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CM Call on Rural Brain Drain, Oct. 9th

CM_logo-200pxWe are pleased to invite NCDD members to join our partners at CommunityMatters for the next of their monthly capacity-building calls series. This month’s call is titled “Rewriting the Rural Narrative”, and it will be taking place next Thursday, October 9th from 4-5pm Eastern Time. 

This month’s call will feature the insights of Ben Winchester, research fellow, University of Minnesota Extension. CM describes the upcoming call like this:

Brain drain – the loss of 18-29 year olds – dominates the conversation about rural population change. Yet at the same time, a lesser known migration is occurring. A majority of rural counties are, in fact, experiencing “brain gains” as newcomers age 30-49 move in.

Most communities aren’t tuned in to positive migration and miss out on the opportunities that come with newcomers. Ben Winchester, Research Fellow for the University of Minnesota Extension, Center for Community Vitality, has studied the trend and has great ideas for making the most of positive migration patterns.

Join our next CommunityMatters® and Citizen’s Institute on Rural Design™ webinar to hear Ben’s research on rural migration trends and the impacts they have on social and economic opportunity. Learn how communities are responding to these trends and what can be done in your town.

Make sure to register for the call today!

As always, we encourage you to check out the CommunityMatters blog to read Caitlyn Horose’s reflections on brain drain as a way to prime your mental pump before the call. You can read the blog post below or find the original by clicking here.

Brain Drain or Brain Gain? A New Narrative for Rural America

It seems the rural story has already been told. Small towns keep getting smaller. Schools and businesses are closing their doors. Young people are packing their bags for the city.

The loss of youth following graduation, the “brain drain,” dominates how we talk about rural population change. Hollowing Out the Middle describes the emptying of small towns. Fear feeds a narrative about rural areas “dying” or becoming “ghost towns.”

It is true that most counties – rural and urban alike – lose young people following high school graduation. Yet at the same time, a less recognized migration is occurring, and has been since the 1970s. Many rural counties are experiencing “brain gains” as newcomers age 30-49 move in. This migration is keeping small towns alive and contributing to a new narrative about rural places.

What is influencing brain gain? Research on newcomers points to quality of life as a driving force. Young professionals are looking for simpler schedules, better schools, affordable housing and recreational opportunities for themselves and their families. And, they are escaping the crime, congestion and fast pace of city life.

Surprisingly, jobs aren’t a chief motive. The quality of life factors appear to trump economic factors. However, telecommuting opportunities and the prevalence of rural broadband allows people to move into rural communities and stay employed through distant employers, even when local jobs aren’t plentiful. These trends have helped to diversify the local economic base across rural America.

Newcomers may be getting a better quality of life in small towns, but what do they bring in return? Rural communities can benefit from the unique skills and ideas of new residents. Newbies contribute to civic life – they volunteer, hold leadership positions and donate to charitable organizations. They spend money and start new businesses, aiding local economic development.

Most communities do little to recognize migration patterns or capitalize on them. What can your community do to build on this positive trend?

Join Ben Winchester, research fellow for the University of Minnesota Extension, Center for Community Vitality, for an hour-long CommunityMatters® and Citizen’s Institute on Rural Design™ webinar on rural migration trends and the impacts they have on social and economic opportunity. Learn how communities are responding to these trends and what can be done in your town. Register now.

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Roshan Bliss
An inclusiveness trainer and group process facilitator, Roshan Bliss serves as NCDD's Youth Engagement Coordinator and Blog Curator. Combining his belief that decisions are better when everyone is involved with his passion for empowering young people, his work focuses on increasing the involvement of youth and students in public conversations.

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