In July 2018 the Prince’s Countryside Fund published it’s “Recharging Rural – Creating sustainable communities to 2030 and beyond” report – and it’s appendices – by Professor Sarah Skerratt, Director of Policy Engagement, Scotland’s Rural College.
The report is based on 3098 responses from across the UK to an online survey undertaken March/April 2018. It also used stakeholder and policy workshops and telephone interviews with charities. Respondents cited 550+ examples of community projects. The report focuses on remote rural communities.
I’ve taken the reports finding and recommendations and adapted them into nine points for churches or diocese to consider in their work with rural communities.
Focus on the issues rural communities are concerned about
1) Three key barriers rural areas face are: a) poor broadband and mobile phone coverage; b) poor road and transport networks; c) a poor variety of employment opportunities with little or no scope for progression – all of which means young people are leaving rural areas.
2) A lack of affordable housing and transport combined with service centralisation contribute to social isolation and exclusion and a downward spiral in health and well-being as communities breakdown – these issues affect both younger and older people linked to poverty which is often hidden.
3) A lack of joined up rural policy because rural is largely “invisible” or “off the radar” and because people value landscapes and places, not communities and their skills and see remote rural living as a choice.
How the church can help tackle these issues
4) Work with other stakeholders and partners to develop indicators of health for your community.
5) Use your building to create a community multi-use hub and purposefully use local businesses. (Ideas included childcare, cinema club, affordable rooms for businesses to hire, community run shops & post offices.
6) Genuinely involving young people in decision- making.
How a Diocese can help tackle these issues
7) Use your networks to help rural communities share learning with each other and ID rural champions to build a rural talent pool.
8) Review your strategy and plans to see if they cover the issues in 1) to 6) above.
9) Introduce rural proofing to identify how your decisions affect those in rural communities.
Other useful insights
The 550+ rural community projects the report mentioned are summarised in this table from the report