Rural & Regional Development

Emke, Ivan and Best, Anita (2014) Rural & Regional Development. In: NL Forum 2014 , November 4 & 5 2014, St. John's NL.

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Given its ambitious mandate, the work of the Harris Centre necessarily straddles the entire range of challenges and issues that face the province. It would be monumental to analyze, in a reasonable manner, all of the ways in which the Harris Centre has contributed to public policy discourse and community development efforts in the province. Thus, in an effort to provide more focused discussion, the work of the Harris Centre was divided into five broad themes, one of which was regional and rural development. This is still a very large terrain, and it has been one of the central topics of many of the Harris Centre activities, presentations and publications. The purpose of this report was to discuss the ways that the Harris Centre’s work connected to the context and the challenges of regional and rural development in the province over the past 10 years. In so doing, the discussion moves us toward a set of suggestions regarding how the future work of the Harris Centre in regional and rural development can be informed by the lessons of the past, and embrace the potential of new strategies and topics. Without a doubt, regional and rural development has been an enduring thread of discussion and debate throughout this province, in coffee shops, on wharves, and during numerous consultations and public events. As a thinly-populated province, with all of the issues that come with having an immense geography and an industrial development tradition of reliance on large and centralized corporations, there is good reason for this focus of conversation. When the Harris Centre emerged, it was logical that one of the primary focus areas would be regional and rural development. The Regional Workshops, held quarterly in different regions of the province, provided an opportunity for select individuals in the regions to put specific issues on the agenda. The Synergy Sessions and Memorial Presents events offered the opportunity for Memorial academics, as well as invited professionals and researchers from outside the university (and the province) to discuss research that related to rural and regional issues. This all built on the legacy of Leslie Harris (a former President of Memorial, after whom the Harris Centre was named shortly after its origin), a scholar who championed theimportance of the University being fully engaged in the communities of this province; a man who modeled the part of the Memorial Charter which instructs the university to be “of service” to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. In terms of the structure of this paper, we will begin by setting out the terrain of regional and rural, as we see it. In order to discuss the ways in which the Harris Centre has intersected with the issues of regional and rural development, it is only fair to outline what we take to be some of the central issues at play in rural Newfoundland and Labrador. Of course, this list cannot be exhaustive, and could raise the hackles and stoke the ire of readers at the outset, which isn’t a bad thing. If we can anger you early on, there is a good chance you’ll stay for the duration, if only to find more grist for your letters to the editor, or your MHA, or your Facebook friends. On top of this, it will provide context to help make sense of our comments when we outline the strengths and gaps in the Harris Centre’s work of the past. But let us be very clear at the outset. We are looking forward to the Harris Centre’s next decade. We have both been actively involved in Harris Centre events in the past, and expect that to continue in the future. For the Centre has achieved much. Thus, any suggestions or gift discernment or discussion of gaps that follow must be read as constructive. If we did not believe in the potential of the Harris Centre, we would not have taken the time to do this review. After all, reading over numerous reports and coalescing it into a paper is not among the “Top 10 ways to spend a summer vacation...” So be reassured that we are offering this in the spirit of open and frank discussion – a spirit that has been heartily encouraged by the Harris Centre in its work. Thus, we begin with our (incomplete) list of some of the major regional and rural development issues in Newfoundland and Labrador. This will be followed by observations of the ways these issues (among others) have been handled by the Harris Centre over the past decade. We will also identify any gaps in the Harris Centre’s coverage of these issues, and, finally, we will pull together some suggestions for the Centre’s future work. In the course of these discussions, we will argue for the necessity to also understand the social context of university-community relations in Newfoundland and Labrador. All of this is, naturally, a somewhat subjective reading of the impressive set of materials from the Harris Centre. But this is not a shortcoming of such an analysis; rather, it is a strength. There are different ways of knowing. Some could rely on the compilation of charts of numbers related to which themes were covered and how often. We did some of that, but the lack of consistent language and categorization made such an enterprise of limited use. (Though, admittedly, it would have looked very nice on a Powerpoint graph!) Instead, we’ve relied upon reading the material in light of our own experiences working and living in this province

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Item ID: 8207
Department(s): Grenfell Campus > School of Arts and Social Science > Social/Cultural Studies
Divisions > The Harris Centre
Date: 4 November 2014
Date Type: Publication
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