Rural community vitality depends on communities maintaining adequate infrastructure, having access to services, enhancing business and economic opportunities and establishing policy settings to foster outcomes. Vitality also relies on communities “rethinking” assets, developing networks, building local cooperation and acting on local passion and motivation. In addressing both these aspects, current approaches to rural and regional development represent a partial approach. Efforts largely focus on service provision, discrete initiatives, information dissemination and provision of resources to meet perceived needs. While these are crucial elements of rural development, a more comprehensive approach is needed. A more comprehensive agenda involves engagement that helps people act on existing motivation, includes greater recognition of frustration and anger in regional areas, and helps people gain better access to information and services. A broader approach would also reexamine agency assumptions, better foster community confidence, provide more coordinated frameworks for discrete initiatives, and establish community relationships beyond those of service delivery. In implementing this expanded approach community developers face five challenges – a greater recognition of community values, new forms of participation, coping with perceptions, fostering community confidence and changes to the role of government. Addressing these challenges raises fundamental dilemmas such as focused action vs. community unity, participative democracy vs. representative democracy, and volunteerism vs. professionalism.


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