Forum 2005

THE POWER OF PLACE: RURAL COMMUNITIES, GLOBAL REACH

ABINGDON VIRGINIA, USA

19-24 June 2005

Building on the previous three conferences held in Queensland, Australia, Vancouver Island, Canada and Inverness, Scotland, this conference was designed to bring together practitioners from rural communities with rural policy makers and scholars. The conference emphasized the sharing of practical experiences while highlighting the role of place and place- based innovation in local development, rural health, education, culture and environment, with attention to implications for rural policy and governance.

The SW VA Higher Education Center in Abingdon served as the venue for this conference. “The Power of Place” offered internationally known speakers, peer learning opportunities, over 175 cutting-edge presentations and workshops, and an exhibit hall. Eight mobile workshops, centered in diverse locales in four states, deepened participants’ experience of the region and offered relaxed opportunities to dialogue with local residents. Numerous arts and cultural events were offered, including Mountain Tales and Music, an Appalshop production at the Barter Theatre and a five-day Appalachian film festival hosted by Appalshop. An optional trip to the Bristol NASCAR speedway was also offered.

The 2005 Conference and exchange of experiences involved five days in total. The middle day was devoted to field trips giving a further two two-day conference sessions.

The emphasis on communities empowering themselves and place-based initiatives means that encouragement was given to attendance and participation by people living and working in and with rural communities so that they can share their ideas and their lessons with each other and all delegates. This group was given priority in sponsorship funding.

The format of the conference sessions ranged from academic scholarship to storytelling and song-writing, with an emphasis on issue-based and tool-development workshops which provided the opportunity for everyone to learn something new to take away with them which might make a practical difference in their own communities. Workshops were intended to facilitate the sharing of good practice models, gather common threads from different experiences with development aid, or perhaps point to dangers and pitfalls in the process.

There were seven key themes which are identified below.

  • The Power to Act Locally?: New Rural Governance and Rural Economic Performance.
  • Local Action and Self-Help in tackling health and hygiene issues.
  • The local development, health and environmental impacts of the emerging ‘food nexus’
  • Place-based Education and Sustainable Rural Development
  • Can Information and Communications Technologies [ICT] transform the prospects for rural places, and under what conditions.
  • Rural Innovation and the Power of Place Based Rural Services.
  • Towards Healthy Rural Communities Through Community Inclusion
Venue Forum Programme Speakers Committees
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