Keynotes & Finale

Reimagining Rural through local storytelling, framework building, and policy influence

“We stand at an inflection point for rural, faced with a choice between two paths – one that leads to extraction and the other towards regeneration and resilient thriving,” says Tony Pipa, senior fellow at the Center for Sustainable Development at the Brookings Institution. “Our country’s economy is shifting and rural areas will play a pivotal role; the question is how we approach it.” 

This year, we are Reimagining Rural, together. Small communities have a unique opportunity to address the intersectionality of national scale challenges in a collaborative and comprehensive way. Join in conversations with the Aspen Institute and Brookings Institution as we dive into bottom up and top down approaches to rural development. Be the first to discover and contribute to new ideas from two of the nation’s premiere rural constructors and their partners. Attendees will leave not only brimming with ideas and inspiration, but also actionable pragmatic models to implement locally and a feeling of belonging at the policy table.

*Both keynote sessions are free to the public and will be hybrid with the option to view in person or virtually. Register here, scrolling to the bottom for the Keynote Only ticket type. The closing session is open only to those attending the full summit in person.*

September 27 Opening Ceremony & Keynote @ 9:00 AM | The Colonial Theater Mainstage

Poetry & Music

Shanta Lee is the author of several poetry collections, her most recent being Black Metamorphoses. She was named the 2021 Vermont Book Award winner, won the 2020 Diode Press full-length book prize, and earned an honorable mention from the Sheila Margaret Motton Book Prize. Lee is also a multidisciplinary artist who works in different mediums, including photography. Lee currently lives in Vermont and lectures on the life of Lucy Terry Prince (c. 1730–1821)—considered the first known African American poet in English literature—as a member of the VT and NH Humanities Council Speakers Bureaus. (Photo by Dave Barnum)

Monadnock Music is a non-profit that has been making exceptional music accessible to all in intimate and informal settings in the towns and villages of the Monadnock region since 1966. Through a commitment to varied and imaginative performances and teaching, Monadnock Music keeps a sense of musical daring and discovery alive.

Keynote Panel

Reimagining Rural: storytelling by local leaders elevates rural as a place of opportunity

Like many of you, the panelists in our opening keynote have deep experience in local projects that have made a difference. Through storytelling, the opening keynote builds a narrative that elevates rural as a place of opportunity. It also gives attendees a common understanding of the importance, history and current state of rural policy as Tony Pipa draws policy implications from these local initiatives. Join Pipa, Dickerson and Vogel for an eye-opening discussion that combines policy, lived experience and research analysis as Tony works to tie together a new sort of conversation about what rural is and what it needs today. We hope there are great ideas from these projects that you can use in your own communities, and that it gets your wheels turning with your own policy ideas.

This session is moderated by Tony Pipa, author of the New York Times essay “A Policy Renaissance Is Needed for Rural America to Thrive”. He is a senior fellow in the Center for Sustainable Development at the Brookings Institution. Tony’s current work includes leading the Reimaging Rural Policy initiative and the Local Leadership on the Sustainable Development Goals initiative. His background addressing poverty and advancing inclusive economic development influences the ideas he will be sharing.

Gloria Dickerson lives in Sunflower County, Mississippi and is the founder and CEO of We2gether Creating Change. Learn how she has worked to bring the Mississippi Delta from a perceived place of poverty, low skills, and despair to a place of prosperity, abundant skills, and hope.


Lakota Vogel lives in Eagle Butte, South Dakota and is the executive director at Four Bands Community Fund, a nonprofit organization that was founded as a part of a community economic development movement on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation. Learn how she has helped to capitalize Native American-owned businesses on the Reservation.


Alex Beck lives in Brattleboro, VT. He has extensive experience in community development, youth engagement, and social entrepreneurism in rural economies in the U.S and abroad. Alex has resided in Windham County since 2012, and has been at BDCC since 2015. He helped establish the Southern Vermont Workforce Center of Excellence, and facilitates the creation, organization, and distribution of regional workforce and education opportunities for Vermonters throughout the Windham region.


September 28 Solutions Slam & Keynote @ 9:00 AM | The Colonial Theater Mainstage

Solutions Slam

We want you to share your solutions this year at Radically Rural. Whether it’s an idea, an initiative, a program, or something else. If it’s solving a rural issue, we want to know about it. Whether you are in the idea stage or have been running a successful program for decades, share your work with us! All you have to do is show up to our free keynote on September 28th ready to share! We will bring the mic right to folks in their seats and give each person one minute to share their solution before moving on to the next great idea. The crowd will vote on the best idea, sending the winner home with a $500 prize to put towards their initiative. A signup sheet will be available at our registration table all day September 27th. 

Keynote Address 

Reimagining Rural: Connecting the Dots with a Rural Framework

Naming constructs is an important part of innovation. Terms give visibility and structure to ideas. They allow us to study, dissect, and improve rural life. Woven from tested approaches and community innovation, the Aspen Institute offers a useful framework that prioritizes human well-being and a sense of belonging to help rural communities collaborate. Explore how this can create a shared understanding and direction for equitable, sustainable, and genuine prosperity and creates a thriving environment for all. We will identify key building blocks at the local and systems levels that encourage stronger and more cohesive work and messaging to ensure your ideas have the framework they need to succeed.

Chris Estes is the co-executive director of the Aspen Institute Communities Strategy Group (CSG). His current work is centered on the policy and program implications of the Thrive Rural Framework for equitable rural prosperity. Learn how CSG has created equitable rural development by lifting up underserved communities, facilitating peer learning, and bringing systemic change to philanthropic and public funding efforts in rural places.


September 28 @ 4:00 PM | The Colonial Theater Mainstage

Finale: Reimagining Rural Strategy and Policy

The threads laid out during the summit will be woven together during this dynamic closing session where we will distill what we learned over the two days and develop recommendations for national rural strategy and policy together, in real time.  Tony Pipa, the moderator of this session, states that, “we don’t have a coherent rural policy at the national level or even a coherent point of view of what enables rural communities to thrive in the current economic structures we have in place right now.” Who better than rural practitioners to help shape this national strategy and advocate for a more coherent rural policy?  This year, the Radically Rural network is seating themselves at the policy table. In true Radically Rural fashion, we will extract recommendations from the stories of local leaders and nimble grassroots models that we know and love. Not only will you leave this session with actionable items for your community, but you will also have the opportunity to add your voice to the ideas that are shaped and shared during the summit into a Radically Rural whitepaper that will be sent to your members of congress and the press. Come reimagine rural with us as we explore questions like:

  • What do we need to get right for rural America to thrive in the 21st century?
  • How do we untangle the web of federal development assistance for rural communities?
  • How can we continue to shift the narrative of rural from one of decline to one of opportunity?  From one of solely extractive economies to generative economies as well?

Focus Groups – September 27 @ 12:30-1:30 PM OR September 28 @ 7:30-8:30 AM

Who is responsible for untangling the web of rural policy initiatives, shaping policy, and advocating for it? Why not you? This is an opportunity for you to start developing policy ideas simply by contributing your thoughts, ideas, and experiences. Fill out this interest form by September 15th to participate in a closed focus group discussion led by Tony Pipa. Groups are limited to 15 members and have the opportunity to continue to connect virtually after the summit. Participants must be registered for the entire Radically Rural summit. Breakfast/lunch will be provided at the sessions. 

Register Now See the Full Agenda

Hannah Grimes Center for Entrepreneurship Key Partners