Information, Inspiration, and Ideas for a Sustainable Rural Future

Promoting the Entrepreneurial Community Spirit

NARFI Projects and Collaborations

Creating Our Future Through Appied Research


To accomplish the mission, goals and objectives of the NARFI Program Update 2003-2005 (in PDF format), a number of NARFI-led Projects and NARFI Collaborations are already underway. The title of each project and collaboration description below includes a link that will will take you directly to the appropriate section of the HTML version of the NARFI Program Update.

NARFI-led Projects

The following projects are under the direct leadership of the North American Rural Futures Institute (NARFI). These projects are currently being seed-funded by the Congressional Award as they get underway. Detailed information can be found on each project in the NARFI-led Projects in Detail section of the NARFI Program Update (in PDF format).

Futures Thinkers Mini Grants

This project funds individuals from rural regions in Montana to attend information events on alternative energy, emerging technology, etc., and skill-building events in futures studies methodologies.

MSU-N alumnus and rural Northcentral Montana native, Kristie Smith, was our first NARFI Future Thinker. Read Kristie's 'Wind and Biodiesel Energy In Our Rural Future' experience report based on her participation in Montana's 'Energy From The Farm' Bus Tour.

Rural Futures Information and Community Outreach Project

NARFI’s downtown Havre location provides rural futures information - brochures, pamphlets, informative events (speakers, films, discussions, etc.) and suggested sites to visit in Montana to see innovative futures-oriented projects already underway.

NARFI Interactive Rural Futures On-line Portal

This project provides in-depth information on emerging technologies, events and conferences, white papers, articles and research in any way related to rural sustainability.

NARFI On-line Rural Futures Directory

The Rural Futures Directory provides annotated links to information sources, organizations, research, field tests, best practices, legislation, value-added agendas, etc., on any and all issues related to rural future issues across North America.

Future Futurists Outreach Project

This project engages rural youth and the adults involved in their education in information-based exhibits, hands on experiences, contests, classroom projects, field trips, etc., focused on current issues and emerging trends in various aspects of rural Montana life.

NARFI Communities of Practice

The Communities of Practice project stimulates the creation of grassroots-based special interest groups on rural futures issues and facilitates local and regional expertise in emerging knowledge areas essential to future rural economic sustainability.

Futures Planning – Skills Workshops

This project for educators, community leaders, economic development stakeholders and rural citizens, provides basic skills in the methodologies of futures studies, e.g., environmental scanning, scenario building and assessment, and forecasting.

Rural Futures Institute Conference

This project for educators, community leaders, economic development stakeholders and rural citizens, provides education, information and hands-on opportunities to explore best practices, innovations and on-going research on rural futures issues.

NARFI Collaborations

The following Collaborations are already underway with key researchers and stakeholders from across North America and Australia. Detailed information on these Collaborations can be found in the NARFI Collaborations in Detail section of the NARFI Program Update (in PDF format).

NWAF Poverty Reduction Proposal

In the Spring of 2002 the 11-county region of North Central Montana was selected as one of four regions in the U. S. with a high level of poverty, yet potential, to which the North West Area Foundation (NWAF) provided seed funds to develop a 10-year plan proposal to reduce poverty.  At the end of 2003, NWAF will select 1-2 of the 4 contending regions with which to partner over the next ten years, providing seed funding for the poverty reduction 10-year plan for that region.

The key NWAF criteria for proposal selection is for regional citizens and community and organization leaders to develop a region-wide plan that would move forward with or without NWAF funds.

Poverty Reduction in North Central Montana

Since February 2003, NARFI has been a key participant on the Economic Development Strategy Team of the North Central Montana Community Ventures Coalition – the Montana regional group working on this NWAF proposal. NARFI will continue to work closely with the Poverty Reduction Agenda team.

North Central Montana Brand and Portal

Development of a rich network of economic developers, marketing and technology specialists to focus on regional, national and global marketing of North Central Montana agricultural, arts, crafts, cultural, history-related, and tribal products through deployment of a North Central Montana Internet portal. This is the key project in the 10-year plan in which NARFI will participate.

The Network Economy Research Theme

The Network Economy focus within NARFI’s applied futures research program brings together a collection of communities of practice, projects, and research collaborations that address the social and economic opportunities for rural citizens and communities to “Live locally, think globally.” How do we tap the inherent creativity and independent spirit of rural entrepreneurs and rural communities to find ways to effectively participate in the global economy without succumbing to the too-often self-destructive trends toward over-consumption and unchecked growth that plague urban areas?

NARFI’s initial projects and collaborations within the Network Economy theme address innovations in small business and workforce independence that tap what Richard Florida, Carnegie Mellon’s distinguished professor of regional economic development, calls “the rise of the Creative Class.”

The 'Rise of the Creative Class in the Small' Research Agenda

Knowledge workers of the last twenty years have transformed to become members of what Richard Florida calls the Creative Class. In his best-selling book of the same name, Florida suggests that we are witnessing “The Rise of the Creative Class” (the book and theory being widely referred to by the acronym, tROCC). Necessarily independent in a world where employment relationships are measured in months rather than years, members of the Creative Class value “place” above the “job.” Where folks live is increasingly more important than for whom they work.

tROCCits Creativity Index Project

NARFI, together with its collaborative partners Sohodojo and The Richard Florida Creativity Group, will engage in fundamental research to identify and understand the dynamics of “the Rise Of Creative Class in the small” (tROCCits) to complement and extend Richard Florida’s social and economic theory. Dr. Florida recognizes the extension of his theory into rural regional economies as vital and timely to the growth of his research.

tROCCits On-Line Conference

As part of an initial awareness program and to stimulate collateral research projects related to the Creativity Index Project, the tROCCits partners will host and sponsor a web-based, on-line conference to network researchers, local and regional rural economic developers and graduate students wanting to intern and otherwise participate in this research agenda.

Microenterprise Networks Research Agenda

With the erosion of life-long, career employment, especially in rural economies, we are seeing the reinvigoration of solo and family-based entrepreneurship. Multi-job “portfolio” work-lives and the growth of owner-operated (no employee) small businesses are as much a return to the past as they are a reflection of 21st Century rural lifestyles where independence and a can-do spirit are vital to personal and community sustainability.

The Chandler Guild and Big Sky Chandlers

ME-nets applied research is being most actively pursued by NARFI collaborator, Sohodojo, the non-profit applied R&D lab supporting solo and family-based entrepreneurship in rural and distressed urban communities. Sohodojo co-founder and research director, Jim Salmons, is currently NARFI’s Entrepreneur and Futurist In Residence. He brings a deep understanding and practical experience to this position that is helping to create and shape the research focus of NARFI’s Rural Entrepreneurism Community of Practice.

Sohodojo has strategically partnered with Iowa-based Soyawax, Inc. on the development of The Chandler Guild, a microenterprise network of soybean wax candlemakers. NARFI’s Rural Entrepreneurism Community of Practice will mentor and support the creation of Big Sky Chandlers, a statewide hub within the larger Chandler Guild microenterprise network.

Montana Scatterlings Project

As the employment system, social relations and regional economic opportunities increasingly are driven by the dynamics of the emerging global network economy, social networks and local economies are transcending the limits of place and moving toward extended networks of trust and mutual interdependence. NARFI calls this extended social and economic network the Montana Scatterlings – Montanans who have the best interest of Montana at heart but who do not currently reside in Montana.

This collaborative project will map the distribution of Montanans within the extended social and economic networks that transcends geographic borders. By first mapping the composition and extent of this extended network, NARFI will seek to articulate and advocate programs and business strategies that maximize the effectiveness of the participation of rural small businesses in the network economy.

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