Selkirk College Joins Effort to Dig Deeper into Opportunities for Rural Policy

Bob Hall
By Bob Hall
October 29th, 2014

Selkirk College has entered a partnership with leading post-secondary institutions from around the world in a project that aims to enhance prosperity in rural regions.

Brandon University was recently awarded a seven-year $2.5 million grant from the federal government’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) to lead the project.

The funds will be used to support rural policy innovations by creating the Rural Policy Learning Commons (RPLC) which will bring together multiple stakeholders around the themes of human capital and migration, natural resources, governance and infrastructure.

Heading up the Selkirk College component of the project is Dr. Terri MacDonald, Regional Innovation Chair at Selkirk’s Columbia Basin Rural Development Institute (RDI).

The RDI is a regional research centre with a mandate to support informed decision-making by Columbia Basin-Boundary communities through the provision of information, applied research and related outreach extension and support.

The RDI is a partnership between Selkirk College and Columbia Basin Trust. MacDonald also serves as a co-investigator and co-lead on the natural resources theme team.

“This project fits in well with our goals,” says MacDonald.

“Having the opportunity to work with all these great thinkers to come up with policy innovations that move rural Canada and our Basin-Boundary communities forward is important work. This project is also important as it will help us to build our internal applied research capacity and elevate Selkirk College on the international stage in the eyes of fellow researchers and federal research funders like SSHRC.”

The aim of the RPLC will be to enhance Canadian prosperity by identifying and analyzing policy options relevant to rural and northern places. These options will be evaluated in the context of national and international policy innovations. The end goal is to build leadership capacity among rural and northern researchers, policy makers and practitioners.

Canadian partners in the RPLC include the likes of Concordia University, Memorial University (Newfoundland), University of Saskatchewan, Simon Fraser University and the University of Northern British Columbia.

“We are very excited to be working with institutions like Selkirk College since they are frontline contributors to education and innovation in rural and remote places.” says Project Director Bill Reimer, who is based out of Brandon University.

“The partnership will facilitate collaboration among a wide range of educators, researchers, policy-makers and community members – just the sort of mix that is necessary to meet the complexity and opportunities of rural places.”

Selkirk College welcomes the opportunity to be involved.

“This is an important project for rural Canada,” says Rhys Andrews, Dean of Applied Research at Selkirk College.

“We are very fortunate to be part of a learning commons that will shed more light on some of the challenges faced outside urban centres and to explore innovations that could benefit the communities we serve.”

MacDonald and fellow researchers at the RDI will work with project researchers in ways that advance the research priorities of the region by sharing international research with regional communities, connecting local students with research and learning opportunities, and engaging communities in discussions on the nature and process of rural-related policy development.

Another important part of the project will be the training of a new generation of analysts and rural policy specialists by developing a new Graduate Certificate in Comparative Rural Policy. The RPLC will also facilitate collaborative research and exchanges among international researchers and academic institutions.

“The end results of this project will be far reaching,” says MacDonald. “Participation in an international project of this magnitude is sure to bring learnings to our region that will benefit future generations.”

Learn more about the project by visiting: rplc-capr.ca.

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