CRRF’n the Archives Series

The entries below are examples of items from the CRRF Archives. They provide some of the stories, insights, resources, and inspirational materials that remain relevant for current rural and remote communities. Check them out to discover what we have learned over the years and to appreciate the legacy of innovations and dedicated people that have made today’s initiatives possible. Don’t forget to check the NRE materials via

We welcome your comments, stories, archival materials, and inquiries.

#46 (July 2024) An Archivists' Dilemma

As I proceed with the establishment of the CRRF Archives I am regularly faced with the dilemma of inclusion and exclusion. This involves making judgements about who will find the items useful, which materials should be treated as public, and which should be kept private (and for how long)?

It is an impossible dilemma-guided by formal regulations like the Freedom of Information and Rights to Privacy Acts, funders’ contracts, as well as agreements we made with the people and organizations in our field sites. In general, we agreed to hold the information, stories, and discussions “in trust” for the field sites: respecting their privacy and conducting analysis for education and non-profit objectives only — as outlined by the GNU copyright requirements.

As a result, researchers and students are required to accept agreements for much of the archive materials. We assume that materials from conferences and public presentations do not require special permission other than recognition of the sources. Most of these are publicly available via the CRRF and NRE sites.

In general, I have been rather inclusive with the material–on the assumption that future researchers will not only be interested in the findings of our work, but also in the procedures, debates, and decisions that made CRRF and the NRE possible. We are also hopeful that future generations of researchers will find the data and analysis inspirational for new projects and insights as yet unimagined (see below}.

To view other Archive entries, go to: For CRRF Archive news, go to:

#45 (June 2024) Managing Local Sensibilities

Local community initiatives are best done with extensive participation of local citizens. This was reinforced by a story from those in one of our field sites regarding the establishment of a health and social service centre. After considerable fund-raising the town was able to afford a centre in a small building vacated along the main road to town. It seemed to be perfect: easy access with room for parking, and sufficient space inside to accommodate the reception and offices required.

After the opening and celebration of the initiative, however, the municipal representatives were bewildered by the resistance they heard from local citizens. Upon further investigation, they discovered that many citizens were reluctant to visit the site because most people in town knew what type of vehicle they drove. They wished to avoid the stigma as others saw them parked at the social service centre.

Once the problem was identified, it was relatively easy to solve. The municipality moved the social service centre to a vacant section of the local mini-mall which housed a greater range of businesses. Parking at the mini-mall was not identified with visits to the centre and the stigma potential disappeared. Along with it, the use of the social service centre increased.

In Barriere, BC, provincial firefighters were stymied when they wished to warn local residents of an impending fire. There were several people living “off-grid” in the surrounding hills.

The local “quad squad”—a group of local ATM enthusiasts—volunteered to spread the news since they were familiar with both the terrain and people. Once deputized, they were able to get the news spread quickly and help with any evacuations required.

It took local knowledge, imagination, and innovation to get the accessibility and opportunity right for the towns.

To view other Archive entries, go to:

For CRRF Archive news, go to:

The Quad Squad
#44 (May 2024) Community Action

We know that community development and resilience depend on the imaginative use of local and regional assets. Competing with national and international organizations using traditional commodities has shown to be associated with community decline ( Success stories abound within communities where social cohesion, networks of support, and voluntary groups are strong ( But it’s not always easy to get there. Previous animosities, disasters, failures, and disappointments can easily get in the way of new initiatives and networks, especially those that require collective action. We found that peer-based organizations like Community Futures (  and The Canadian CED Network ( were important to the community development process. Such organizations have a long track record of supporting communities and individuals to develop the vision, networks, and assets for new initiatives in community development. They are community-based, with people from business and voluntary sectors who have the experience, access to resources, and direct knowledge of rural and remote communities. They will also help you navigate the more formal requirements of government support services. Check out these and similar organizations if you wish to see your community grow.

To view other Archive entries, go to:
For CRRF Archive news, go to:

#43 (April 2024) Financing the dream

In 1996, CRRFers began to dream of a long-term research and education project in support of rural and remote places (see entry 7 below). Using federal and provincial contracts, ARRG/CRRF conference proceeds, and small research grants from our participants, we established the Rural Observatory of 32 field sites across Canada, collected community and household information in most of those sites (, and established our first 4-year collaborative project with Japanese colleagues.

This was a period of difficult activity for both researchers and administrators. The patchwork of funding sources, applications, reports, presentations, and financial transactions required considerable expertise to manage the different conditions, time frames, expectations, and organizations involved. Fortunately, Anna Woodrow, Joan Marshall and their trusty cohort of office staff were up to the task.

After two attempts, we were finally successful in 1999 with a grant focusing on “Social Cohesion in Rural Canada”. This provided almost $600,000 from SHHRC and an equivalent amount (in-kind) from our 16 partners. It meant a huge reduction in the administrative complexity of our work and supercharged our ability to support inter-community collaboration. As we soon discovered, it established a strong basis for the promotion of “Knowledge Mobilization” and community-engaged research which were to become a major thrust of SSHRC funding.

To view other Archive entries, go to:
For CRRF Archive news, go to:

Researchers and Community Members, Miramichi, 2002
Blissfield, NB – 2002
#42 (March 2024) CRRF and the Rural Secretariat

As noted in Entry 4 below, ARRG produced a document entitled “Towards a Whole Rural Policy for Canada” in 1994. It was produced in response to an invitation from House of Commons and Senate committees. Included in our proposals was support for the establishment of a “rural secretariat”.

In 1996, the government established the Rural Secretariat with a mandate to bring federal departments together to promote dialogue regarding rural and remote community issues. The Rural Secretariat expanded with the establishment of the Canadian Rural Partnership in 1998, the appointment of a Secretary of State for Rural Development in 1999, and several initiatives such as the Rural Lens, Rural Dialogue, Pilot Projects, and the National Rural Research Network.

ARRG and CRRF were active participants in these initiatives, providing research insights, policy analysis and suggestion, networks, and experience. We were also supported by several of the project funding initiatives of the Rural Secretariat.

In 2013, the Rural Secretariat lost its funding along with the many initiatives it had established. However, there are many insights and lessons to be learned from this initiative. Several of them are identified in the documents produced by Heather Hall and Ryan Gibson: “Rural Proofing in Canada” by Heather Hall, 2012 and Rural Proofing in Canada by Heather Hall and Ryan Gibson, 2016.

We also learned about the extra challenges created by project funding from government sources. The funders were more likely to remain engaged in the details of the project as it unfolded (occasionally asking for shifts in the research activities) and they were unwilling to fund any activities that they felt were related to administrative infrastructure. The extra burdens these placed on our projects were apparent when we compared them to working with SSHRC funding.

To view other Archive entries, go to:
For CRRF Archive news, go to:

#41 (February 2024) 10 Years after the Fukushima nuclear disaster—report on Iitate-mura

As presented in entry 27 below, CRRF worked with colleagues in Japan for many years on a comparative community project with two sites in Japan (the CJ Project). In 2011, a tsunami off the coast of Japan led to failures at the Fukushima nuclear power plant and forced the evacuation of one our project’s villages (Iitate-mura). CRRF members and community participants in the NRE project were understandably concerned—especially those who had visited the field site (see: CJExchangeReport2003). We established a blog site to keep our members up-to-date as events unfolded and populated it with reports from our Japanese colleagues (

It is now 13 years from the time of the disaster. Professor Nobuhiro Tsuboi has prepared a detailed report regarding the 10 years in Iitate-mura after the nuclear accident, including the evacuation, clean-up, and return to the village. It includes descriptions of the events, plus many of the impacts on the village people and their vision for the future. You can view this report via the following links in Letter or A4 format. I was particularly interested in the way that the dispersal experience significantly expanded the participants’ understanding of their village and their vision for the future. You can see this discussion in Chapter 7.

This report provides stimulating material for anyone interested in disaster impacts and planning. We welcome inquiries and proposals for research studies and comments from researchers, practitioners, and policy-makers interested in disaster planning and mitigation in all its forms, including wildfires, floods, industrial catastrophes, wind, and the many impacts of climate changes that are affecting rural and remote communities. Please contact CRRF via or if you, your students, or community members have an interest in such projects.

Iitate-mura seniors’home – 1999

To view other Archive entries, go to:

For CRRF Archive news, go to:

#40 (January 2024) Who supports households when changes occur?

Households have been experiencing significant stresses over the last few years. Where do they find support to manage? This question is similar to one we asked of our field site respondents in our NRE 2001 household survey.

We first asked respondents to identify which one of 11 changes had the most impact on their household during the last year. This was followed by questions regarding how they were managing to deal with these stressors along with the relative success of those actions. Statistics Canada was sufficiently impressed with the panel of questions, that they adapted them to telephone conversations and integrated them into their 2008 GSS22 national survey regarding social networks. This meant that we were not only able to analyze our NRE field sites, but could compare them with rural and urban people throughout the country. The results suggest important strategies for policies that are likely to enhance the capacity of people in all areas (Reimer, 2011).

The most frequent changes in both data sources were “Health (including death)” changes followed by “Finances and Income”, “Employment”, then “Living or Family Arrangements”. These are likely to parallel current conditions.

The most used sources of support were similar in the NRE and national samples. Networks with “Communal” (family and friends) normative structures were most often used, followed by those with “Bureaucratic” (government and non-government organizations), “Market” (private sector organizations), then “Associative” (3rd sector groups) norms.

We also found that sources of support were often used in combination. The most common types were Communal and Bureaucratic (especially for Health-related stresses). Family and friends were most often a major source of support for financial, living arrangements, and family stressors—for both rural and urban households.

These results indicate that coordinating divergent normative structures may be a strategic approach for improving access to social support. The clearest example is the relationship between Communal and Bureaucratic normative structures with respect to health. Analysis and organizational reorganisation across such norms—especially where they conflict (Reimer, et al. 2008) is likely to pay off considerably as financial and access challenges are considered.

We can learn much from respectful collaboration among family networks, formal organizations, and private sector businesses for improving the effectiveness of supports for crisis management and prevention.

Major Changes by NRE and GSS22 Surveys
Use of Supports by Combinations (GSS22)

To view other Archive entries, go to:

For CRRF Archive news, go to:

#39 (December 2023) How did the CRRF Board meet in the early days?

This question from a current Board member got me exploring the archives to stimulate and verify my questionable memory. The results provide a sketch of the transition from face-to-face meetings and land-line telephones to Internet exchanges.

Our earliest discussions and decision-making depended on conferences, workshops, and serendipity. The establishment of ARRG in 1988, for example, was initiated by Ray Bollman and Tony Fuller at a Regina conference and followed up by an Ottawa workshop meeting the next year. Each of these events provided an opportunity to discuss and dream about a national organization that would champion research, education, analysis, and advocacy related to rural Canada. Without a formal structure, a 6-member ARRG Steering Committee met wherever a conference of interest was held. Organizations such as Statistics Canada and the Agricultural Economics Society provided venues for members to meet in Saskatoon, Ottawa, Vancouver, Gatineau, Coaticook, and Camrose. In some cases, ARRG organized pre-conferences or workshops that provided venues for planning and honing of ARRG organizational skills. Our primary methods of communication between events were telephone calls and faxes.

In 1991, CRRF was formally established and the Board became a requirement. By that time ARRG had sufficient capacity to organize its own conferences and workshops. Members also realized the value of three strategies in these events: always meet in rural or remote places, engage with the local population for planning and profit-sharing, and partner with government organizations for financial assistance and to entice policy-makers to rural places.

From 1992 to 1996, Board meeting locations reflect the impacts of these strategies. Brandon, Goderich, Merrickville, Smiths Falls, Wolfville, St-Clément, Grande Prairie, Corner Brook, Coaticook, Quesnel, and Gimli provided occasions for planning, Board, and AGM meetings. Preparations and discussions between these meetings typically took place via e-mail and telephone calls. Our introduction to long-distance meetings was limited to occasional land-line conference calls—usually utilizing the facilities of government departments.

When the New Rural Economy project was launched in 1997, it created more opportunities for Board meetings. Minutes reflect this period with the addition of meetings in North Bay, West Prince County, Nanaimo, Miramichi, Gatineau, Prince George, Tweed, Twillingate, Olds, and Québec City. The long tradition of twice-yearly meetings (a spring workshop and fall conference) provided opportunities for Board members to engage in more than formal meetings. Each gathering included local tours, formal presentations, shared accommodation, and joint travel arrangements that expanded the conversations of board members well beyond the meeting table. Our history of face-to-face meetings created relationships built on shared experience and familiarity that provided a strong basis for trust, accommodation to personal idiosyncrasies, and mutual support. During this period of time, internet software had improved to a point where online meetings were more reliable, so they became integrated as we sought to reduce our carbon footprint and travel costs. It remains to be seen whether the significant reduction in face-to-face meetings imposed by COVID will affect the familiarity and motivation of Board members in the future.

Merrickville – 1993
Gatineau ON – Oct 2006
St. John’s 2008

To view other Archive entries, go to:

For CRRF Archive news, go to:

#38 (November 2023) Integrating Research and Policy: the importance of long-term networks

Several of us researchers were motivated by the naïve belief that our research would be welcomed by policy-makers at all levels: federal, provincial/territorial, and communities—and quickly integrated into their policies and programs. We were soon dissuaded from this belief as we brought our findings and perspectives to those policy-makers. The first barrier was their complaint that they could not understand our results—particularly with respect to the policy and decisions they faced on a daily basis. They asked us to “translate” our insights into a form they could understand. The result was a flurry of activities to explore a range of knowledge mobilization initiatives: from policy briefs to conferences and seminars (see Entry 30 below). Although appreciated, we were (rightfully) criticized for the esoteric language and vague or impractical policy and program suggestions. It took many years of engagement to identify some of the key barriers to mutual engagement and the role of evidence in policy-making. The solutions were rooted in the long-term relationships we established while searching for the engagement itself. It was through the back-and-forth collaboration that we were able to find a more compatible language, understand the institutional and personal demands on our activities, and be able to respond quickly to emerging and changing conditions faced by policy-makers at all levels. We did not achieve the level of exchange originally imagined, but significantly improved our understanding and strategy for such engagement (See Reimer, 2014 “Collaboration Challenges: Research, Policy, Community”).

Poster presentations to policy-makers
Engaging with policy-makers

To view other Archive entries, go to:

For CRRF Archive news, go to:

#37 (October 2023) Community Development using “Folk High Schools” (Folkehøgskole)

The remote community in Sogndal, Norway introduced us to an innovative education program for high school graduates both national and international.* At the local “Folk High School” (Folkehøgskole) students can spend a year exploring a variety of personal and public education options.

Small and remote communities provide the facilities and topics for the students, often tailor-made to their geographical location and capacities. In Sogndal (one of the 85 Folkehogskoles in Norway), outdoor sports, outdoor life, and travel photography are some of the special programs available (

The programs not only impart academic knowledge but also nurture essential life skills and teamwork abilities. Students are required to organize and prepare their own daily routines, food, cleanup, subsistence, and daily activities while following their lessons.

This initiative is even more remarkable in its positive impact on the community. With the support of the government, this program not only benefits the students but also contributes significantly to the local area by fostering individual growth, enhancing engagement with national and international people, spreading knowledge about Sogndal to outsiders, and increasing knowledge and resources for community development.

Does your community have an asset (e.g. closed school, arena, residence, industry) that could be used for such a program? What skills and courses could you offer?

*Our visit to Sogndal was initiated as part of the 2011 two-week summer institute of the International Comparative Rural Policy Studies organization (ICRPS:

#36 (September 2023) What’s a rural or remote community?

This was a key question for CRRF participants—particularly when we were designing the New Rural Economy Project. If we were to collaborate with such communities, how could we identify them?

We considered geographical characteristics like distance and density ( However, we recognized some of the limitations of this approach, especially when speaking with local people. Local perceptions of their communities and strongly held identities did not always reflect formal measures of distance and density or correspond to formal municipal, village, or regional boundaries.

Fortunately, David Connell, Diane Martz, and Ellen Wall took on these dilemmas in a systematic and imaginative fashion. They conducted a series of interviews in several of our field sites regarding the residents’ perceptions of their communities and its important elements. As part of those interviews, they asked the respondents to draw the boundaries of their community on a map.  These images were combined in several ways—producing visual representations of the diverse perspectives even within the same community (see below and

In recognition of this diversity, we chose to identify our field site locations using Census Subdivisions since they provided initial data at a level that was roughly compatible with local governance actions (both formal and informal). However, we treated each Census Subdivision as a starting location for the analysis—expanding or contracting our investigations according to the perceptions and identities of the people who lived within each of them.

To view other Archive entries, go to:

For CRRF Archive news, go to:

#35 (August 2023) Don't overlook social assets that are unique to your community

The community of St-Cyprien (Lower St. Laurence River region) was somewhat unique because they had a few children and adults with mental disorders. In response, the community had constructed infrastructure supports, like wheelchair ramps. In addition, the population had become accustomed to living with such people in a supportive way.

A few decades ago, when an opportunity to construct a centre and program, the local authority proposed and accepted a program to receive a health center for persons with heavy mental disorders. At a time where all other surrounding community were declining, this one prospered. Why?

Because they not only received clients, but they also got doctors, nurses and many others health professionals who became involved in the social and economic development of the community, like the mayor Michel Lagacé. They also established summer camp programs for clients and their families—increasing their tourism options.

Now, an industrial plant makes products for Bombardier snowmobiles and the community shares with others a large wind turbine farms giving nice economic returns.

To view other Archive entries, go to:

For CRRF Archive news, go to:

#34 (July 2023) Looking backward to move forward

As noted in Entry 23 (August 2022), several New Rural Economy (NRE) alumni met to consider possible initiatives built on the NRE legacy. One of the suggestions was a panel at the June CRRF Conference in Lethbridge. Materials from that event are now available. They include the following.

  1. A description of the NRE Project, its origin, activities, insights, and opportunities by Bill Reimer.
  2. A discussion of continuing research and collaboration rooted in the NRE project by Laura Ryser-Murphy.
  3. An account of the ways in which Lana Sullivan has made use of perspectives and skills developed in the NRE project to research and administration in other domains.
  4. Examples of the ways in which the NRE introduced David Connell to collaborative research, supported his PhD thesis, and continues to inform his methodology and teaching.
  5. A story of the way in which the NRE perspectives, network, and information has supported Evan Curley’s PhD research.
  6. Questions and responses that emerged in response to the panel presentations:
    • How did you organize and conduct the case studies?
    • What advice would you give to someone wishing to examine rural and remote issues today?

Check them out to discover ways in which the NRE legacy of insights, information, or networks, might support your career, community, or comprehension.

To view other Archive entries, go to:

For CRRF Archive news, go to:

#33 (June 2023) The Search for Funding

We have always been searching for ways to finance our dreams and ambitions for CRRF. Some of the primary sources have included the following: Memberships, Donations, Contracts, Conferences, Financial Campaigns, Research Grants, and Partnerships. All of them threaten to take us away from our primary interest in research, policy, and community initiatives, however, but in each case, they have added to our learning and capacity.

For example, memberships and donations have provided the most consistent support, although at a relatively low level: usually just enough to cover our administrative demands. Contracts with government and regional organizations provided support for some of our earliest activities, although they came with many restrictions and demanded considerable time and effort to manage the financial and administrative requirements—especially when governments excluded the use of their funds for “core administrative activities” (see entry 7). Income from conferences (usually shared with the local communities involved) varied considerably from year to year depending on the location and administrative capacity. Our excursion into financial campaigning was successful for our learning, but failed because we lacked the administrative capacity for follow-up (see entries 6 and 25). We even have a collection of about a dozen campaign proposals when CRRF was used as a test case for two classes of McGill students (examples below).

We have been most successful with research and partnership grants. Some of the large ones, like the NRE Project, supported CRRF activities and objectives, but they also directed research members’ energy away from the broad mandate of CRRF since they were justified to granting agencies by foci in specific issues like social cohesion, the new economy, and social capital ( . The 7-year Rural Policy Learning Commons ( provided considerable support for CRRF Conferences, ICRPS events, publication collaboration, webinars, policy networks, and research collaboration opportunities. However, the establishment of continued opportunities for CRRF were significantly reduced by institutional challenges, incompatible career objectives, and COVID constraints.

These challenges are surmountable—as our 36 year-survival makes clear. The experiences can also teach us about future strategies we may wish to explore for fund-raising. The next such initiatives probably depend on the alignment of our individual career aspirations and capacities, emerging social issues, and policy concerns to make it possible. Any suggestions?

Examples of Student Fund-raising Plans for CRRF

To view other Archive entries, go to:

For CRRF Archive news, go to:

#32 (May 2023) Managing English-French Translation

Providing easy access to materials and activities in both official languages has been a continual challenge for CRRF. English is the dominant language for most of our participants and materials so the burden fell primarily on our bilingual and French-speaking participants. This was especially important because of the innovative rural and regional initiatives in Québec (see entries 16 and 21 below).

Funding for translation is another way in which we dealt with the language issue. This was often requested and provided for conference and workshop events—especially from federal government sources. We were also able to use research grant funding to facilitate publications, conference and workshop documents, presentations, website materials, and inter-community engagement.

The SSHRC funding made two innovations possible that were major contributions to successful knowledge mobilization and engagement activities. The first was the discovery of Guy Rouleau—a court translator—who appreciated the annual trek to rural places with his case full of short-range communication equipment. He provided instantaneous translation, infectious energy, and even a bit of humour in the meeting rooms, local facilities, and outdoor venues of our field sites.

The second was our ability to hire Roger Desormeaux as a bilingual web manager during the NRE days to ensure that internet materials could be made accessible in both languages and translation could be provided for several bulletins (see entries 3, 11, and 22 below) and presentations. These initiatives were a long way from ideal conditions, but significantly enhanced our learning and effectiveness in the end.

Doug Ramsey added a “Fun fact” regarding Guy: “I asked him if he ever got something wrong in court. He said in one court case, he could not think of the French word for lint (there was lint on someone’s jacket I believe!). It affected part of the trial outcome if I remember correctly!!”

Guy at CRRF Conference – 2005
Guy with Cross-Site Learning Group – 2006

To view other Archive entries, go to:

For CRRF Archive news, go to:

#31 (April 2023) The Rural Development Institute (RDI)

I received an email from Doug Ramsey this month—inviting applications for the Director of the RDI (a full-time probationary tenure-track position: It reminded me of the long tradition of support that the RDI has provided to ARRG and CRRF throughout its history (

ARRG and the RDI were established about the same time (1988 and 1989 respectively) and Richard Rounds, the first RDI Director was a key supporter of both organizations. Richard began the ARRG Working Paper Series and established the RDI as the publishing centre for CRRF papers, books, and the Journal of Rural and Community Development ( Following Richard’s lead, subsequent RDI Directors Bob Annis, Bill Ashton, Doug Ramsey (interim), and Wayne Kelly (interim) have continued to support CRRF through publications, hosting several CRRF Conferences, serving as a founding member of the ICRPS network, and managing the $3 million Rural Policy Learning Commons project. With their trusty assistants, Joan Rollheiser, Beverley Lischka, and Wayne Kelly they have provided important institutional capacity to our activities.

I’m looking forward to welcoming the next Director into this stellar history of support for rural and remote places. Are you interested—or do you know of someone who would continue this tradition? If so, pass on the call for applications.

Richard Rounds and Award Recipient 1996
Senator Fairbairn and Bob Annis 2007
Bill Ashton at the Brandon Conference 2010

To view other Archive entries, go to: For CRRF Archive news, go to:

#30 (March 2023) Knowledge Mobilization

CRRF’s inclusion of researchers, policy-makers, and community members has always challenged us to communicate across different modes of expression and understandings. For some, it’s the stories that convey the insights, for others, it’s images or multimedia. Policy-makers usually ask for the numbers and analysis that they can use to make policy arguments, and practitioners frequently ask for initiatives that will solve specific problems (Reimer, Bill “Collaboration Challenges: Research, Policy, Community”).

When SSHRC became interested in “knowledge mobilization” around 1997, they used our nine years of collaboration as inspiration for others. Our explorations of various approaches left a legacy of techniques and initiatives that were recognized for their innovation and effectiveness—adapted to the variety of audiences involved. They include posters (see Entries 3, 5, 11, and 22), multi-media (see Entry 2), special graphics (see image below), radio (Entry 8), interactive maps, oral histories, field-site albums and community events (Entry 20), trades magazine articles, in addition to the usual conferences, workshops, books, reports, and articles.

SSHRC didn’t even mind when I provided a critique of their selection process from a KM point of view (

Capacity Profile 2004
Cross-site Learning Workshop – 2005

To view other Archive entries, go to: For CRRF Archive news, go to:

#29 (February 2023) Building rural-urban alliances

Situated in the Parry Sound region of Ontario, Seguin is very familiar with the challenges of population surges. During the summer months, the population often triples in size as visitors and seasonal residents flock to the beaches, parks, trails, lakes, and beautiful landscapes ( The municipality’s attempts to finance the many infrastructure and organizational demands of these regular surges were often met with failure as summer homeowners resisted attempts to increase taxes.

In desperation, the municipality decided to encourage and facilitate the participation of seasonal taxpayers on committees and working groups. This meant arranging meetings and communication to accommodate the schedules and locations of many members—often in urban regions such as Ottawa and Toronto.

The results were positive in unexpected ways. Not only did the resistance to tax increases subside as the seasonal residents became more aware of the municipal demands (including year-round ones), but several of the urban residents used their experience and networks to access programs, projects, groups, and financial sources to support initiatives in the Seguin region. Instead of being seen as obstacles to local development, these urban-based people became rural allies and advocates.

Horseshoe Lake – Photo M. Kingston
Horseshoe Lake

Check out the virtual guided hike through the Rose Point Trail in Seguin (part of the Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve):

To view other Archive entries, go to:

For CRRF Archive news, go to:

#28 (January 2023) Songs and Dances as Research Legacies

Singing and dancing has always been a feature of CRRF events and research activities—joyously reinforced by our early decision to meet in rural and remote places. As a result, we have been delighted with demonstrations and seduced into participation by the wide range of songs and dances nurtured by small towns. This includes cotillions in Coaticook, Celtic fiddling in Wolfville, Line Dancing in Grande Prairie, Square dancing in Muenster, Hoop Dances in Gimli, choirs in Twillingate, Ukrainian dancing in Vermilion, snowshoe dancing in Whitehorse, jingle-dress dancing in Lennox Island, and Inuit dancing in Inuvik.

Local musical talent has also been inspirational among our research teams. Thanks to the skill and initiative of Ivan Emke and David Bruce, we are left with our own musical legacy in the form of clever adaptations, local radio broadcasts (see CRRF’n the Archives Entry 8), kitchen sing-alongs, and “choral” performances (see: The NRE Songbook). Rural and remote research is much more than data-collection, analysis, and reports.

Coaticook 1995
Grande Prairie
Benito MB, 2005
Inuvik 2008
NRE Choir, 2005
#27 (December 2022) Canada-Japan Project: Creating friendships through research

In 1998 Peter Apedaile and Nobuhiro Tsuboi proposed and organized a 4-year collaborative project between CRRF and the Institute for Rural Revitalization in Tokyo. This project was originally designed to facilitate the replication of the NRE household survey in Japanese sites, but soon grew into much more as new opportunities were created. By 2005 the project had been extended for an additional 4 years and included multiple exchanges among researchers, students, and community members from both sides, comparative analysis between NRE sites and two in Japan (Awano-machi and Iitate-mura), and a ground-breaking book in comparative analysis (Revitalization: Fate and Choice

Some of the most influential outcomes of the CJ Project were the many friendships that were formed by community members on both sides as a result of the on-site exchanges (see: CJExchangeReport2003). The impact of these relationships was manifested in 2011 when disaster befell Iitate-mura as a result of damage to the Fukushima nuclear power plant (details to come in a future CRRF’n the Archives entry).

Wada Yosui Park – Awano
Iitate Meat Plaza

To view other Archive entries, go to:

For CRRF Archive news, go to:

#26 (November 2022) ICRPS: Building Comparative Research for the Future

Comparative research has been a basic research strategy from the beginning of CRRF. It is no wonder, then, that our members were involved in the establishment of the International Comparative Rural Policy Studies program (ICRPS) in 2002 and 2003.

One of the highlights of ICRPS has been their program of summer institutes: where graduate students, mid-career professionals, and faculty members meet for two weeks in a partner country for an intense program of seminars, field trips, skill-development, and meetings with local policy professionals. Now in its 19th year, the summer institutes have been held in such places as Leuven, Belgium; Inverness, Scotland; Toluca, Mexico; Fairbanks, Alaska; Tuskegee, USA; and Rovaniemi, Finland. Canadian sites included Guelph, Brandon, and Rimouski.

With the advent of COVID-19 restrictions, ICRPS moved to an on-line format but is now in the planning stage for a return to on-site locations. Keep an eye on the ICRPS website for details ( Students, professionals, and faculty will find the ICRPS summer institute to be a career-enhancing and life-changing experience.

ICRPS Norway 2011
ICRPS Canada 2012
ICRPS Ireland 2015
ICRPS Mexico 2014
ICRPS Italy 2013
#25 (October 2022) A Twonie for each rural Canadian

In 2001 CRRF made a financial appeal to Canadian banks. Thanks to Peter Apedaile’s initiative and the support of the Hon. Andy Mitchel (previous Chair of the Canadian Bankers’ Association), we were invited to meet with the five major banks. In January, Peter, Bruno Jean, and I travelled to Toronto to meet them.

We suggested they donate a loonie for each rural household member in their client base. The money would be used to set up a financial campaign with the goal of a twonie for each rural Canadian. Our pitch included a presentation ( and estimate of each bank’s donation.

The bank officials considered it innovative and proceeded with their due-diligence investigation of our activities and organization. Things looked promising. Unfortunately, we failed because CRRF had unknowingly lost its charitable status by missing our annual report to the CCRA. From this we learned that our institutional capacity was weak and needed to be improved before any endowment initiatives are taken. We also learned that the twonie per rural person is a good objective.

Follow-up from this experience was put on hold when we were successful in our applications to SSHRC and the New Rural Economy project was born. Is it time to reactivate our endowment dreams?

To view other Archive entries, go to:

For CRRF Archive news, go to:

#24 (September 2022) Connecting Research and Policy

In 2012, we were invited to a meeting with Nova Scotia Deputy Ministers, Dalhousie University Senior Administration, and Deans. The topic was “Enhancing the Vitality of Nova Scotia’s Communities”. It was an in-camera meeting where wide-ranging discussion was encouraged. There was only one formal presentation (10 minutes), a brief synthesis, and plenty of time for follow-up discussion.

I was impressed by the wisdom of this initiative. It connected researchers directly with policy-makers in both the government and university, built the university’s credibility among senior policy-makers, created a venue where policy-makers were brought together across their “silos”, and communicated evidence-based insights and perspectives with policy discussions. It also provided valuable insights into the most pressing issues faced by policy-makers—along with some hints at their perspectives and questions regarding those issues.

Such face-to-face discussions are important adjuncts to the usual sources of information used by policy-makers. Unfortunately, this most often appears to be anecdotes from colleagues and friends—at least among rural policy-makers [see Reimer, B., & Brett, M., 2013. Scientific Knowledge and Rural Policy: A Long‐distant Relationship. Sociologia Ruralis, 53(3), 272–290]. Perhaps, we should explore opportunities for universities and colleges to explore initiatives inspired by Dalhousie.

To view other Archive entries, go to:

For CRRF Archive news, go to:

#23 (August 2022) The NRE Project - 25 years and counting

It has been 25 years since CRRF’s New Rural Economy project was launched. For 11 years (1997 to 2008), we worked with 32 systematically selected rural and remote communities to understand their conditions, visions, and options for revitalization ( The project produced information, reports, books, bulletins, media materials, and a wide variety of insights regarding social cohesion, the formal and informal economy, community capacity, social capital, governance, services, environmental issues, communications, and several other community-focused concerns.

Are you interested in working on NRE-related topics and/or data?

What better way to celebrate our 25th anniversary, than to launch a new set of studies building on the legacy of the NRE? If you wish to explore the insights, use information collected from the NRE project, or to update that information for analysis, contact us via Longitudinal data and related instruments from the Rural Observatory (1986 to 2016), NRE field site data regarding households, businesses, key institutions, community events, co-ops, services, and communications are available ( We would also be happy to provide support and mentorship for those who wish to make use of this legacy for research projects, theses, publications, or public media materials.

To view other Archive entries, go to:

For CRRF Archive news, go to:

#22 (July 2022) Rural Canada is... series

This is a series of 4 English and French posters that identify some ways in which rural places are important to all Canadians. They are typically single statement posters with a link to the New Rural Economy Project for details.

These posters were produced during our experiments with communication to public audiences. We have often been criticized for our use of language and analysis that makes it difficult for most people to understand. These posters, along with flyers, workshops, bulletins, special conference sessions, webinars, and many other “knowledge mobilization” initiatives are part of our constant search for effective ways to engage the public. More of these items can be seen via and Although produced more than a decade ago, many remain relevant for current conditions in rural Canada.

To view other Archive entries, go to: For CRRF Archive news, go to:

#21 (June 2022) Turning Liabilities into Assets

Communities in trouble have typically been viewed as liabilities by governments, businesses, and even community members. The Québec Rural Policy of 2007 was able to turn that around by making use of its regional infrastructure and “Rural Pacts” initiatives. It provided regions with additional funding if they took on the challenge of helping their lagging communities. By doing so, they turned regional liabilities into assets, increased the resources available to communities in trouble, and significantly increased the skill and capacities of all regional leaders in community development (see Jean, Bruno and Bill Reimer, 2015 “Québec’s Approach to Regional Development: An historical analysis” RPLC Webinar, Feb 23).

Esprit-Saint is a small Québec municipality in the MRC of Rimouski-Neigette. In 2021, its population was 340. Under the BAEQ policies, the village was threatened with closure. Citizens were moved to organize themselves for development. With the help of their regional MRC, they were able to construct ecological homes, reopen a local restaurant, and add tourism and cultural amenities within their community.

Esprit-Saint 2012
ICRPS visit to Esprit-Saint 2012

Check out the long-term legacy of Québec’s Rural Policy at the CRRF/CEDEC 2022 Conference (May 25-27, 2022) This year the in-person event is held in Rimouski—with on-line access available elsewhere.To view other Archive entries, go to:

#20 (May 2022) Cross-site Learning

Comparative analysis has always been a basic feature of CRRF. It provides a significant source of knowledge, inspiration, and support for researchers, policy-makers, practitioners, and community members. One of the most successful initiatives of The New Rural Economy project was the “Cross-site Learning” program. It brought community members together at CRRF conferences, supported inter-community collaboration, and even organized an international exchange of community members among two Japanese communities and the NRE sites.

Participants reported the following types of outcomes.

  • The creation of a Community Development Commission after learning about the limitations of volunteer organizations and hearing about other communities’ initiatives.
  • “I was inspired to run for mayor.”
  • “People came to the conference and made contacts with other site people, which gives them a sense that they are not doing something wrong in their community (there are other communities experiencing similar challenges).”
  • “It raised levels of hope”
  • It established a mechanism for networking that went beyond the meetings
  • “From this information and exposure, these women were able to understand the state their community was in (a state of grieving), to recognize the need to work together with other communities and the necessity of strong leadership. In the following two years, one of these women made a successful bid for the Mayor’s chair and the community is beginning to move forward again.”
  • A community participant was able to meet the Director of the Fondation Rues Principales from Québec: a foundation that supports small communities wanting to refurbish the main street of their town to make it more attractive and to maintain small local businesses. The Foundation is already at work in his community, to his great satisfaction.
  • As a result of participation in our Twillingate (and other) meetings, a community leader initiated a plan to recruit workers from some nearby sites (or regions) where employment is a problem.
  • Inspired by a strategy used in a rural Japan site, a planning committee was assembled to develop a plan for creating a regional high school to service the whole area.
Community Visit – Quesnel – 1996
Community Presentation – Springhill NS, 2006

To view other Archive entries, go to:
For CRRF Archive news, go to:

#19 (April 2022) CRRF at the Senate Committee on Rural Policy

In Nov 2006, CRRF and NRE Researchers were invited as witnesses to the Senate Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food special study on Rural Poverty. In addition, we were asked to suggest other potential witnesses for the committee. It was encouraging to see how many of our suggested witnesses were invited.

CRRF-related witnesses made contributions and answered questions regarding the following issues.

  • Definitions of rural poverty and impoverishment (Bollman, Bruce, Jean)
  • The importance of place-based rather than people-based approaches (Annis, Jean)
  • Rural-sensitive perspectives on housing, child care, employment supports, and health (Bruce, Pong, Reimer)
  • The importance of regional rural-urban collaboration (Apedaile, Partridge)
  • The value of non-farm activities—including those beyond natural resources (Partridge)
  • The need for rural infrastructure, especially transportation, communication, housing, services, education, child care, and health care (Bruce, Emke, Fuller, Halseth, Martz, Pong)
  • The vulnerability of rural youth, elderly, women, and Indigenous Peoples (Annis, Fuller, Martz)
  • The importance of the informal economy, artisanal activities, and local assets (Apedaile, Reimer)
  • The need for innovative sources of capital (Apedaile, Merrifield)
  • The identification of public goods provided by farmers (Apedaile)
  • The key role of education and employment to deal with the shifting demands of rural labour markets and youth migration (Freshwater, Halseth)
  • The importance of multi-government, multi-departmental, and multi-disciplinary rural policy for dealing with all aspects of rural poverty (Freshwater, Halseth, Jean, Merrifield, Pong)
  • The need for more information and research regarding rural and northern places (Annis, Halseth)

CRRF contributions figure prominently in both the interim and final reports.

Interim Report (December 2006)

Understanding Freefall: The Challenge of the Rural Poor
Comprendre l’exode lutte contre la pauvreté rurale

Final Report (June 2008)

Beyond Freefall: Halting Rural Poverty
Au-delà de l’exode : mettre un terme à la pauvreté rurale

You can also read the transcripts from the committee hearings via the following link. CRRF-network witnesses can be found in the following issues: 9, 10, 11, 16, 19, 20, and 28. Witnesses are listed on the first few pages of each document.

To view other Archive entries, go to:

For CRRF Archive news, go to:  

#18 (March 2022) CRRF Impacts: changing lives

CRRF changes lives. The NRE Project, for example, involved more than 150 students over several years. They not only learned formal research skills such as literature evaluations, statistical analysis, interviewing, and writing, but also the more informal aspects such as team collaboration, administration, policy analysis, and field work with rural people and communities. These experiences prepared them well for their future careers—both within and outside academic circles. Many of them did not continue with rural-related activities, but they took a heightened sensibility for rural and remote issues wherever they went.

Generalizable Skills

Using her NRE experience in research and administration, one of our students was hired by an international corporation to propose projects for their charitable giving. Several students were hired by businesses and government organizations for the data analysis skills they had acquired during their participation in the project. The field work and analysis experience with the NRE helped another student gain the confidence to create her own consulting business regarding rural and urban issues.

Send your own stories of CRRF/NRE impacts to and I will include them in future posts.

NRE Concordia Team 2004 (Ryan Blau photo)
NRE Field Trip – 2004

To view other Archive entries, go to:

For CRRF Archive news, go to:

#17 (February 2022) CRRF Conferences: the COVID Challenge

CRRF’s unbroken record of 34 annual conferences, numerous workshops, and frequent collaborations with partner events has provided us with a valuable store of experiences and innovations. Foremost among the principles guiding our success are the following.

  • Locate the event in a rural place wherever possible.
  • Provide the local community with the lead regarding the program topic, events, speakers, and questions to address. CRRF acts as advisor to their interests and connects them to other communities and people, both national and international.
  • Begin the conference with a local tour including all participants. The tour introduces participants to local initiatives, history, challenges, and assets that frame the community’s capacity and visions.
  • Develop the means for people from other rural and remote communities to attend—along with opportunities for them to share their experiences.
  • Provide extra support for people and organizations who have limited resources.

For conference organizers: check out the guides and checklists that CRRF had developed over the years. Some examples are the following: ConferencePlanningChecklistAndNotes2004-06-21.pdf  and CRRFConferenceHandbook2013-03-19.pdf.

CRRF Conferences under COVID

The limitations of COVID create some challenges for these principles. It is very difficult to get a rich sense of local community conditions without the physical tours. It is also difficult to provide the opportunities for story-telling, debate, networking, and collaboration without the coffee-breaks, meals, and late-night parties that are part of physical proximity. On the other hand, there may be innovations of the internet era that could be developed to meet some of the principles above. Perhaps the money saved from travel and venue could be redirected to facilitate community production of podcasts or blogs that allow others to see and hear about their conditions and innovations. Establishing community radio events on the internet might become a conference activity (see CRRF’n the Archives #8: May 2021). Can we carry on the CRRF traditions of local engagement and innovation for the new conditions?

Bus Tour with Local Guide
Conference Roundtable

#16 (January 2022) 'Leading' and 'Lagging' Communities

I received an inquiry last month regarding “lagging” communities. It recalled for me how this had become a primary theme CRRF research. Over the 11 years of the NRE project we grappled with the problem of defining the difference between leading and lagging communities, developing appropriate indicators, processing relevant data, and trying to identify contributing conditions and policies ( It even became one of the five dimensions of the NRE Rural Observatory (

Our research includes the following insights.

#15 (December 2021) Community Development for New Corporate Structures

In 2004, CRRF partnered with the Rural Secretariat to organize the first National Think-Tank of the newly formed National Rural Research Network (NRRN). That event, held in Prince George, included the signing of a collaboration agreement with the Federation of Municipalities, and visits to two of the NRE field sites: Mackenzie and Tumbler Ridge.

Mackenzie citizens showed us how they took control of their community initiatives after repeated failures of petitions to the local paper mill. The traditional approach to community development involved requests to the mill for support. Since many of the managers were also community members, the need and priority for such support was usually clear and forthcoming.

Over time, however, the mill was bought and sold by international corporations and local ties to management were broken. It took the community several years to realize that the old approach to community development would no longer work. They finally turned to their local assets and skills to manage community development. This approach was reflected in such initiatives as the expansion and marketing of snowmobile trails, establishment of a community radio station, and the relocation of their health and social services.

Ivan vs the World’s Largest Tree Crusher, Mackenzie 2004
Mackenzie Community Radio Station, 2004
#14 (November 2021) Spring Workshops

Throughout much of CRRF’s history, workshops (usually in the spring), have been a useful compliment to our fall conference program. This was especially true during the NRE period since we had the funding to make them possible.

Workshops were smaller events attended by about 20 to 30 researchers, policy-makers, and community people with a particular focus on research activities and strategic planning. As with the conferences, we sought to hold them in rural places with local tours as important components of our visit. Workshop locations included Merrickville, ON, St-Clément, QC, Corner Brook, NL, Quesnel, BC, North Bay, ON, St-Damase, QC, Newtown, NL, Sackville, NB, Altona, MB, Ferintosh, AB, Prince George, BC, Benito, MB, Taschereau, QC, Springhill, NS, and Whitehorse, YT. For many years, the field sites in the NRE Rural Observatory were workshop locations.

As the photos below illustrate, the CRRF Workshops were not all about work.

Workshop – Sackville 2001
Workshop – Tumbler Ridge 2004
Workshop – Duck Mountain 2005
Workshop – Taschereau 2006
#13 (October 2021) Using the Boom to Manage the Bust

In 2008, the CRRF annual conference was held in Inuvik, NT to discuss community options for boom-bust economies. Peter Clarkson, the mayor, described how the benefits of the boom period were invested in community improvement projects from infrastructure to social and cultural facilities. The objective was to make the community so attractive that when the inevitable bust hit, citizens would be motivated and supported to find innovations and initiatives to stay and survive. The evidence for the success of this strategy was all around: from a new recreation centre with pool, ice rink, and meeting rooms to a well-equipped and state-of-the art hospital. Community-initiated activities were a common feature of everyday life, from co-ops to festivals. Even the old arena was repurposed as a community garden—providing a social centre and laboratory for northern agriculture.

Inuvik Community Garden, 2008
Inuvik Utilidor and Church

In honour of the location, CRRF moved the conference date from our usual fall location to the summer solstice. It was delightful to join in the many celebrations afforded by 24 hours of daylight—including the annual Midnight Sun Fun Run.

Midnight Sun Fun Run, Midnight June 21, 2008
Team NRE at the Midnight Sun Fun Run

#12 (September 2021) Rural Wildfires

Now that wildfire season is upon us, I was reflecting on research conducted by Dr. Judith Kulig and her team. Their research regarding wildfires included four community case studies exploring local responses and impacts on health and community resiliency ( La Ronge, SK (1999), Crowsnest Pass, AB (2003), Barriere, BC (2003), and Slave Lake, AB (2011). The team produced many “Lessons Learned” booklets, technical reports, academic and public materials, popular media materials, and a large number of presentations. The lessons learned remain relevant for current conditions.

The team’s examination of long-term impacts revealed some surprising and useful information for communities and support services. I was particularly struck by the finding that many of the children involved hid their anxiety from their parents—most likely because they did not want to add to the stress their parents were experiencing ( The effects on home and school continued well after the fire crisis had passed.

The Lost Creek Fire
The Mallard Fire
The McLure Fire
The Slave Lake Fires
#11 (August 2021) The Evolution of CRRF: Observations Poster Series

These 13 posters in English and French identify some of the most important insights from CRRF’s New Rural Economy Project. They are beautifully designed and include Implications of the insights, strategies for communities to consider, and questions to ask arising from the insights. Although prepared in 2004, the observations remain surprisingly accurate. Perhaps they can inspire someone looking for a thesis topic.

The posters are accompanied by a text document outlining the observations.

#10 (July 2021) Be careful what you promise (2004)

CRRF conference locations were chosen from community invitations and a rotation among Western, Central, and Eastern regions. In 2003 we were delighted to receive such an invitation from Tweed, Ontario—but somewhat nervous about their capacity to manage it. They appeared to lack the infrastructure for meetings, meals, and accommodation. The local organizing committee assured us they could manage—by using a local theatre building, Legion, and municipal hall to manage meetings and food. As the organization proceeded, however, they discovered they needed help, so they turned to nearby communities (and long-time rivals) to fill in some of the gaps. Not only was the conference a great success, but those local communities found that working together was possible and mutually beneficial—laying the basis for a regional initiative entitled “Comfort Country” ( The initiative was cited as an inspiration and model for similar inter-community collaboration among Prince Edward, Lennox and Addington counties in Eastern Ontario.

Press Release by Tweed area business associations: “COMFORT COUNTRY TOURISM AND BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT  PROJECT TO BE LAUNCHED MARCH 1ST, 2004. Three area business associations (Tweed, Madoc, and Marmora) have been meeting on a regular basis since May 2003 along with representatives from the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Community Futures Development Corporation of North & Central Hastings & South Algonquin and the Eastern Ontario Trails Alliance.  It has been agreed, after some discussion, that our concerns about the growth and development of our communities would be better addressed by working as a group rather than individual communities.  It is with great pleasure that we welcome Stirling to this venture as of February 11th, 2004, so now we are a group of four communities working for the economic betterment of central Hastings with the COMFORT COUNTRY PROJECT.”

CRRF Conference at the Tweed Theatre
Field trip to the Tweed municipal well site, 2004

#09 (June 2021) Outmigration for Community Development (c. 1998-2009)

Many rural communities are deeply concerned about slowing the “loss” of their youth and community members. However, our collaborating communities in the Canada-Japan Project (1998-2004) took a different approach.

They welcome outmigration—and use it as a community-development opportunity. When individuals or families leave, the community keeps in touch with them through regular bulletins, websites, and special community events. They argue that some of these outmigrants are likely to become interested in their community of origin at a later point in their lives—when they start to raise a family, finish school, change their job interests, look for new opportunities, or simply dislike being away. Maintaining communication and ties with them keeps the option of returning both salient and easy.

The Japanese community of Awano holds an annual contest to identify the family that best represents their town. The prize is a trip away. After the trip, a community event is held where the voyagers present stories and photos of their experiences. I was impressed to see how the local farmers used these travellers as “intelligence agents”—asking them to report on potential markets for local produce. Instead of viewing their town as an outpost, those in Awano saw their community as the centre of a vast network nurtured by previous residents.

Iitate Landscape 1999
Iitate Community Health Centre – 1999
Awano – Wada Yosui Park – 2009
Awano – Restaurant and herb garden 2009
#08 (May 2021) Ivan Free Radio (2004)

Ivan Emke introduced us to community radio at the CRRF conference in Tweed Ontario (2004). Using an ipod, microphones, small transmitter, antenna, and local broadcast license, he created a studio upstairs in the Tweed Playhouse while the conference unfolded below. He invited the local high school students to provide material and learn how to establish their own station. The broadcast became a central feature of our conferences—a new way to engage the community in the meetings and hear themselves echoed to their neighbours. See for the NRE introduction to Tweed.

Three events stand out for me from that Tweed initiative. On one of my visits to the makeshift studio, a local father and son arrived up the back steps with a violin case in hand. He asked if his son could play a tune on the radio. They were thrilled to be included. The second event was the transformation that took place when local students were given microphones and invited to interview speakers and participants at the conference. In the beginning, they appeared as shy, hesitant interviewers, but by the end of the conference, they had graduated to confident interrogators—pressing important questions and raising issues that were central to their community. My third delight occurred when visiting local businesses in the community—and discovering how the community radio had become the “musac” of choice. It is no wonder that Ivan’s contribution became a central element of our conferences from that point on.

Tweed Studio 2004
Ivan-Twillingate Broadcast 2005
The Twillingate Roadies 2005
#07 (April 2021) Ambitious I and Ambitious II (circa 1995-96)

The New Rural Economy project ( was rooted in 9 years of conferences, retreats, seminars, workshops, and collaborations among ARRG and CRRF participants. These years provided ample evidence of our collective success, honed our networking skills, and gave us the confidence necessary to dream large. As the idea of a national, long-term, systematic, and community-engaged project emerged in our discussions we were not put off by its ambitious nature. As we developed the details of the project, its stages became identified as “Ambitious 1” and “Ambitious 2”.

In response to my request about the emergence of these original formulations, Peter Apedaile wrote “The concept comes from the motto of Hokkaido University. “Boys Be Ambitious”. I was impressed, not by the chauvinism, but by the aspiration, while visiting my grad student doing her research on the structure of Japanese cereal trade and trade policy in 1987. I seem to recall the concept coming up during several of our animated conversations Bill, when we were walking somewhere in Ottawa or Hull, perhaps at the time of our Senate presentation. The origin of the concept is this motto. One of the great products of our ARRG/CRRF experience has been intellectual adrenalin!  Peter (Feb 14, 2021)

The NRE Rural Observatory consists of 32 systematically selected rural and remote communities in Canada (augmented by 2 in Japan). We collaborated with most of these communities for 11 years (
#06 (March 2021) Search for endowment funding: Stage 1 (1992-1993)

Peter Apedaile initiated the exploration of endowment funding for CRRF in 1992. The first stage included discussions with contacts in some of Canada’s major commodity companies. After a series of encouraging suggestions, but no follow-through, we concluded that these companies have little interest in rural community development. Their primary preoccupation is with the movement of commodities to national and international markets. The production and transportation of commodities no longer require strong rural communities.

Our 1992 National Conference in Goderich included an invitation to a supper organized by the local community. We were surprised to discover that there were no children or young people at the event since liquor was served. This meant that parents were required to arrange for child care and young people never had a chance to see community adults “at play” in such a venue. Similar events in Québec provided a sharp contrast, where community events included all ages since liquor licenses were less restrictive. The comparison provides an interesting example of the way in which general policies can exacerbate stratification in smaller communities.

Goderich Site Visit – 1992
Goderich Community Supper – 1992
#05 (Feb. 2021) 'Rural-Urban Relations' Series

This series of 8 English posters provides suggestions for rural communities that are interested in improving their capacity through collaboration with urban places. They provide examples of such collaboration and strategies for action. The suggestions arose from our recognition that rural and urban places are interdependent—so instead of treating them as if they are in competition, it makes more sense to build alliances.

The 1995 Coaticook, QC conference on Rural Employment was a study in community innovation. This small town with one motel (about 30 rooms) and no conference facilities put on an international conference with about 200 people under the patronage of CRRF and the OECD. They converted an agricultural building into a conference venue with outdoor carpeting, AV equipment, tables, chairs, and greenery; used the high school kitchen for preparing food; and trained local students for cooking, catering, and serving. By organizing a network of billets and transportation, they solved the accommodation problem. Our international guests were particularly pleased to meet local people over the breakfast table each morning.

Coaticook Conference 1995
Entertainment at the Coaticook Conference 1995
#04 (Jan. 2021) Towards a Whole Rural Policy for Canada

Agriculture can only be understood in its full economic, social, and environmental context. In 1994, this was a radical perspective. It was our message when members of the ARRG network were invited to make a presentation to a joint committee of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food and the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry.

Seven ARRG members elaborated the implications of this perspective for rural women, the quality of rural life, community networks, local initiatives, and the operation of complex systems. Check out the record of these presentations via the following link (or click on the image).

Did we get it right? Have things changed? What is your vision today?
Grande Prairie Conference – 1994

“We cannot expect a major revitalization of rural Canada, but absolute population growth is likely to be positive, particularly in non-farm regions and those close to large urban centres…

We cannot expect urban standards of service delivery, but with appropriate monitoring and exploration we should be able to make more efficient use of the means at our disposal…

The identification of general benefits and resources provided by rural areas would serve as a basis for justifying the transfer of funds from urban to rural areas as well as the limitation of costs that exported to the rural areas.” (Towards a Whole Rural Policy for Canada, 1994, p41)

#03 (Dec. 2020) In-sites Flyers

This is a series of 41 flyers in English and 26 in French that identify some of the key insights from the New Rural Economy Project of CRRF. Download and copy them for events or places where you think they may be useful. They made a great series for posting on office doors or at conferences in the pre-COVID days. Perhaps you can think of ways they may be used in our current, more online, world. If you do, let us know so that we can pass on your suggestions to others.

We made three decisions regarding our annual conferences that have served us well over the years. The first was to meet in rural areas wherever possible (more than 1 hour from an international airport); the second was to give program control to the local community; and the third was to integrate local tours by which participants learned about community challenges and initiatives.

Local tours provided conference participants with first-hand view of local challenges and initiatives.
Local tour: Wolfville, NS, 1993
Conference participants experienced the daily travel conditions of most rural students
Local tour: Corner Brook, NL, 1995
#02 (Nov. 2020) Opportunities for rural Canada

As part of the 11-year New Rural Economy Project, David Bruce and his cohorts produced a series of 8 videos regarding the ways in which rural communities are turning the challenges they face into new opportunities. In the process, the videos identify the general lessons emerging from these examples so that other communities might be inspired in similar ways.

In 1988, Ray Bollman (Statistics Canada), Fran Shaver (Concordia U.), and I (Tony Fuller) attended the International Rural Sociological Society conference in Bologna where Harriet Friedmann in her presentation first hinted at global restructuring. Ray and I felt that Canadian scholars were probably not very well equipped to debate such ideas and to measure their potential impacts in Canada’s diverse rural regions. Ray’s response was to increasingly make available data on rural social and economic issues, while mine was to press for a think tank that would attract top scholars such as Peter Apedaile, Phil Ehrensaft, Hartly Furtan, Bruno Jean, Bill Reimer, Fran Shaver, and Jack Stabler. Together, we persuaded Ag. Canada to sponsor the first group meeting in Regina to the tune of $2,000… The conference marked for the first time officially that rural was not necessarily agricultural. This was not popular in Saskatoon, especially among the farm women’s group!” [Tony Fuller, 2020/06/08: What I Remember.docx and email 2020/10/21

#01 (Oct. 2020) A 32-year legacy

Our present activities and insights rest on a 32-year history of research, discussion, collaboration, and projects among researchers, policy-makers, practitioners, and community people. Over those 3 decades we have learned a great deal about rural places, people, and communities. They serve as a solid foundation for our current activities and hopefully a source of pride and inspiration for the present cohort of participants. Check out the following video slides that outline the first 30 years of that history. You may be surprised how many of the insights are reflected in our current discussions and initiatives.

30 Years of CRRF

“I would like to add another item to the discussion of evolution of CRRF. Lynden Johnson was the head of the federal Rural Secretariat and collaborated on some projects with the Association of Canadian Community Colleges (ACCC, now known as Colleges and Institutes Canada). He was quite insistent that CRRF should include college-based researchers in its network. As a result, I was the first college-based researcher to address a CRRF conference (Tweed, I think it was 2004) and I believe there has been college representation at CRRF conferences ever since. Unlike other research networks I have been part of over the years, CRRF people have been very welcoming of the applied research perspective of colleges.” [Nelson Rogers, 2020/10/16-email]


Translate »