October 2008

The Rural Policy Forum is currently in hibernation. Here is information on what the programs was:

The Rural Policy Forum is a tool that allows conference planners to expand their events online. Participants (on-site and remote) are invited to share their opinions, ideas, and suggestions through online discussions and surveys.

Advantage to participants: Everyone’s voice is heard and opinions are documented!

Advantage to conference hosts: You can hear what everyone has to say, you can track trends, and you can open conversations that focus participants before, during, and after the event.

The Rural Policy Forum process allows organizations, event organizers, and governments to engage large numbers of individuals around specific issues. The process can gather data about current conditions, practices, policies and more. Completely customizable, the integrated services are designed to work within a specific time frame and often involve a conference or other event. The technology utilized provides quick compilation of results and removes place restrictions. Throughout the process Minnesota Rural Partners works with event organizers or other stakeholders to assure that data and process expectations are met.

Identifying Issues:

The Rural Policy Forum process is intended to significantly advance the conversation, in the United States and worldwide, regarding rural policy. Another objective of the process is to generate a grass roots consensus on the key issues facing rural America, providing practitioners, researchers and policy makers with a road map of issues and priorities and offering political support for a position of reform.

Initiating Outreach: Discussion

Outreach to participants is conducted through electronic and other communications (ie post-cards, event brochures, etc…) to build awareness of the discussion prior to the event and to direct persons to the web site. The online discussion period lasts for as long as a month prior to the event, providing participants time to respond and review other participant comments online.

If you have an upcoming event and accompanying website, contact us to discuss how we might integrate the Rural Policy Forum components into your online presence.

Collecting Feedback: Online Survey

At least a week before the event, Minnesota Rural Partners and event organizers review the online discussion to formulate questions for an electronic survey to be accessible at the event and online for a period of time after the event.

Where the ‘Online Discussion’ provides the sharing of qualitative information, the ‘Online Survey’ will provide an opportunity to gather and report on quantitative data. Most questions are multiple choice, true/false or selections from a drop-down list.

Preliminary survey results will be made available at a given event. A complete report will be assembled by MRP, Inc. following the event, reflecting online survey results. (see sample survey results below).

Managing Events:

Cyber Cafe: MRP works with event organizers to set-up and staff a bank of computers with broadband Internet access at the event; a Cyber Cafe. Minnesota Rural Partners works with event organizers to build awareness among event participants and direct them to the Cyber Café and the online survey. MRP provides preliminary survey results by the end of the event and can present them to conference organizers and/or participants.

Follow-up and Reporting: Minnesota Rural Partners compiles the Survey results and creates formal reports including graphical illustrations and formatting for different audiences (event participants, general population, media, and local, state and national decision-makers). The results are made available in electronic formats to all audiences and placed on the event-specific web page integrated with the ruralpolicyforum.org site.


The Rural Policy Forum process partners with organizations, event organizers, media and governments to engage large numbers of individuals around specific issues. The process can gather data about current conditions, practices, policies and more. Completely customizable, the process was designed to work within a specific time frame and often involves a conference or other event. The technology utilized provides quick compilation of results and removes place restrictions. Throughout the process Minnesota Rural Partners works with event organizers or other stakeholders to assure that data and process expectations are met.

Organizations eligible for awards up to $2,000!

The Minnesota Community Broadband Awards recognize communities that have successfully implemented strategies that improve the deployment and use of broadband. Awards will be announced at the Connected Communities: Making the Net Work for Minnesota conference in Eden Prairie.

Award Categories

  • Broadband Infrastructure and Services; recognizing the provision of high speed broadband capacity and services to a community, area or region.
  • Broadband Market and Application Development; recognizing efforts to stimulate community demand for broadband services and/or to deploy advanced broadband applications in business, education, government and healthcare.

Applying is easy!

Go to http://www.blandinfoundation.org/BBConf08/application.html and complete the four question application.

For more information
Denise Pfeifer, dpfeifer@pfeiferconsulting.com, 507.828.5559

The Minnesota Community Broadband Awards is a project of the Blandin Foundation Broadband Initiative

National Rural Economic Developers Association (NREDA) annual conference is scheduled for Nov. 9-11 in Kansas City. Theme of NREDA’s 20th Anniversary event is, “Celebrating What’s Right With Rural America.” We have a fantastic program lined up and we’d like to extend an invitation to you to join us. Non-member first-time attendees may register at the member rate…how cool is that!

October 2008 – Volume VI, Number 9
Editors: Deb Miller-Slipek and Jane Leonard

Dear Colleagues & Friends:

Minnesota Rural Partners is evolving again. We are becoming a virtual organization, still a non-profit, run by volunteers. We will continue writing this newsletter. This week we will turn our website into an interactive blog, providing a connecting and clearinghouse function for events, resources, news, and ideas on community, economic and rural development across the rural-urban spectrum. We will continue to share our survey and registration online tools with other non-profit organizations.

MRP has worked for nearly a decade to create tools that connect people with resources for community and economic development, including bizpathways.org and the Minnesota Entrepreneurial Gateway. We’ve tried to find them good homes here in Minnesota, but to no avail. Those tools will be on hiatus while we gather fresh insights and ideas. Their time will come again.

Jane Leonard, MRP’s president, who has been on leave to run the Minnesota Sesquicentennial Commission until January 2009, will continue to write for the blog and network for MRP. Denise Pfeifer, acting director, will continue helping with ongoing responsibilities until she heads to Kansas this summer. Deb Miller-Slipek will continue to gather all the great tips on funding, training, and resources, for the newsletter and blog. Ann Treacy, our webmaster, will continue to support the blog and other online tools.

Jane will be contributing to the MRP blog as our “foreign correspondent” writing dispatches from Australia, between February and May 2009, where she will be on a study sabbatical. The last time Jane was in Australia was in the late 1990s when she was representing the State of Minnesota as a partner in the United Nations Trade Point project, an international, secure electronic commerce gateway.

In 2009, she will be researching Australian community technology applications, and entrepreneurial and enterprise development. She will continue work on the community economic reinvention framework that she and others at MRP started (the initial work was funded by a W.K.Kellogg Foundation grant four years ago). The framework idea is a major reason why Jane is heading to Australia, to see how colleagues there are organizing community-based environments that support entrepreneurship and enterprise development — comprehensively tied together on regional, state and national levels.

Jane has placements organized in community and regional settings that include Sydney and Mildura, New South Wales, and in Melbourne and Hamilton, Victoria, and finally in the area around Perth in the state of Western Australia. “I’m grateful to colleagues at the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship in Lincoln, Nebraska, and at the Rural Policy Research Institute at the University of Missouri-Columbia, for their help in sharing names and projects in Australia with me. I hope I can repay that networking generosity with a great report on what’s working and what’s not in Australia, a country that is much less densely settled than the U.S. but faces the same challenges of rural-urban dichotomies and has a healthy respect for the investments needed, in social and economic infrastructures, to fuel creativity and innovation across the board.”

Jane will be reachable by email while she is in Australia, Feb-May 2009, at jleonard@minnesotaruralpartners.org  or minntwin@comcast.net. (more…)

Minnesota Rural Partners has compiled a list of resources (2006 MN Resource Directory) in Minnesota that support and/or promote entrepreneurs and small businesses. The Directory was originally distributed at the 2006 Symposium on Small Towns and Rural Summit.

 In 2000, the Minnesota Rural Entrepreneurship Academy examined Minnesota’s strategies in this arena to see if the state has the culture that supports a “cycle of entrepreneurship.” Their conclusions (2000 Minnesota Rural Entrepreneurship Academy Resport) pointed towards a need to better focus resources around four critical areas: capital, technical assistance, physical infrastructure, and culture and education. In particular there was a need to help people define the ladder of stages for entrepreneurs and small businesses and target help accordingly.

Minnesota Rural Partners created a guidebook of assessment tools, worksheets, and templates to help you implement a community-wide economic development plan. (The Playbook is available for purchase.)

 In 2006, several legislators authored a bill that would have created the Minnesota Office of Entrepreneurship, to coordinate and support entrepreneurship development activities across the state. The bill (H.F. 3677) failed to pass but many people wanted to help get it passed next session, as a non-partisan effort that makes good sense for Minnesota’s economic development strategy, for rural and urban Minnesota alike.

Minnesota Rural Partners sponsored an ANALYSES on the PROPOSED LEGISLATION for the MINNESOTA COUNCIL ON ENTREPRENEURSHIP (finalfeasibilitygustavus) in reaction to that legislation.

 This is the speech (jleonardkeynotesummit06) was given by Jane Leonard, Minnesota Rural Partners at the Symposium-Summit in 2006 at the University of Minnesota-Morris.

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