities and cultures across the U.S. are experiencing major changes in their economic and social systems that have led to increased job loss, rising rates of poverty, and diminishing numbers of stable manufacturing firms and family farms. Many proposed solutions, such as more aggressive approaches to chasing the ‘global market’ and urbanization do not honor rural assets and interests and are generally not sustainable.

More and more, rural leaders and organizations are asking the question: “How can we build a sustainable rural economy that promotes, preserves, and protects local resources for the support and benefit of our rural communities and people?”

“Sustaining Rural America” is the second annual conference focused on rural jobs loss and recovery in the U.S. In 2004, 450 participants gathered over two days in rural North Carolina to identify key issues and obstacles facing rural development and build a stronger network of rural leaders and organizations committed to sustainable development practices, policies, and research. The planning and
programming of the 2005 Conference take us a step further.

The 2005 Conference design highlights the efforts of working groups that will focus long-term on specific issues of rural sustainable development. Each Working Group will be organized in advance during July – September with web-based submissions and discussions. During the conference, the groups will work independently and draft a work plan that outlines effective strategies, best practices, and optional models for supporting and achieving sustainability in their specific area of rural development. Through a highly participatory process, 20 Working Groups will develop and refine templates that rural communities can utilize in planning, preparing, and implementing sustainability-related projects, programs, policy advocacy activities, and important research initiatives. Conference Working Group themes (see below) will fall under the following basic categories: economy, health, education, housing, policy, and research. Although separated by category, each working group will identify and document policy recommendations and research needs to enhance their portion and discipline of practice.

On Friday, September 23, Working Groups will convene for three, 90-minute sessions during which they will discuss and draft action outlines and strategies. On Saturday, September 24, the Working Group draft templates will be shared in a general plenary session and immediately posted on the conference website. A strategy session on national rural policy development will follow the close of the 2005 Conference on Saturday afternoon. Post-Conference facilitation will focus on sustaining and enhancing Working Group deliberations and editing/broadly disseminating tool kits and other resources for sustainable rural development based on the templates developed by the Working Groups. As a result of this process, participants and rural communities will have access to a readily accessible and user-friendly map of strategies and models for comprehensive, rural sustainable development.

The conference’s working group process will enable participants to not only share and acquire knowledge, but also apply it as they identify and develop effective strategies, best practices, and optional models in 20 key areas of rural sustainability. Second, the 20 templates and toolkits developed will provide concrete outcomes to enhance local, state, and national efforts in rural development practice, policies, and research. In addition, the working groups will continue their discourse after the conference, leading to further knowledge acquisition, community application, and preparation for the 2006 conference.

Proposed Sustaining Rural America Working Groups are:

· Creating a Community Culture to Support Local Entrepreneurship and Small Business


· Sustainable Tourism (including agricultural, cultural, and ecological tourism)
· Sustainable Agriculture
· Sustainable Forestry and Rural Land Use Policy
· Asset-Based Development Planning
· Community (non-cash) Economies Based on ‘Co-production of Time and Talent

· Creating K-16 Education Empowerment Zones
· Developing and Implementing K-12 Entrepreneurial Curriculum
· Breaking the School-to-Prison Pipeline: Diversion Services for Truant/Troubled Youth

· Addressing the Mental Health Consequences of Jobs Loss
· Enhancing Family and Community-based Caregiving
· Training Peer Youth Health Educators

· Developing Comprehensive Systems and Opportunities to Increase Affordable Housing

· Local and State Economic Development Policy - Balancing Incubation and Importation
· Reconstructing Federal Trade Policy Based on Equity and Social Justice Principles and Practices
· Beyond Inequality and Testing: Improving and Transforming Rural Education Policy
· Promoting Universal Health Care Policy on the Local, State, and National Level
· Civic Education on Immigrant Growth and Immigration Policy
· Media Policy and Advocacy to Support Rural Sustainable Development

· Documenting and Analyzing the Wide-Ranging Economic and Social Impacts of Job Loss in Rural Communities

Working Groups will be finalized during July – August, 2005 based on the interests of registrants, on-line discussions, and the quality and quantity of resource facilitators. Recommendations for facilitators will be accepted until August 12, 2005.

Pembroke, North Carolina and the University of N.C. – Pembroke is located in the heart of Robeson County, the most ethnically diverse rural county in the U.S. Pembroke is the center of Lumbee life, the 6th largest Native tribe in the U.S. Conference participants are encouraged to sample the abundant cultural, ecological, historical and recreational assets of Robeson County and will receive information on such opportunities prior to arrival. The Center for Community Action (CCA), the host community-based organization, is a multi-cultural and multi-sector rural development organization. On Friday night, Sept. 23, Conference participants will join in the celebration of CCA’s 25th Anniversary and its vision of rural sustainable development and social justice.

The conference is coordinated by Jobs for the Future Collaborative, a public-private partnership in Robeson County that was organized by The Center For Community Action in response to the massive loss of jobs in Robeson County, N.C. It includes leaders in both the public and private sector and is committed to a pro-active and successful approach to sustainable development in rural Robeson County and public policies that support rural America.

For more information, contact:

The Center For Community Action
P.O. Box 723, Lumberton, N.C. 28359
(910) 739-7851