My reflections on the conference
The Georgetown Conference was very inspiring. While some of the presentations seemed like they involved factors not every community had access to (i.e. millionaires), the common themes, passion, and commitment showed that we are all in this together. The appreciative lens and focus on success was a pleasant change from the negative atmosphere that rural community ‘development’ conversations are often accompanied by. Something that I took away from the conference was the idea that everyone, even government, has a part to play; we cannot wait for someone else to take up the charge. The presentations that were most inspiring to me were Mayor Pam Mood and Doug Griffiths.
The real strength of the conference, however, was the amazing people. The connections I made at Georgetown, especially the other youth, will carry on far into the future. As someone who is at the beginning of a career, these connections will be extremely influential as I explore the opportunities and challenges of rural communities. One thing I would have appreciated is more formal chances for conversation and interaction between delegates. I think the Saturday morning sessions could have been replaced with conversation/action groups around common themes that had been identified over the first two days of the conference. A chance for people to record their commitments (even just a large chart paper and markers) at the conference would have also been a positive addition.
I am extremely happy that conversations are continuing after Georgetown. A lot of great things were explored, but the rural landscape is too rich to unpack in three days. One thing that I hope surfaces in the follow up is a discussion of the relationship of rural community resiliency and the natural environment. Issues of food security, flooding, climate change, coastal erosion, and tourism are vital to the future of many rural communities and therefore should not be ignored.
As a first year masters student, I am committed to focusing my research on real challenges and opportunities in rural communities, with the aim to influence policy, community organizations, individuals, and my own future actions. I will continue to connect with the other Georgetown delegates to keep the momentum behind this regional movement. I will continue to take heart in and be inspired to take action by what our rural communities have to offer. I will not allow the negative discourse of rural decline to go unchallenged in my everyday interactions.