Entrepreneurship and access to technology will play a key part in revitalising a community.
Ever wondered why some communities work well and others don’t?
It is the integration of social, environmental and economic objectives and strategies that will best address the wants and needs of sustainable rural communities.
Good leadership plays a key role to play in meeting the wants and needs of communities and reversing the ‘brain drain’. Movers and shakers in communities are becoming tired because there are too few of them.
As many rural areas are characterised by an ageing and declining population, the first step in community development and reform should provide the services and facilities to enable ageing rural people to stay in their homes and communities.
While most people accept that their health care system and retirement facilities cannot ever be brought up to the same standards as in the cities, they do expect a minimum standard of care to be maintained.
Local, State and Federal Governments need to take up the issue of social well-being and problems in measuring the impact of their policies and socioeconomic changes on different segments of the population.
Issues concerning growth and prosperity in rural communities
- Competitiveness of small town businesses.
- Poor support from bigger cities (Sponge cities) for small communities.
- No systems such as economic gardening and entrepreneurial ecosystems.
- Small communities becoming and feeling part of the world economy.
- Poor business planning, concern for the future versus the tyranny of the urgent.
- Much scope for domination of decision-making, people need to be nice.
- The considerable need for external help with management and marketing.
- Involvement in content marketing.
- Limited ability to grow or make big costly changes.
- Close interpersonal relationships in the workplace.
- Limited leverage in obtaining capital.
- Short and informal communication and information channels.
- Little interest, or investment in information systems.
- Lack of formal control processes, exposed to the potential for errors.
- Loss of the community’s character.
- The vicious circle of problem continuation.
Businesses in regional, rural and remote areas who want to acquire skills have little access to education and training that can meet their wants and needs. Many existing training systems are not flexible enough to address the problems of business owners in these areas.
Having to spend three, or more, days away to attend a half-day course in the city, or to lose an employee for up to four weeks while they undertake block training for their apprenticeship must be replaced with more flexible on-the-job training systems.
In today’s challenging environment, the day to day management of an enterprise can often leave business people feeling isolated and lonely, undermining their confidence. They are faced with daily make-or-break decisions that could have significant implications on their business, and many without a good support network feel they are making these big decisions in a vacuum.
“It’s too hard trying to create prosperity by yourself, or by leaning on your own understanding, none of us will do as well if we work in isolation“. Peter Sergeant
In many communities there is a divide between the business community and the non-profit community and this is not helped by poor government policies at the local, state and federal levels across a range of issues, particularly transport and communications.
Young people and families migrate to urban centres for improved work, education, and lifestyle opportunities.
- Where have we been? – What were the major national policy initiatives that have shaped rural and regional Australia since World War II?
- Where are we now? – What are the current issues facing rural and regional Australia which need to be addressed going forward?
- Where might we go? – What are the critical policy issues which need to be addressed going forward?
The Australian Rural Leadership Foundation develops leaders who can work effectively at all levels to ensure a resilient future for the communities, organisations and industries of rural, regional and remote Australia.
Influencing change and development
In influencing change and development, a community needs to establish a priority list for research and development with a strong focus on innovation.
The issues to research and develop might include opportunity and job generation, farm succession, infrastructure development, heritage restoration, tourism opportunities, education, disaster and risk management along with issues relating to ageing, women, youth and Indigenous issues and so on.
The limited capacity of small communities for planning, modern marketing, research and their capacity to manage change should be addressed.
High calibre movers and shakers create
- Better local businesses and non-profit organisations.
- Stronger links and dynamic networks for the community.
- Innovation and development opportunities.
- Healthy, inclusive and strong regional communities.
Building community capacity
- A rural community, or organisation that puts effort into the capacity building (learning and activities), will certainly attract good people. And these people will be more easily motivated to improve their position and that of the community.
- Developing your community engagement is capacity building, both economic and social, and may include the creation of:
- Ways to support the engagement of entrepreneurship.
- Assessment and action on community opportunities and threats.
- Creation of a knowledge base.
- Development of programs that meet new and emerging training needs.
- Interpretation and implementation of available programs.
- Creating new and motivational messages for specific audiences.
- Creation of partnerships that generate and share resources.
- Mobilisation of people and resources to achievement projects.
- Processes to invite and accept community feedback.
- New leadership within all sections of the community.
“Just know that, when you really want a better community, you will never give up on it, no matter how hard the struggles become”. Peter Sergeant
A philosophy for building better rural communities
By enabling and supporting real people working together with the right tools and processes you can build a thriving community, providing outcomes everyone is looking for. Here are some suggestions:
- Spend your money in your community.
- Improve the streetscape and the roads into the community.
- Make money move around your community.
- Find ways to generate innovation and more opportunities.
- Foster cooperation to compete.
- Grow an online presence with good content management.
- Becoming more of a contributor to your community.
- Sustainable pricing, stop undercutting progress.
- Improve the community’s value chain.
- Support for those who need help.
Through projects, and action orientation the community and its members can enhance the quality of people’s lives and isn’t this what people like doing? Visualise the community you want, because if you can’t see it, it is unlikely to materialise.
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Regional, rural and remote communities need to, as a group, recognise that learning is their most valuable approach. If the people of the community continue to lean solely on their own understanding, change will be difficult and the struggles of the community will continue and decline be inevitable.
Identify the entrepreneurs and gazelles in your community The entrepreneurs and gazelles will help you and your community to become aligned, focused, and accountable, and working with purpose toward common goals.
One of the key attributes of an entrepreneur is their ability to address the issues by ‘connecting the dots’ and solving the problems. It is vital to nurture a vibrant startup environment in a community and across a region to create a pipeline of opportunities.
Life in a regional community is like photography, you need your negatives to develop into positive action.