Talking Networks with the Rural Ontario Institute

On Wednesday June 3rd, Elisha, SPARC’s Network Coordinator, attended a Rural Ontario Institute (ROI) focus group held in Peterborough, ON to discuss Networks and the possible formation of a generative network for rural Ontario. The focus sessions were run by Dr. Al Lauzon, a researcher with Guelph University and the chair of the Canadian Rural Revitalization Foundation.

Here are Elisha’s brief notes on the conversation :

What is a Network?

  • no hard and fast definition
  • it comes in many different shapes, forms and sizes
  • it depends on needs and the reason why it exists
  • flexible, nimble, adaptable
  • a Network is only as good as you want it to be

Networks vs. Networking

  • Networks are challenging to maintain as they require an investment of time
  • Networking can be person to person and involve a simple “reach out”

A common Network Challenge:

  • Networks  frequently become distracted from their actual goals/mission due to “chasing the funds”
  • Chasing the funding can also affect your network’s goals and actions (by adapting to fit funding instead of the need)

What do Networks make the space for? How can they help rural needs and inform rural issues?

  • can help to break down different silos as there is a similarities across rural issues
  • can also help to establish place-based policy
  • communities are often too focused on difference : networks can connect communities, encourage visits to other communities
  • networks can help provide input and support to policy-makers (presenting concentrated, focused input)
  • policy makers can’t be the people you want them to be without providing them support and information

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