The Center's goals were chosen from input by the Northeast Center's Board of Directors and the Directors of the four Regional Rural Development Centers. These key issue areas represent the concepts driving the mission, vision, and the strategy for rural development research and extension projects. Center funded projects must address at least one of the following five goals.
Goal 1: Improving Economic Competitiveness, Diversity and Adaptability of Small and/or Rural Communities
Major socio-economic shifts such as globalization are affecting the ability of small towns and rural places to maintain productive and sustainable economies. Rural economies are particularly taxed in adapting to these changes because of their small size, geographic isolation, low population density, lack of employment diversification, and traditional dependence on natural-resource based industries and routine manufacturing. Applied research and extension can help public and private decision makers adjust to: a) structural realignments affecting the economic bases of rural economies, b) cyclical trends in the national and global economies, and c) more effective transportation and information linkages which increase rural-urban economic integration. The Centers focus on ameliorating problems and facilitating potential opportunities.
Goal 2: Facilitating Development of Policies that Enhance the Well-being of Rural People and Small Towns
The ability of local officials to provide public policy direction in response to demands imposed by federal and state mandates, and to provide adequate public services depends on the capacity of local resources. Unlike urban society with its vast human resource base of full-time politicians, effective leaders, technical experts, and administrators, the human resource base of rural localities is significantly reduced. Local officials often work full-time jobs in addition to serving as leaders in their communities. If rural localities are to sustain themselves and deal with the issues they face, their leaders must have the support and acquire the technical knowledge of how to develop strategic plans, generate policies, effectively manage and administer their local resources, and capitalize on future opportunities to effectively meet the increased and mandated demands of rural society. Applied research and extension efforts will be linked to support and enhance rural community governance through continuous dialogue in order to be most useful, workable, approachable, and timely.
Goal 3: Increasing Community Capacity to Deal with Change
Agendas of local citizens and decision-makers in small and rural localities are becoming more controversial, complex, and technical. Increasing societal awareness of various issues such as concerns about the environment and natural resources; roads, highways, and infrastructure; environmental impacts; waste management and water quality; fire protection; and law enforcement; health care and recreation; education and social service; liability insurance and risk management; and changing local economies and changing local economic export and tax bases places new burdens on rural leaders and administrators and requires a breadth of decision making on a scale not previously faced in rural localities. Educational programs based upon research, experience, and demonstrated need for local users will be continually upgraded and adapted as appropriate for the clientele.
Goal 4: Increasing Social viability through Enhancing the Self-reliance of Families and Communities
Consistent with the premise that all people regardless of age, race, ethnic origin, or location should have equal access to the services they need for social well-being, our research and education programs respond to the fact that existing services in rural areas are not meeting the special needs of diverse populations such as youth and the elderly, poor and disadvantaged individuals and families, and culturally diverse audiences. Service areas that require special attention include housing, nutrition, health, education, transportation, and communications. To address these differences, our research and education programs focus on assessing the delivery of services to rural communities, families, and individuals; informing policy makers and others of their unique human service needs; and collaborating with other groups and organizations to search for ways to meet these needs. Our research and extension objective is to improve the understanding of issues, choices, and possible policy initiatives of rural service providers, consumers, policy makers, and their communities.
Goal 5: Linking Natural Resource Industries, Including Agriculture, with Community and Environmental Resources
If the quantity and quality of natural resources are to be maintained for current and multi-future uses, rural society must change from a traditional approach of management and use to a more holistic perspective, one that is guided by and in tune with a multi-objective approach. This approach must accommodate the differing objectives of rural resource owners, residents, urban dwellers, and the general public who rely on rural land, air, and water resources for sustenance, recreation, and aesthetics. Rural society must shift toward constructive use of their resources, incorporating current production uses with regeneration and preservation practices for future generations. This change will require an adjustment from single-use practices to more multiple-use strategies. Applied research and extension programs will factor into environmental issues resolution both positive and negative influences such as demographics, economic, social, aesthetic, and political variables as programs are formulated and activated to assist decision makers who grapple with these public issues.