RDI’s rural research is highly relevant to rural policy-makers and to the people who live and work in rural and northern areas. Ideas for the research activities undertaken by RDI research and project teams are developed through contact with rural and northern groups, towns, rural municipalities, villages, governments, international researchers and observers of rural situations.
Faculty members from Brandon University’s Department of Rural Development join with colleagues from other Brandon University academic departments and from universities across Canada to undertake rural research and policy development. RDI has linkages with a number of major research institutions and research networks.
RDI is the first contact for many community organizations interested in rural issues. The Institute works closely with rural communities, policy makers and practitioners to build strong links with researchers across Canada. RDI strongly supports collaborative research projects and is involved in joint projects with a number of organizations and individuals, both inside and outside of the university. RDI is particularly interested in mentoring new researchers beginning their careers.
Resource to Researchers
RDI assists researchers internal to Brandon University as well as external researchers from other organizations with proposal development, establishment of project teams, information management, as well as publication and dissemination of research findings.
RDI’s close affiliation with Brandon University’s Department of Rural Development and other university departments provides a unique inter-disciplinary learning and working environment for students across a number of disciplines. RDI’s Student Internship Program provides opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students to “learn by doing” applied research, as well as being an employment opportunity while working on various RDI projects.
Five Strategic Research Directions
To respond to rural trends, challenges, and opportunities, the needs of various stakeholders, and the necessity to sustain a viable organization, RDI is committed to pursuing five specific research themes: rural immigration, regional economic development, governance and capacity building, and rural infrastructure and services, and rural innovation. These directions build on both past and current research initiatives and, will also incorporate emerging research needs and contribute both directly and indirectly to BU’s strategic plan, academic plan, and research plan.
Currently, most growth in Canada and its rural and agricultural communities is driven largely by immigration and this grows in importance. By 2030, population growth in Canada will be reliant on immigrants and deaths will exceed births.
The success and long term viability of communities depends on the ability of community members to welcome, include and retain immigrants. RDI’s research has significantly contributed to improving our understanding of rural immigration in Manitoba and elsewhere in rural Canada. RDI will continue to focus efforts on this theme, including:
- Researching ways communities can work to welcome and improve retention of newcomers;
- addressing coordination issues associated with expanding essential services of education, health care, recreation, policing, and other professional and personal services to integrate immigrants;
- addressing challenges associated with timely accommodation of growth, expanding housing and municipal services; and,
- researching labour force issues, including training needs and entrepreneurship opportunities for and with immigrants and
RDI research aims to help senior governments and communities develop knowledge, tools, and initiatives necessary to welcome and retain immigrants who are important today and for long term rural viability.
Regional economic development
RDI’s research promotes and enhances the potential for economic development in rural and agricultural areas and the north. Governments, communities, Aboriginal groups and agricultural sectors require evidence-based research, supporting innovations and policy decisions.
Research efforts will strive to:
- inform rural areas and Aboriginal organizations of regional economic development strategies;
- identify partners for the collection and analysis of relevant data and trends;
- identify emerging business trends and opportunities;
- create new knowledge for improving food processing, and agri-businesses initiatives;
- identify infrastructure needs (sewer, water, land development, housing, social capital) to support economic development;
- analysis of labour market needs issues and trends;
- utilize regional approaches to the enhancement of communications, the “life lines” connecting rural areas to the world; and
- Integrate succession planning and asset mapping for resilient
RDI continues to provide expertise in economic development, and based on the projects and products in this area, will also Provide employment and training opportunities for students and researchers.
Governance and capacity buildings
Rural and northern areas struggle to develop and retain expertise in areas essential for local and regional decision-makers regarding planning, development, housing, economic development, agriculture, communications, and a variety of other areas that are needed for communities to be resilient and grow.
RDI research, knowledge dissemination, and learning efforts help organizations build capacity by:
- identifying governance and discerning marketing needs;
- identifying best practices locally and abroad and assessing their transferability to communities, organizations and businesses;
- strengthening governance and building leadership capacity in rural and agricultural regions and communities;
- researching regionalization and amalgamation trends and their implications;
- assisting municipalities with their planning and development requirements and ini tiatives; and
- building expertise in rural planning, development, and governance amongst the student body at Brandon
Growth and development contribute to improving quality of life while depending a great deal on the expertise of rural people. RDI’s research can enhance capacity related to key capital including economic, social, natural and human capital.
Rural infrastructure and services
Rural and northern communities have unique infrastructure and services requirements compared to urban communities or to each other. Maintaining and improving infrastructure and services in rural areas requires planning with many stakeholders and levels of government. RDI’s focus on policy research, needs analysis, and asset management can Provide a big picture view to meet challenges and present opportunities for resilient communities.
Infrastructure and services required by rural and agricultural communities include:
- technology, such as broadband;
- transportation, such as roads;
- health, such as access to health services close to home;
- education, such as school upgrades; and
- recreation, such as community healthy living
RDI understands that research into the issues and benefits of comprehensive infrastructure and services and increased collaboration between stakeholders can contribute to maintaining and improving services. The infrastructure and services research can also provide guidance for communities as they adjust to changes in population, economic activity and climate adaption.
While there is creativity, thinking and science across Canada, the Conference Board of Canada reports an “innovation gap” that is mostly related to commercialization – the transformation of ideas and knowledge into value. RDI’s efforts with rural innovation began with research on food processing and the importance of innovation and growth for this sector worth an estimated $4.7B/yr in sales.