The welfare of rural and northern Canada is critical for the prosperity of urban Canadians. Rural places and people provide the timber, food, minerals, and energy that aid in urban growth, and they are stewards of the water and other resources upon which urban people depend. Rural and northern places also process urban pollution, refresh and restore urban populations, and maintain the heritage upon which much of our Canadian identity rests. In return, urban Canada provides the markets for rural goods and employment, technology, financial capital, consumer goods, and much of its media-based culture. Developing and implementing good policy requires a clear recognition of this functional interdependence. However, too often the pressing demands of metro places mean the unique circumstances of rural and northern places are overlooked or misunderstood by urban-based policy-decision makers.
The RPLC rests on 25 years of collaboration among researchers, policy-makers, practitioners, and citizens within the Canadian Rural Revitalization Foundation (CRRF), the Rural Development Institute (RDI), and the International Comparative Rural Policy Studies program (ICRPS). For 25 years, CRRF has been holding annual conferences and workshops, initiating research, and engaging with policy-makers regarding the conditions in rural and northern Canada. In concert with CRRF, RDI has been conducting community- focused research, meeting with regional leaders, and publishing rural-relevant materials (www.brandonu.ca/rdi/). For the last ten years ICRPS has organized a two-week Institute where about 30 graduate students and practitioners meet with about 20 faculty members from 12 trans-Atlantic partner institutions to study the challenges of rural policy and explore options for its improvement (http://icrps.org).
This 7-year project builds on the strength of these organizations to create a Rural Policy Learning Commons (RPLC) wherein multiple stakeholders can engage in a range of activities to generate new policy insights, strengthen comparative research collaboration among faculty, students, practitioners, and policy-makers, and develop innovative initiatives to advance policies that result in more prosperous communities and regions.
The Rural Policy Learning Commons will:
- Add to research knowledge regarding rural, regional, and northern conditions;
- Increase insights regarding the nature and process of rural-related policy development;
- Build a cohort of highly qualified policy analysts and community leaders;
- Increase the mobilization of this knowledge to the wider population; and
- Strengthen networks and institutional capacities to increase prosperity in rural, regional, and northern areas.