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The Rural Learning Network of Central and Western New York, 2007-2009

The rural learning network and semi-annual conference series focused on community and economic development issues vital to rural central and western New York. The focus was the region comprised of Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Chemung, Genesee, Livingston, Niagara, Ontario, Orleans, Schuyler, Steuben, Wayne, Wyoming and Yates Counties.
Public officials, non-profit agency personnel, business leaders/other decision makers and citizens from the region were invited to join the learning network.

The broad goals of this program were to:

  • Enhance the quality of public and private decision making with evidence-based information and technical assistance
  • Enhance community development, economic opportunity and the quality of life of citizens of rural central and western New York
  • Enhance inter-local cooperation among rural communities in the region

Summary of the six conferences

Engaging Partnerships and Leveraging Opportunities
September 30, 2009, Watkins Glen, NY

This conference focused on community leadership, consensus building, social networking and other skills that enable Upstate New York communities to survive and thrive during difficult economic times. The conference highlighted opportunities for community actors to work together in a spirit of cooperation and strong leadership to promote healthy communities and regional collaborations. The conference included sessions on developing leadership skills and consensus building in a political environment.

Promoting Regional Assets for Community and Economic Development
May 13, 2009, Corning, New York     

Regional assets are key building blocks in sustainable revitalization efforts.  Assets include the skills of the workforce; the vitality of community organizations; the resources of public, private and non-profit institutions; and the physical and economic resources of local places. The numerous lenses through which we can view regional assets include, but are not limited to, tourism, education, entrepreneurship, arts and culture, natural resources, agriculture and history. The conference highlighted the regional assets of western/central New York for community and economic development; articulate the comparative advantages of the region; and encouraged communities to build unique niches in a regional context.

Achieving Greener Communities through Civic, Private and Government Sector Innovation
October 28, 2008, Mt. Morris, New York

A growing movement is underway to share information, learn from one another and revamp federal, state and local policies to promote greener communities.  The conference examined innovative programs, policies and strategies that promote sustainable communities through such avenues as energy saving development/land use practices; efficient use of conventional and alternative energy sources in housing and transportation; and assessments by civic organizations, municipalities and the private sector of their energy use and savings’ potentials.

Brain Drain/Brain Gain in Rural Central and Western New York
May 6, 2008, Mayville, New York

The conference examined brain drain/brain gain issues from a community and economic development perspective.  Workshops were structured to promote co-learning about research, educational programs, and government/private sector initiatives designed to address problems and take advantage of opportunities to produce a net brain gain in rural central and western New York.

The Role of Local / Regional Foods in Community and Economic Development
November 1, 2007, Newark, New York

The conference examined local / regional foods from a community and economic development perspective.  Discussions engaged participants in research and education about policies that support and enhance consumer and institutional connections with local foods.

Forum on Shared Municipal Services
May 31, 2007, Batavia, New York

The conference provided an educational approach to shared municipal services – highlighting advantages, disadvantages and potential political pitfalls in the process of developing shared services. Shared municipal services are intended to save costs and improve quality in the delivery of services.