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: Philantropists, Nonprofit and Business Grantmakers 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.



Arts & Food Markets

Food, culture and a community’s identity are all tied together. Local food markets and food + culture collaborations can bring that identity to light in tangible and meaningful ways. We will explore projects from around the country that are bringing food producers culture-makers, and community together in rural places.




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 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?


What’s Working

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.


Energy Visionaries 

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.

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.


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 and Robert and Jean Stowell


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 and Steve Radley


Pitchfork Competition


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


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.


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.

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


Refuge in Rural 

Climate Change and the pandemic have driven many to uproot from cities and find new homes in rural communities.  This session will explore what kind of impact this is having on rural communities and how we can successfully harness the growing populations for a force of community improvement and reinvestment.  We will consider land use planning measures that can be put in place to prevent this population bump from destroying the value of our rural landscapes and how we bring these new members into the fold of our community and foster a sense of place and appreciation for the natural environment of their new home.


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.


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.

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.


Main Street Session 1: Contemplating the Transition from CBD to DBC

In the next decade 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 rightly refer to as the “Dedicated Biodiversity Commons.”  How does biodiversity relate to the programmatic and physical space of our beloved Main Street?  Come find out. 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


Main Street in the New Economy

As traditional main streets are reinvented in the era of next-day home delivery and our ability to connect virtually, towns and small cities need to find new opportunities to embrace growing trends in public-private partnership among local governments, institutions and enterprise. This session will consider examples of creative collaborations that leverage the advantages of small business (familiarity, scale, trust), municipal governments (centrality, local identity) and institutions (audience, cultural resources) in order to more efficiently and interdependently meet the changing needs of each.

Speaker: Jessica Healy


Keene, NH as “Conference Commons”

Keene, NH as a prototype for a town adapting itself to provide state-of-the-art conference facilities with the enhanced experience of a walkable downtown, access to nature, and a diversity of venues. We will look to the future to see how small cities and towns could more fully adapt themselves to any number of national and international conferences or summits. We will consider the benefits (the economic ecosystem that develops around such events) and the potential pitfalls (the drawbacks of a tourist-based economy).

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

Hannah Grimes Center for Entrepreneurship Key Partners

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