The second Teeny Tiny Summit webinar series centered around the question that has arisen during COVID-19 – will rural communities take shelter from the pandemic storm or dance in the economic rain? To view the slide presentations & recording, visit the Teeny Tiny Summit website.
Keynote Peter Kenyon tackled the subject by speaking of the opportunities as well as the work that needs to be done for communities to “dance in the economic rain”. The 147 participants of the Teeny Tiny Summit were polled as to if their community was experiencing a rural resurgence and 66% agreed or strongly agreed that their rural community was experiencing a resurgence, with 10 % disagreeing with the statement, and a further 24% were not sure.
Peter Kenyon of the Bank of IDEAS (Australia) is a renowned community development expert who spoke about the importance of new resident attraction, development and retention. Newcomers to communities play important roles as consumers, part of the workforce, as community builders, as disruptors bringing with them new ideas and ways of doing things. They also act as resource connectors to their former communities and newcomers bring entrepreneurial talent.
Peter identified 4 COVID opportunities for rural communities including the:
- Return of former residents remembering what the rural village community life was like as kids
- Appeal of rural village community life to city people whose employers are embracing new work models allowing job functions to be undertaken remotely
- Appeal of rural village community life to city people who want a supportive environment to develop their entrepreneurial aspirations
- Respond to the demand for local tourism experiences resulting from COVID restrictions
Peter used stories to tell of creative and engaged businesses, communities & individuals that figured out ways to benefit from the opportunities that COVID has presented to rural communities. Those stories had a common thread of accurately assessing the community through an engagement process, focusing on what needed to be done and then acting. There was an active chat discussion during the webinar about the challenges of rural housing, access to transit and activities to engage young people – Peter Kenyon said for rural communities to “dance” they need to develop people.
If you want a year of prosperity, grow grass. If you want ten years of prosperity, grow trees. If you want 100 years of prosperity, grow people – Scott Bluff Leadership
Amy Matchen, from My Main Street, also spoke of their two-year program to support the recovery and revitalization of main streets & local businesses in Southern Ontario.
Next was Marcus Mohr, Community Development and Outreach Coordinator from the Municipality of Central Manitoulin, who spoke to their Tourism Adaptation Strategy that built on their lessons learned on the adaptation of attractions, amenities, digital information, and signage to respond to the surge in domestic travel growth during COVID-19.
Finally, Teeny Tiny Snap Shots were shared highlighting resources on supporting community togetherness, mental health, rural health initiatives, rebuilding of local food infrastructure, and details of Prince Edward County’s Tourism Management plan.
The next Teeny Tiny Summit – Opportunities for Rural Ontario in a Post-COVID World, will take place on March 2nd, 2022 Teeny Tiny Summits are a partnership between OMAFRA and the generous support for keynote speakers from the Rural Ontario Municipal Association.