Sustaining our rural communities
With the latest Stats Canada census showing municipalities' residents in decline, it's not surprising that social-cultural studies professor Ivan Emke would turn his attention to the issue. Dr. Emke is conducting a feasibility study for a Centre for Sustainable Rural Communities.
"We need to know not only how such a centre 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. "We need to know from the experts -- from rural community residents and development workers -- what issues we could be researching. We want to know what these people believe are the challenges and issues faced by their particular communities."
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 his research assistant Jennifer 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, adding that in addition to interviews, they will co-ordinate workshops to support open discussion between citizens and professionals about the concept.