The Teeny Tiny Summit “Renewed, Refreshed and the New Rural” took place on March 2nd. The keynote was presented by ROMA’s Chair Robin Jones and researcher Kathryn Wood who spoke on the Opportunities for Rural Ontario in a Post Covid World.
The ROMA report identified that the pandemic has changed communities and organizations in several ways including the housing squeeze, impact on small business, challenging labour markets, pressure on vital services (such as health care), and significant challenges in which local leaders stepped up to meet. ROMA conducted the research via in person interviews and a widespread survey.
There were several actional priorities areas identified for Rural Ontario including expanded improved digital connectively, creative approaches to ensuring a full spectrum of housing options, funding infrastructure maintenance, improved access to services, development and growth planning for rural Ontario, labour force challenges and service delivery ecosystems closer to home.
Kathryn Wood encouraged the over 160 participants in the Teeny Tiny Summit to imagine a different future for Rural Ontario, what does success look like, and they identified top five characteristics to use as measures including addressing demographic challenges, ability to live (and work) in Rural Ontario, community well-being, proactive local government that encourages collaboration & building linkages to urban and respecting the environment. She also spoke of Rural Ontario contributions to Ontario in the report were documented as 300+ billion/year in economic activity which represents 20% of the province’s economic activity. Chair Robin Jones wrapped up the keynote presentation speaking about the key takeaways from the report. Rural Ontario advantages were described as physical assets, human capital, collaborative instincts / networks and the strong sense of volunteerism. Urban and rural lifestyles are both appealing to different groups of people at different times of their lives and Rural Ontario offers lifestyles in high demand right now. ROMA is working on multiple fronts by bringing attention to the plan across multiple stakeholders including political parties. The report is a long-term venture with some clear short-term opportunities.
Each of the other Teeny Tiny Summit speakers spoke on recommendations that were highlighted in the ROMA plan. Other speakers included Laura Wyper & Lauren Moran from Algoma University, Andrew Redden from Hastings County on Creating Local Entrepreneurial Ecosystems and Rebecca Hickey from the Ryde Co-op. To view the full Teeny Tiny Summit recording and materials visit the Teeny Tiny website, login, and click the watch now button. To download the materials, select the session materials at the bottom of the agenda page. There are several resources and Teeny Tiny Snapshots included in the slide decks that were not able to be covered during the live presentation due to time constraints.
OMAFRA has been delivering these events since 2016 and close to 2000 people have participated in the events both in person and virtually. ROMA has been a supporter of Teeny Tiny Summits for many years. Robin Jones commented “These are remarkable opportunities for small rural communities, but they won’t be able to fund them – that led to the partnership with OMAFRA to continue to offer the summits.” The purpose of the webinars is to share examples, relevant tools and success stories of economic development that works in small places, explore issues and connect & share ideas. Stay tuned for a new round of Teeny Tiny Summits in starting in the fall of 2022.