What if… (identity)

  • What if we saw as central to our work to improve rural communities a necessity to tackle the suicidal despair that wracks communities struggling with the opioid epidemic and aggressively worked to dismantle the silos between health, individual social services, and economic development so that efforts centered on a systematic strategy of culture change, leadership development, and alternative job creation that’s outcome is building a culture that has a desire to live.
  • What if we leveraged the fluidity of identity of social media with the assets of rural diaspora?
  • What if rural America becomes our country’s ambassador to promote global citizenship and membership. We already work, celebrate, and hope beyond borders. We have the experience. Let’s encourage our country to see each other as citizens and members of one planet. With this perspective, let’s ask: What values do we uphold? How do we practice those values? Let’s write our answers and print them on stickers that can be distributed in our communities, and let’s write them into ordinances that our cities/towns can adopt.
  • What if we could prove that listening and telling stories of place, pain, joy, dreams, and history is a necessary precondition of economic development?
  • What if we collectively change the national conversation from the persistently stubborn rural vs urban debate or talk of the rural/urban divide and started with a conversation about the connections that exist between urban and rural, the way we are mutually dependent on each other? How do we articulate a strong rural proposition? How do we help urban leadership know us better and vice versa? Break down walls and barriers
  • What if we focused on expanding our own identities and the identities of others, and through this, we change the social paradigm to accept and value identities that are complex, messy and hard to stereotype and real. 
  • What if we own our communities in a new way? If a new connection to place and people was developed? We rural Americans started with new thinking approaches and curricula – New Schools of Thought – that creates new ground for how we understand “community.” Using raw ingredients of geography, history, culture, people and creativity, we would practice imagining and envisioning without restraint, playfully and with joy. The psychological burden of less than shame would be replaced with a new understanding of place and people and possibility and relationship between these three elements. People and place would lead change.