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Community Foundation workshop features rural sociologist Ben Winchester

The Community Foundation of Grant County is hosting a half-day interactive workshop where you can learn about “Rewriting the Rural Narrative” and “Moving In, Moving Out, and Moving Over”, according to a news release.

The events, which will be held at Ivy Tech Community College on Feb. 11 from 11:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. will bring together community, business, and academic leaders to learn about successful economic, government, and arts and culture strategies that apply specifically to our rural communities.

The keynote speaker will be Ben Winchester, a rural sociologist with the University of Minnesota Extension who has worked in and for small towns across the Midwest since 1997.

In addition to Ben’s presentation and workshop, participants will enjoy lunch, and a short “ignite” session designed to inspire a dialogue about the vitality of rural communities.

This event is open to the public, but seating is limited—please share with colleagues, friends, government officials, business professionals, and community leaders in Grant County.

Description of Presentations:

Rewriting the Rural Narrative

It seems the rural story has already been told. Small towns keep getting smaller. Churches, schools, clinics, businesses, and now post offices, have closed their doors as the lucky few migrate out to the big cities. This deficit framework dominates how we discuss and envision our rural communities. However, the story of rural America since 1970 is rich and diverse, with positive trends occurring under the radar. Learn how positive changes around migration, community involvement, economic development, and regional living have been occurring across the rural landscape that requires us to rewrite the narrative of rural community change.

Moving In, Moving Out, and Moving Over

There’s a wave of change coming to rural America – people are moving in, moving out, and moving over resulting in major demographic shifts that will forever change the face of rural communities and have far-reaching consequences. During the next 20 years we are poised to welcome in a whole new generation of residents as nearly three-quarters of our owner-occupied housing will turn over as seniors and baby boomers move out. A broad examination of the trends related to these moves – such as workforce housing, a tight labor market, and changing residential preferences – will be discussed. At the end of this event you can’t say you don’t see this coming!

Biography of presenter Ben Winchester

Ben Winchester, a rural sociologist with the University of Minnesota Extension, has worked in and for small towns across the Midwest since 1997. As Research Fellow for the Center for Community Vitality, Ben manages evaluation studies that monitor the effectiveness and outcomes of leadership, civic engagement, and community economics programs.

Ben also conducts research on topics relevant to community vitality. Currently, he is documenting a rural “brain gain”—the trend of 30-49 year-olds moving to rural areas—to identify the social and economic opportunities of this migration. He is also analyzing rural community leadership, especially as it affects community-wide requirements to support the public sector to “keep the town running.”

Winchester received his B.A. in Mathematics and Statistics from the University of Minnesota, Morris (1995) and M.S. in Rural Sociology from the University of Missouri, Columbia (2001). He was a founding employee at the Center for Small Towns, an outreach and engagement program at the University of Minnesota, Morris and specializes in community development, demographic analysis, data visualization, and moving communities away from anecdata.

The event is free, but RSVP is required. To register click here.

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