Two hundred Kansans attended the Big Rural Brainstorm at the Meridian Center in Newton on February 3-4. With an atmosphere of hope, energy and opportunity, the goal was to think outside the box and come up with ideas that are achievable at the grassroots level for rural communities.
Those in attendance included a range of people from small towns like Woodbine, Olsburg, Tribune and Goessel to larger cities like Chanute, Garnett, Concordia and Oakley to representatives from small business development, state agencies, housing programs, and the Board of Education.
During introductions, a dozen people came forward to say why they loved their community. They were followed by forty PowerUps (21-39 year olds who are rural by choice) who introduced themselves briefly.
Facilitated by Marci Penner, director of the Kansas Sampler Foundation based out of Inman, the format consisted of diverse breakout sessions, StandUp reviews, appointments, and group discussions. There were no keynote speakers. The group also experimented with a We Kan Bank, an inventory of community needs and those who could offer service.
On Saturday morning, forty people came forward to declare action steps they would take when they got home. A sampling of those actions include starting a community garden and community foundation, developing a rural entertainment network and internship programs for businesses, and doing an inventory of PowerUps.
Penner said, "With these 200 committed Kansans offering support and ideas to each other, it is clear that rural Kansas took a positive step forward with this event. By the end, there was no doubt that we are all together in this challenging yet exciting work of sustaining communities."
Those who would like to be on an e-blast list to help sustain rural communities should contact the Kansas Sampler Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org.