Community sustainability is a phrase one hears frequently these days.
With the latest Stats Canada census showing municipalities' residents in decline, it's not surprising that Grenfell College professor Ivan Emke would turn his attention to the issue.
With the help of research assistant Jennifer Butler, Dr. Emke is conducting a feasibility study for a rural research centre, under the working title "Centre for Sustainable Rural Communities."
"We needed to know not only how such an institute could be supported, but more importantly, what research it would conduct and how it would fill the research gaps that currently exist," said Dr. Emke, a professor of social/cultural studies. "We needed to know, from the experts - from rural community residents and development workers - what issues we could be researching."
Financial and in-kind assistance has been provided by Grenfell College and the Centre of Environmental Excellence; a set of reports is expected to be generated in late June.
Thus far, Dr. Emke and Ms. Butler have conducted interviews with people involved with various levels of economic development and/or having knowledge in the area of rural sustainability - people from tourism associations and development boards, the College of the North Atlantic, the provincial Rural Secretariat, town clerks and mayors, Chamber of Commerce representatives, and rural journalists.
"We've been interested in finding out specifically what these people believe are the challenges and issues faced by their particular communities," said Ms. Butler, adding that the study will also examine whether people and organizations actually use the research information available to address problems.
Future interviews will include not only rural citizens, but also representatives from various levels of government.
"It's necessary to take a multi-pronged approach to this study," said Dr. Emke.
In addition to interviews, Dr. Emke and Ms. Butler will co-ordinate workshops to support open discussion between citizens and professionals about the concept. The first of these is tentatively scheduled for May 8, and will draw on the expertise of David Bruce, the director of the Rural and Small Town Program at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick.
For more information about the development of the Institute for Sustainable Rural Communities, contact Ivan Emke at 637-6200, ext. 6322 or firstname.lastname@example.org
or Jennifer Butler, 637-6200, ext. 6560, or email@example.com