In the years past, Radically Rural conferences served as a physical gathering place for rural leaders to make connections necessary to improve their rural communities.
This year’s edition of Radically Rural Summit, Radically Rural: Remote, will be held online on September 24th for a national audience. The event has room for 600 participants, with 60 speakers encompassing 20 sessions. The event will be held online using webinar software with the opportunity for attendees from across the country to watch and join through a chat function.
But the beginnings were much humbler.
A few years ago, the Hannah Grimes Center for Entrepreneurship and the Keene Sentinel started collaborating in Keene, New Hampshire, to showcase new, positive ideas arising from their communities in rural New Hampshire.
“It began with the ‘Connect Event’ here at Hannah Grimes,” said Mary Ann Kristiansen, co-founder of Radically Rural and executive director of the Hannah Grimes Center for Entrepreneurship. “The Keene Sentinel attended and got interested in collaborating, so we decided to build the event around ideas: Installations of Ideas.”
Kristiansen said participants would make installations, “Kind of at the center of arts and sharing information. We worked with a creative company to help make more creative installations, sort of like a gallery of ideas. It was all about networking, connecting, local food, and these ideas. It really worked, and so we launched Radically Rural as a two-day Summit.”
The event is about positive ideas, according to Kristiansen. “We all know about the problems facing rural America, but this is about the positive things happening all over rural America, the positive people working to improve their rural communities.”
Kristiansen said that from the beginning the wanted to create an event that’s relevant for all rural parts of the country. “In our first year we had people fly from 21 states, last year there were in-person attendees from 26 states,” she said.
“We’re hoping that remote is actually an opportunity to boost that national recognition, and to demonstrate the important rural work being done in any part of the nation.”
Radically Rural Remote will feature six programming tracks focusing on key sectors of importance to rural America: main streets, entrepreneurship, community journalism, arts and culture, land and communities, and clean energy.
“Our focus is really broad-based, and it’s really meant for all sorts of people,” Kristiansen said. “We really hope that people will ‘jump the tracks.’ So that could mean that the journalists attending are interested in the entrepreneurs, that the entrepreneurship track is interested in what’s happening on Main Street, that Main Street is paying attention to what’s happening in Clean Energy.”
Kristiansen said that Radically Rural is unique because it focuses on the convergence of the sectors, the linkages between journalism and the arts, and entrepreneurship. “I think it’s the full picture, how the whole program works together that showcases how powerful the event is,” she said.
“In addition to the ideas presented, we’re interested in what new ideas pop from the interactions and discussions out of a diverse mix like that.”