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Vital Connections On Air Episode 1: It's Not Your Grandpa's Rural

The Center for Community Vitality is proud to introduce Vital Connections On Air, a podcast that brings you information and research from University of Minnesota Extension and stories from communities around Minnesota.  This podcast will feature some of your favorite Extension educators and researchers as well as new voices from within the University of Minnesota.  We are also excited to introduce you to great people from around Minnesota who are doing the same work you are within their communities.

In our first episode, we are joined by Ben Winchester, Senior Research Fellow with University of Minnesota Extension's Center for Community Vitality.  Ben has done extensive research in the area of rural migration patterns, which is referred to as the "Brain Gain."  In his visit to our podcast he is discussing the way we choose where we live, work, and play as well as how the narrative of communities impacts those decisions.

The Pew Research Center, as reported by Winchester, Spanier, & Nash (2011), has found that 51% of individuals prefer to live in small or rural communities.  This is a surprising number to individuals who live in these communities and might think "they aren't here!"  But they are coming.  Ben has seen in communities across Minnesota small population changes each year.  Theses changes don't necessarily always indicate growth but the changes are enough to keep small communities moving forward.  The reason they are continuing to come to our small communities is because of the unique things that are offered that enhance their overall quality of life.

"People aren't necessarily moving to your community because of a job," according to Ben.  He indicates that it is the narrative of your community and really the region that is bringing people to communities.  Due to the increase in people who work from home, or what is sometimes referred to as 1099 workers, there is more flexibility in where people live.  As newcomers are coming to your community they are looking at all of the things that are available to them within the region and so it is important to support a healthy and positive story for not only your community but the entire area.

So how do you write a good narrative for your community?  It starts with a conversation.  Ben encourages us to get to know the new people in our communities.  This might be by going and introducing ourselves to new neighbors or the creation of a newcomers supper.  As you meet these newcomers find out what drew them to your community.  This information will help you to start to develop the story you tell others.  It is also important to talk with our youth and tell them the narrative that we want others to know about our communities.  If all we tell our kids is that they need to get out of the area to succeed, that is what they will believe.

The biggest thing that Ben encourages communities to do is not think about what you were, but think about what you are and want to be in the future.  No one is moving to your community because of what it was in 1950.  They are coming now because you offer something that is of value and interest to them.  Be proud of that and share it with the world.  That is YOUR new narrative and not your grandpa's.

Click HERE to listen to Vital Connections on Air Episode 1: It's Not Your Grandpa's Rural.
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