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Rural & Community Development

RRDC Issues

Through research, professional development, and partnerships, the NIFA Regional Rural Development Centers (RRDCs) seek to achieve three issues:

Strong Communities

Community is the focal point where people feel a sense of personal involvement and take pride in their actions. In communities people join with their neighbors to plan for a secure and prosperous future. NIFA and the Land-Grant University System seek to inspire and nurture this personal involvement through the work of the Regional Rural Development Centers, and the use of base and formula grants as well as many other programs.

The NIFA Regional Rural Development Centers (RRDCs) describe vibrant, sustainable communities as places where people and organizations work together in pursuing equitable, inclusive community improvement strategies. Such communities are not happenstance. Successful community-led development requires information, guidance, education, and broad civic engagement.

Communities are facing new challenges like global economic restructuring and the devolution of government services. Some are experiencing rapid growth, while others find their economies collapsing. Many are experiencing dramatic demographic change. Strong community development programs, anchored in research, education, and teaching via land-grant universities and their partners, are critically important to help America’s diverse communities chart their futures.

The RRDCs understand community development as the “big tent” of rural development, encompassing economic development, wise use of natural resources, human capital development, infrastructure, cultural capital, local governance, health and well-being, and community preparedness for disasters and recovery. The RRDCs support a wide array of research, avenues for disseminating research findings, and educational opportunities to support successful community development. Visit their Web sites for policy briefs, conference proceedings, and research papers across the spectrum of community development.

For example, you will find resources such as the following:

Building Economic Opportunity

Economic development is an essential component of successful community development. It is most likely to flourish where communities are engaged in inclusive, innovative improvement activities with consistent access to information, resources, and technical assistance.

Samples of ways research is translated into professional development and technical assistance for economic development planning and practice include:

  • The new in 2003 policy series funded by USDA’s Economic Research Service in partnership with Southern Rural Development Center (SRDC) on Measuring Rural Diversity.
  • The SRDC Policy Series, also new in 2003, that features key economic and workforce development issues, one of the center’s five focus areas.
  • The research and related extension activity in the North Central region that is Enhancing Extension's Capacity to Work with Spanish Speaking Populations, including with e-commerce and on health issues, summarized in the NCRCRD Web site.
  • NCRCRD work with tribes and tribal colleges to help Native American business owners use e-commerce.
  • Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development assistance for applying GIS and new information technology to e-business, as well as e-government and community development–including its new 2003 handbook, GIS and Your Community.
  • The 2003 Northeast Regional Information Technology Workshop on Bridging the Digital Divide on the NCRCRD Web site.

Balancing Needs

Sound cultural, economic, and ecological use of rural America’s rich natural resources is of paramount importance to the nation and to the world. Decisions about land use are complex and may spark controversy and division in communities.

Here are two examples of ways the Regional Rural Development Centers are helping:

  • To help communities make land-use decisions responsibly, the Northeast Regional Rural Development Center (NERCRD) has built upon and leveraged the scientific basis for evaluating land-use opportunities. Its Web site has proceedings from research conferences and workshops for extension and community development professionals in 2002 and 2003.
  • For a “toolkit” to help communities discuss local growth, see “Western by Design” on the publications page of the Western Rural Development Center Web site.


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