Welcome to Radically Rural 2021!

Radically Rural Summit 2021 will be held September 22-23, 2021.
Save the date and continue to check this page for the most updated information regarding the 2021 summit. 

Click each track icon to learn more about it and its three sessions.


Arts & Culture

The Arts are an expression of our cultural roots, our reality today and our understanding of what may happen tomorrow, and, as such, are vital to the health of communities. The importance of adequate funding and that these funds represent the diaspora of the individuals in these communities and beyond feeds our sense of belonging, understanding and social development. The arts can also be an intricate part of economic development. A full spectrum of emotions and socio-economic benefits are in the hands of our painters, actors, museum curators, arts educators and more. Join us at Radically Rural as we engage community leaders and stakeholders to build through the arts an increased community understanding and a strong sense of place.

Who Should Attend: Philanthropists, Nonprofit and Business Grant makers and Evaluators, Municipal and City Leaders, Artists and Curators, Local arts agencies, Arts organization leaders and programming directors and development officers


Increasing Access to the Arts

Exposure to arts & cultural activities has positive health outcomes for participants. Arts access is a public health issue. But, what makes arts & cultural events accessible? We will explore the accessibility of the culture of arts spaces and programming choices, a program that helps low-income populations access discounted and free tickets, and a program laying the foundation for arts appreciation by providing arts education in rural communities.

Speakers: Tomoyo Kawano, Associate Professor, Antioch University New England; Cierra Tunquist, and Erica Barreto, Arts and Humanities Coordinator, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts 


Artist Residencies: Embedding an artist in a rural community

Creative practice is at an inflection point. From the beginning of human history, art, just like food, religion, architecture and technology, is a part of a community’s culture and identity. For the last century the arts have often been framed as a luxury or treat – financed well in urban communities through large organizations like museums, orchestras, massive performance arenas, and well-resourced theatres. Participation is passive. This has not been as true in rural areas. In rural areas community engagement and community practice, volunteerism, and participation are essential to the success of creative endeavors. The impacts of participatory arts experiences are undeniably positive – both for community health and social connection as well as for community pride and social progress. The field of creative practice is acknowledging this reality. 

In this session we will explore stories of artist residency programs where artists create work developed in process with community members to celebrate the local identity and culture, and address challenges those communities face in creative ways. Sometimes called social practice, sometimes community practice – we will look at the impact of embedding artists in unique ways to build connections, develop community culture, and bring awareness to important community issues.

Speaker: Craig Stockwell, artist, low residency MFA director, Lesley University


What Does Rural Creative Placemaking Look Like?

Radically Rural’s Arts & Culture Track is celebrating creative placemaking in rural communities. Session 3 will showcase the stories of 10 radical creative placemaking projects in rural communities. Stripping it down to its core definitions, creative placemaking is all about using arts & culture to develop the identity, economic vibrancy, safety, and cohesion of a community.

The field of Creative Placemaking has become a hot topic in recent years, and has seen growth in training opportunities, funding, and professionalization. Often training and funding opportunities focus on urban communities and centers, but there is fantastic work happening in our radically rural communities – some led by professionals and some led by volunteers because as we all know, rural communities don’t always have access to the same resources as urban communities. 

Come to this session to discover some of the radical ideas, partnerships, and projects happening across rural communities.

Facilitator: Erin Maile OKeefe, Director, Human Connection Project

Tracks: Arts & Culture | Clean Energy | Community Journalism | Entrepreneurship | Healthcare | Land & Community | Main Street

Clean Energy

The climate crisis is impacting rural communities disproportionately. These communities frequently depend on agriculture and tourism economies, but changes in weather patterns threaten both. Residents of rural communities also spend more of their household dollars on energy, studies show. Investment in energy efficiency, renewables and community solutions to electricity purchasing can provide opportunities to reduce costs, increase comfort and enhance rural living and resilience.  Radically Rural seeks to provide solutions, guidelines and models for community leaders, groups and individuals to promote clean energy as a means to combat the climate crisis.

Who Should Attend: Municipal and city leaders, community, regional and statewide leaders; community organizers and energy committee members (local, regional, statewide); clean energy activists and advocates, farmers and foresters



Policy Changes Needed for Energy Equity 

Fossil fuel energy systems are centralized in today’s market and the burden on populations is not shared equally. Clean Energy and distributed systems can bring resilience to rural communities while also offering more control of where energy is sourced. What major policies need to be adopted to accelerate this transition?  How do we do this while focusing on equity and ensuring proper resourcing to poor and marginalized rural communities?

Moderators: Erik Hatlestad, Community Leader in the rural Midwest; Brianna Knisley, Tennessee Campaign Coordinator, Appalachian Voices


Clean Energy Transition – Rural Case Studies

The energy transition to be equitable must be accessible by all. Join our conversation on programs that work and where more is needed to ensure all populations in rural America can transition equitably.



Young Adult Voices Working for a Clean Energy Future

Today’s youth and young people are advancing clean energy goals. Come and listen to their voices, stories of activism and why they are working for a clean and just transition.

Speakers: Kayla DeVault Wendt, Anishinaabe/Shawnee public health researcher, journalist, and certified engineer; Ania Wright, Grassroots Climate Action Organizer, Sierra Club

Tracks: Arts & Culture | Clean Energy | Community Journalism | Entrepreneurship | Healthcare | Land & Community | Main Street

Community Journalism

Local journalism, a bedrock for informed and successful small communities, is under threat. More and more towns are losing their local news sources to the economic upheaval facing the news business and dramatic changes in the ways people get their information. We know that when a trusted local news operation leaves a town, taxes increase, bond rates worsen and community economic development suffers. Radically Rural seeks to provide ideas, solutions, and models for news organizations and communities to ensure the financial health of those operations so that residents can stay informed.

Who Should Attend: Journalists, community leaders and organizers, law- and policy-makers and government leaders.


Building Trust: Measures to secure faith in local journalism

Mayer, director for Trusting News, founded Trusting News in 2016; she leads a panel discussion on the ways and means local journalists can improve bonds with readers and confidence in the news they produce, all leading to a more trusting readership.

Speaker: Joy Mayer, director, Trusting News

Panel: Lynn Walsh, assistant director, Trusting News; Peter Huoppi, director of multimedia, The Day, New London, CT; Crystal Good, Publisher/Founder, Black by God


Funding News: Media organizations successfully find philanthropic help for their missions

A panel of experts provides a road map for crowdfunding, landing grants and the future of philanthropic support of newsrooms. Whether you are a for-profit or nonprofit organization, there are ways to build more community support for journalism.

Speaker: Frank Mungeam, chief innovation officer, Local Media Association

Panel: Blake Kaplan, editor and general manager, Sun Herald, Biloxi, MS; Manuel C. Coppola, publisher, Nogales International, Nogales, AZ; Traci Bauer, vice president, print and digital content, Adams Publishing Group


Crazy Good: Tools to make you a better – and more efficient – journalist

Sunne presents our annual “50 Ideas” program. This is a fast-paced romp though hacks, sources, tech and techniques to make you a better, smarter and savvier reporter and editor.

Speaker: Samantha Sunne, freelance investigative journalist and expert on tech and tools

Tracks: Arts & Culture | Clean Energy | Community Journalism | Entrepreneurship | Healthcare | Land & Community | Main Street


Each successive recession in recent history has left in its wake an ever-widening economic gap between rural communities and national trends. Along with a stunning lack of new business formation in rural America, if this trend continues after this current pandemic-induced recession, it will perpetuate ever-widening gaps in income, population, education attainment, innovation, politics, employment and opportunity. Radically Rural seeks to provide solutions, guidelines and models for community leaders, groups and individuals to create a rich culture of entrepreneurship, a thriving local economy and a vibrant community.

Who Should Attend: Entrepreneurs, economic and community development professionals, government leaders, business leaders, community and downtown advocates, entrepreneur support organizations, lenders and other business funders


Growing Rural Entrepreneurial Ecosystems – Lessons from Tupelo MS to Ord NE

One of the most powerful stories of rural community transformation in the last 50 years is Tupelo, Mississippi (38,271 in 2019).  One of the most compelling emerging stories of rural community transformation is Ord, Nebraska (2,310 residents in 2019 anchoring a rural region of 10,000).  Bob and Jean Stowell, husband and wife community leaders from Ord, and Don Macke curator of the Ord Story, will share lessons learned in rural entrepreneurial ecosystem building through the lens of Ord’s 50-year transformation from deep and hopeless decline to a thriving community today.

Speakers: Don Macke, Vice President of E2 Entrepreneurial Ecosystems; and Robert and Jean Stowell, members of Valley County Community Foundation Fund


Pitchfork Competition

The PitchFork Challenge is a business pitch competition focused on supporting the rural entrepreneurial ecosystem. We created the PitchFork program in 2016 in response to the low startup rates in rural areas after the great recession. It was intentionally created to provide money and momentum to increase the rate of rural startups by supporting the idea phase and the early challenging years of being a small rural business. This is not just another pitch competition, but a great way to jumpstart ideas, connections, and small businesses. This session opens with a live pitch event, followed by a discussion with its organizers and a shared “operating manual” about how you can take this concept to your community. The session ends with the announcement of the winner and the presentation of a cash award of $10,000. This is the final round after a summer of coaching and two previous rounds of eliminations.

For the Radically Rural Summit, the PitchFork Challenge offers a cash award, but this pitch event can also serve as a model to bring together banks, community organizations, individuals, and others interesting in ensuring local businesses can access local loans and local investors. Join the excitement as these local rural entrepreneurs pitch their business and receive the “operating manual” on how to run this event in your own community. We’ll share all that we learned in putting this challenge together so you can take it back to your rural area and create something similar, but also unique to your region. The PitchFork Challenge How-To Guide is available on the Hannah Grimes Center’s website. We hope today’s event will inspire more rural entrepreneurs everywhere to start a business.

This year Hannah Grimes is partnering with NHSBDC to provide the pitch clinic and pitch coaching for each participant.

Facilitated by Hannah Grimes Staff and Emcee by Alison Chisolm, Entrepreneurship & Innovation Program Coordinator, River Valley Community College


Creating Capital Access in Rural Communities – Lessons from NetWork Kansas

NetWork Kansas is one of rural America’s most robust and longest-running statewide rural entrepreneurial ecosystem in the USA.  Foundational to NetWork Kansas’ success is its ability to attract business capital for increasing capital access in rural communities throughout Kansas.  The NetWork Kansas Capital Model is designed to be lean, high- impact and build local capacity to process venture financing both within its Entrepreneurial-Communities Program and other capital access strategies.   Imagene and Steve will share this model and illustrate how it is impactful in providing capital to rural entrepreneurs in both non-COVID times and during the COVID Pandemic Recession.

Speakers: Imagene Harris, Director, Strategic Partnerships & Impact Investment for NetWork Kansas; and Steve Radley, President & CEO of NetWork Kansas


Tracks: Arts & Culture | Clean Energy | Community Journalism | Entrepreneurship | Healthcare | Land & Community | Main Street


The pandemic highlighted how vital it is that we have equal access to healthcare. In rural communities, there is a disparity in access that is rooted in many factors such as economic, racial, geographic, and social. Radically Rural cares deeply about rural life, and in no small part that has to do with making sure that everyone has access to basic and quality healthcare. Join us in this conversation which is so important, now more than ever.

Who Should Attend: Community organizers, municipal and city leaders, activists, philanthropists and healthcare workers.


Keeping Healthcare Alive and Thriving in Rural Communities

COVID-19 took a huge toll on rural health systems, and rural communities are struggling to attract and keep health care providers. How can your community use technology and telehealth to make sure health services are there for you when you need them? Telehealth technology and training programs like Project ECHO can help keep health providers connected to their colleagues and the most up-to-date care. Learn how rural communities have brought specialized care closer to home, retained their health professionals, and attracted new ones to town!

Speaker:  Jeanne Ryer, MSc, EdD, Director, NH Citizens Health Initiative; Deborah Cross, Family Nurse PractitionerWhite Mountain Community Health Center; Julia Johnston, Behavioral Health Coordinator, Tri-County Health Network; Lisa Bean, MDS Nurse and Clinical Reimbursement Coordinator, Alpine Healthcare Center; Sanjeev Arora  (presenting remotely), Founder and Director, Project ECHO


Where Do We Turn?

Need help creating or sustaining excellent healthcare in your community?  There is help available and much of it is free.  We will have national experts who can help you access resources and discuss how to create systems that work.

Learn about the resources available at the state and national level that can help you innovate, collaborate, and identify opportunities. This session will present an introduction to using the Rural Health Information Hub to find resources, opportunities, data, and tools that are available to improve healthcare and wellbeing. We will highlight model programs that have been successful in rural communities across the nation as well as cover key issues that affect the health of rural populations, such as access to healthcare, social determinants of health, health equity, and the rural health workforce. Rural stakeholders now more than ever need to focus on life in rural communities and all the determinants that help rural communities be more well.  The session will explore how to grow strategic partnerships at the regional, state, and local levels that can result in radical differences in the health of small towns with few resources.   Session participants will be led through an exercise to help you consider and share resources for where to turn when you want to make a difference in the health of your rural community.  

Speakers:  Kristine Sande, Program Director, Rural Health Information Hub; Teryl Eisinger, CEO, National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health; Alisa Druzba, Director, New Hampshire Rural Health and Primary Care Office


Funding Excellent Healthcare

A panel of experts will provide information and discussion on financially supporting healthcare in your community.  Federal, State, and philanthropic opportunities will be presented.  

Funding excellent health and healthcare is a challenge for any community, but rural communities have unique opportunities and obstacles to ensure equity for healthcare and to make communities more well.  This session will provide participants with a radically different framework for addressing health: focus on the assets of the community and finding funding that’s a fit for the unique capacity of your community.  The session will include strategies and key questions to consider when seeking grants, resources for finding funding opportunities, and positioning for the future with private foundations.  There is a renaissance in interest in rural health from the foundation community.  Participants will be challenged to consider converging factors that influence foundations like the growing foundation footprint in rural health,  health disparities between rural and urban, and the interconnectedness between health and human service issues in rural America. Join us for a primer on rural grant seeking and understanding how relationships with funders can be built for mutual good.

Speakers: Teryl Eisinger, CEO, National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health; Kristine Sande, Program Director, Rural Health Information Hub; Allen Smart, Advocate, PhilanthropywoRx

Tracks: Arts & Culture | Clean Energy | Community Journalism | Entrepreneurship | Healthcare | Land & Community | Main Street

Land & Community

Land use permeates conversations in rural communities, from forestry to cattle grazing, to farming and to recreation. The livelihoods of these towns are often tied to the surrounding landscape and lands. Because the health of this land is impacted by the climate crisis, communities must act, adjust and adapt. Join Radically Rural as we introduce how people can better connect to the land for economic, social and healing benefits.

Who Should Attend: Farmers, Agricultural Service Providers, Environmental Professionals, Public Health Professionals, Planners, Students of Environment and Agriculture Programs, Community members interested in improving the agricultural economy of their region, Community members interested in improving public health and land stewardship


Rural as Refuge? 

Anecdotal evidence from the United States and elsewhere suggests that urban residents moved to rural communities as a response to the COVID19 pandemic. Prior to this, much urban to rural migration was driven by individuals and households seeking out new residential locations in areas offering unique environmental qualities. This session reports on urban to rural migration trends at the national scale in recent years focusing on evidence of rural migration during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. This macro scale perspective is followed by evidence from a set of Vermont case studies exploring migration’s impacts on rural communities and asking new residents what they make of their new rural homes. We conclude by discussing the ways in which in-migration can serve as a force of community improvement and reinvestment highlighting how rapid in-migration may influence landscapes, planning, civic engagement, and social life in small towns.

Speakers: Dr. Cheryl Morse, Associate Professor, University of Vermont; Peter Nelson, Professor, Middlebury College – Department of Geography


Exploring Nature, Renewing Communities

More and more rural communities are embracing the natural landscape as a cornerstone of their economy.  During this session, we will share success stories of communities across the nation that are keeping outdoors recreation front and center for the health of their people and economy.  Improved health outcomes, increased tourism dollars, and enhanced land stewardship and sense of place for local residents is the result of activities such as hunting, fishing, hiking, and biking.

Speakers: Stephanie Bertaina, Senior Policy Analyst, U.S. EPA Office of Community Revitalization; Elyse Peters, Former Director, Walker County Health Action Partnership; Caitrin Maloney, Co-Owner, Sustainable Trailworks; Sarah Pelkey, Economic Development Coordinator, Town of Poultney


Native Tribes Lead on Environmental Stewardship 

Native communities across America are providing leadership and modeling ways to take action against climate change and the greatest environmental challenges of our time.  This session will explore how traditional ecological knowledge is informing natural resources management strategies and offering important perspectives on climate adaptation and resiliency.   Sustaining their cultural heritage and the land on which it is deeply rooted provide inspiration to ensure that future generations have access to healthy water, soil, and strong wildlife populations.

Speakers: Shavonne Smith, Environmental Director, Shinnecock Environmental Department

Tracks: Arts & Culture | Clean Energy | Community Journalism | Entrepreneurship | Healthcare | Land & Community | Main Street

Main Street

Main Streets are the socio-economic centers of rural communities. Their ability to thrive is essential to the continued economic success of small cities and towns, and these centers imbue their residents with a sense of place. This awareness is often tied to the past, inextricability set in the present and looking toward the future. Facing challenges of today means keeping Main Street surviving and even thriving. Tomorrow’s future doesn’t mean leaving everything behind but, rather, acknowledging what to save and what to improve. Reimagining Main Streets can enliven stakeholders and residents in fundamentally new ways. Join us at Radically Rural as we explore the rebirth of Main Street and the positive impacts available to rural communities.

Who Should Attend: Business owners and professionals, municipal and city planners, community members, volunteers and indivduals interested in community revitalization.


A Living Downtown: Contemplating the Transition from CBD to DBC

Over the coming decades, we may very well take part in the transformation of our downtowns and village centers, from what we used to call the “Central Business District” to what we might more accurately refer to as the “Dedicated Biodiversity Commons.”  How does biodiversity relate to the programmatic and physical space of our beloved Main Street?

Biodiversity refers to the “variety of life in the world or in a particular habitat or ecosystem.”

To adapt to the New Economy, our Main Street habitat could, by necessity, become a more complex, diverse, and interdependent agglomeration of private business entities, public-private business projects, social services, cultural attractors, and public space, all thriving in a medium of networked technology and interactive user interfaces. As our physical environments become more supportive of our natural environment, this new ecosystem could learn from and mimic natural systems. Our streets, shops, schools, gardens, and commons could reflect an evolved set of economic and social drivers that support one another with the kind of inherent efficiency that exists in our natural, rural landscapes.

Research and design director Rik Ekstrom will launch the Main Street program by identifying a number of potential catalyst conditions that rural communities, towns and small cities might seize on, enhance and manipulate in order to more successfully effect this transition to the “Dedicated Biodiversity Commons.” The session will include remarks by guest speakers engaged in initiatives that are anticipating these opportunities and developing planning guidelines, products and services that may be the backbone of this evolving ecosystem. A breakout session will engage participants in their own brainstorming about opportunities and/or constraints in their communities or organizations.

Speaker: Rik Ekstrom, Derek Lumsden, CEO/President of Polished Productions Consulting


Co-Designing Main Street in the New Economy

Today’s small cities and rural towns are emerging from the past couple of years in serious need of some good news. While the challenges of making a vibrant and resilient downtown are numerous and complex, we also now have the knowledge – hard won through our collective experience – that almost anything is possible. Our communities have come together in innovative and creative ways to take care of one another, to tweak the rules in order to find collective economic opportunity, and to see beyond convention when conventional means and methods fall short. We have emerged as idealists, inventors and problem solvers. We are experts.

This session will provide a foundation on which government administrators and other local leaders can build an effective process for driving economic and social well being through research, communication and consensus building. Starting from the principle that the most knowledgeable experts are engaged citizens, we will introduce participatory design as a way to achieve nuanced, home-grown solutions to a wide range of a community’s challenges. Attendees will leave with a strong understanding of how to enable community-led development.

Facilitated by Seven Willow Collaborative’s Jessica Healy, participants will set the stage by discussing the current state of affairs in their hometowns, as well as some national trends and change catalysts. The New Jersey State Office of Innovation’s Jessica Lax will lead participant groups through a series of exercises and discussions designed to demonstrate three critical components of co-design: stakeholder engagement and information gathering, analysis and coding, and vision communication. Participants will return to their communities, organizations, or municipal governments with another critically important tool for unlocking untapped expertise and building consensus in their communities.

Speakers: Jessica Healy, Principal for  Seven Willow Collaborative; Jessica Lax, Innovation Fellow, New Jersey Office of Innovation


Gathering In The Commons: Hosting Authentic Experiences in Rural Communities

An American community addresses economic uncertainty and trending demographic shifts by transforming itself into a destination for annual events and gatherings. Everyone’s jealously aware of the success stories: Telluride, Austin, Indio. But are these stories really success stories in the long run and who benefits from this success? When does the celebration of local culture and character become superseded by the promotion of larger, national business interests? How does a community effectively weigh the opportunities and potential impacts of these kinds of events? How might a community assess its existing resources, honestly-yet-creatively define a narrative, and plan for the kind of infrastructure that will be required? And, perhaps most importantly, how might a community attract and plan for the kinds of events that represent the future of cultural experience, in-person networking, collaborating and idea-sharing?

This session will look at how rural and exurban communities might take advantage of the current post-vaccine excitement around IRL events and outdoor/natural environments to host gatherings to reinvigorate their local economies. Presenters will provide different perspectives, from long-time residents, local organizers, and outside promoters, and debate the meaning of “success.” A panel discussion will address the growing importance of authenticity and meaningful connection at future gatherings, and the unique opportunities that small communities can take advantage of in providing these kinds of environments.

Architect, urbanist, and teacher Darrick Borowski, AIA (ARExA, WeWork, Edible Infrastructures) will present observations about the idea and practice of convening over time and identify some guiding principles for future events. A panel discussion will feature participants and planners, comparing past and present lessons learned, data, and ideas about the future. Finally, participants will have the opportunity to weigh in on how Keene, NH has successfully/not successfully adapted to the Radically Rural Festival and how Radically Rural benefits from being hosted by Keene.

Speaker: Darrick Borowski, Architect/Urbanist, Educator, Design Strategist, ARExA / SVA

Tracks: Arts & Culture | Clean Energy | Community Journalism | Entrepreneurship | Healthcare | Land & Community | Main Street

Hannah Grimes Center for Entrepreneurship Key Partners

Sign up to be the first to get Radically Rural™ news and updates

Click here to become an affiliate partner of Radically Rural