Through its public outreach program, the Rural Center seeks to ensure that a broad spectrum of North Carolina leaders is fully prepared to understand, embrace and advocate for critical rural policy change.
The Rural Partners Forum is the center’s premiere event each year. It attracts 500 to 700 state and local leaders to Raleigh for two days of discussions and announcements around a specific topic. It also provides an opportunity for leaders to share experiences and learn from one another. Our 2012 conference focused on “Enterprising Communities: transforming local resources into powerful economic assets.” Read more.
The center invites one or more leading authorities on a topic of significance for an in-depth briefing and discussion with rural leaders. These three-hour roundtables are held in the center’s conference and training facility and made available at other locations around the state through teleconference and Web casting.
At least once every two years, the center plans a series of regional events to consult with rural leaders across the state. These sessions provide an opportunity for open discussion about critical issues and emerging opportunities and help build networks to advocate for rural issues at the state level. The sessions also provide a venue for the center to share its latest research findings and to announce the availability of financial, informational and technical assistance.
In years alternating with the regional engagement sessions, the center leads an educational bus tour through rural North Carolina to give state officials, funders, board members, graduates of the center’s leadership program and other local leaders a first-hand look at the challenges in rural areas and some of the creative solutions being implemented.
The Rural Center president and board convene top-level action committees for in-depth discussions of urgent policy issues. These ad hoc groups include 10 to 20 individuals with strong but diverse credentials in the issue under discussion. Anticipated outcomes include policy agendas and advocacy coalitions. Think tanks have been convened, for example, to address high unemployment during the recession, to map out strategies to assist local governments in low-wealth small towns and to devise a response to the effects of long-term drought on farms.