Posted on October 3, 2014 by Tia Lalani

A new international partnership means to strengthen the voices of rural and northern communities.

Lars_Hallstrom_webBrandon University (BU) is leading a new $5.2 million international partnership, including $2.5 million in federal grants, to strengthen the voices of rural and northern communities. Lars Hallström, Director for the Alberta Centre for Sustainable Rural Communities, is a co-applicant on the project.

The Rural Policy Learning Commons (RPLC) will network scholars, politicians and citizens in a variety of ways including conferences, webinars and publications, to ensure that policy-makers are cognizant of the characteristics, unique benefits and challenges associated with rural and northern places.

“Rural regions and urban centres remain connected through their labour needs, food production, resource development, and energy demands,” says Dr. Bill Ashton, Director of BU’s Rural Development Institute (RDI) and project manager. “The RPLC will engage urban-based policy decision-makers with rural-focussed challenges, opportunities, and aspirations.”

The RPLC is a seven year initiative with funding from more than 30 partners, including a Partnership Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). An existing global network of 90 institutional and individual participants will grow significantly as the partnership expands to include more countries, regions, and communities.

The Honourable Ed Holder, Minister of State (Science and Technology), in announcing the Partnership Grant today at Brandon University, said, “Our Government is focused on creating jobs, prosperity and improving the quality of life of Canadians. We will continue to encourage industry-academic partnerships like the one at Brandon University in order to undertake research into public policy to better reflect the realities of rural Canadians in Manitoba and across the country.”

”I am particularly excited about this initiative because it also allows us to explore innovations in international collaboration,” says Dr. William Reimer, BU adjunct professor and project director; a researcher who has been exploring exclusion and inclusion in rural areas, the informal economy, and relations between rural and urban people and institutions for the past four decades. “Since it is almost impossible to get all our participants in the same place at the same time, we are forced to find ways to collaborate across vast differences and multiple time zones.

“This extraordinary partnership will benefit rural and northern communities, in Canada and around the world,” says BU President and Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Gervan Fearon, who previously worked in the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. “The RPLC represents an innovative collaboration in support of policy development, and the growth and prosperity of all communities. Brandon University is pleased to join with our many partners in this initiative.”

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