April 28, 2016

Let's Collaborate Towards the Future of Rural Places

Savannah Barrett

The Citizens' Institute on Rural Design™ (CIRD) underscores the importance of locally-driven solutions to rural America’s challenges as critical to the long-term vitality of these communities. Similarly, the Next Generation initiative recognizes that the future of rural regions is dependent upon rural communities with sufficient quality of life amenities to attract and retain future generations of rural citizens. Last month, Art of the Rural and the Rural Policy Research Institute launched the Next Generation digital Learning Commons, designed to inspire deeper collaboration and learning exchange around the nation. The site addresses two of the major challenges facing rural practitioners – geographic distance and access to information and networks – and establishes a digital intermediary through which deeper collaboration can develop within and beyond Next Generation. In partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, the University of Iowa, and Arts and Ideas, we’re combining social giving, civic engagement, and dynamic storytelling into a single platform.

The Learning Commons is one of three major components of the “Next Generation: The Future of Arts & Culture Placemaking in Rural America” initiative. Next Generation engages artists, organizations, and communities across the public, philanthropic and private sector to advance collaboration, share innovative strategies and research, and elevate emerging leaders in the rural creative placemaking field.

For the many communities that have engaged with CIRD as applicants and as recipients of CIRD support, we invite you to engage with Next Generation through our digital resources and series of convenings. Together, we can frame a national dialogue regarding the importance of rural arts and culture to the American experience, and the importance of the creative economy to the economic and community development of rural communities and regions.  

To begin our work together, let’s explore aggregates Next Generation’s research initiatives, representing the experiences of the Regional Networks and National Advisors:

  • Here, you can review our Theory of Change and respond with your own ideas on how we can best achieve our mission to facilitate transformational change in public, private, and philanthropic commitments to rural America.
  • We’re deeply interested in what rural creative placemaking can become, so we’ve developed a series of questions to help practitioners consider for the potential for creative placemaking in their rural context.
  • As the Next Generation initiative continues, we’ll share our series of Regional Network case studies, policy briefs, and a “Creative Placemaking in Rural America” publication. is an inclusive resource for features, commentary, and best practices from across the rural arts and culture field. The Learning Resources invite you to:

  • Explore our Framing Sources: essays, articles, and definitions are important guideposts to the development of Next Generation.
  • Visualize the historical context of rural creative placemaking and add your own perspectives to the story on the Rural Roots Timeline.
  • Study the Next Generation Network Library, which includes a diverse range of perspectives on rural creative placemaking theory and practice from our advisors, partners, working groups, and extended network.
  • Build relationships across divides by getting to know Next Generation network members through member profile interviews, videos, and podcasts.

Most importantly, the Learning Commons is a request for participation, inviting you to collaborate towards the future of rural places. We welcome folks from across the country to join the conversation, and collaborate in our Regional and National Networks:

Please don’t hesitate to drop us a note. We would be grateful to learn from your work, your perspective, and your community. To learn more, visit

Also be sure to check out complementary CIRD resources that highlight rural creative placemaking: