Reimagining Rural with colorful thought bubble filled with rural related icon images

Fall 2021 Virtual Gathering Planned

We are moving forward on plans for another round of Reimagining Rural Virtual – Post Covid edition!  We have selected the following dates and are seeking speakers for sessions.

Applications will be sent out in early summer 2021.


Summary of Fall 2020 Virtual Gathering

In an effort to advance the conversation about a vibrant future for rural Montana, MSU Extension partnered with Montana Community Foundation, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and the Burton K. Wheeler Center to create the Reimagining Rural Virtual Gathering Program.

 Program Recordings

Colorful word cloud titled "What drew newcomers to your community"

Program Description

Participating communities gathered small groups together to hear speakers talk about key issues for rural communities.  Following the speaker, participants took part in a discussion with their local community members, led by a trained facilitator.  Communities were asked to work on one simple strategy they can start on immediately.


Participating Communities

Communities completed a very brief application process demonstrating that they have considered including a broad spectrum of community groups in promoting and participating in the program.  We had 24 communities in the Fall 2020 program including the following:

Joliet, Powder River County, Seeley Lake, Livingston, Forsyth, Shelby, Ekalaka, Roundup, Harlowton, Malta, Mineral County, Columbus, Deer Lodge, Townsend, Conrad, Glendive, Baker, Laurel, Lewistown, Thompson Falls, Ft. Belknap, Poplar, Havre, Anaconda and Chinook

Participation dropped off in some communities due to COVID-19 but it increased in others. 


Fall 2019 In-Person Event Summary

The Reimagining Rural Planning team hosted an in-person event in Harlowton attended by over 100 people in September 2019 to learn about and discuss rural issues with other statewide counterparts.  The goal was to raise awareness about rural and build relationships among organizations that have a stake in the success of rural communities. 

The Reimagining Rural event had a significant positive impact on the attendees and the audience as indicated by the positive evaluations and the interest in sharing the message of the keynote speaker, Ben Winchester, from the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Community Vitality.  Winchester’s “Brain Gain” and positive message about rural life was so relevant that three different organizations invited him to give the keynote address at three separate events in Montana during the spring of 2020.


Bringing Reimagining Rural to Rural

Following the success of the in-person event, the Reimagining Rural planning committee was awarded an outreach grant by Montana State University to recreate the in-person event remotely in 20 rural communities across Montana.  The goal of the virtual event was to bring the important message shared by Winchester directly to groups in rural communities so they can learn new ideas and gain inspiration to take positive action in their communities.  The resulting program was initially planned for the spring of 2020 but was rescheduled for Fall 2020.


Rescheduled and Expanded Thanks to Additional Partners

Thanks to a partnership with The Burton K. Wheeler Center  and additional support from the Montana Community Foundation, we were able to increase the number of communities participating in the fall 2020 program and we were able to expand the program to three days.