The Women’s Institutes of Ontario very recently launched a project to develop a “Rural Voices Network” (RVN) and whist it is early days yet it gives me some extra hope that our rural voices will become more audible in Queens Park and Ottowa. I have written extensively about rural issues, government reports about such issues and even tried, unsuccessfully, to better define exactly what 'rural' encompasses , this initiative then is one which I fully support. The WI has long been active in rural communities, far more I suspect than in urban areas, and thus may well already have more insight than most into the challenges that rural communities face.
Activities within this initiative include creating a Project Advisory Committee, a literature review, ‘Let Your Voice Be Heard’ public forums, online forums, public survey and establishing collaborative networks. The RVN project is sponsored by a $140,200 grant from The Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF). The purpose of the RVN Project is to examine what enables rural citizens to participate in the common life of their community, and to identify barriers to rural civic engagement. The Rural Voices Network is driven by the mandate to give rural citizens a space to have their voices heard, and to collaborate with charitable organizations and leaders in all levels of governance.
They will be holding several Public Forums commencing Nov 10th 2011 in 7 communities to understand why and how people participate in the common life of their communities. All community members are welcome to participate in the forums. The aim of the public forums is to have rural citizens ‘voice’ their opinions, life experiences and ideas to be key influences for a Province-wide survey relating to rural civic engagement.
They also have an Online Forum where citizens can initiate discussion and forward ideas or respond to other interested rural residents without the need to participate in a face to face Public Forum. I for one expect to be quite active in said space over the next few months as this idea progresses.