Apr 20, 2021
In this first of a three-part series, Michelle talks with Tony Pipa of the Brookings Institution and Janet Topolsky of the Aspen Institute about the opportunity for the Biden-Harris administration to modernize and improve U.S. policy to support equitable rural development. Drawing upon the landmark report recently published by Brookings, Reimagining rural policy: Organizing federal assistance to maximize rural prosperity, Pipa describes the lack of a coherent federal vision regarding community and economic development in rural areas, with over 400 federal rural programs spanning 13 departments and more than 50 offices and sub-agencies. Topolsky describes the challenges that any rural community faces trying to navigate the myriad of programs by themselves; rather, she says strengthening “rural development hub” intermediaries can catalyze regional efforts that help communities grow and thrive – as outlined in Rural Development Hubs: Strengthening America’s Rural Innovation Infrastructure. Pipa suggests that the U.S. needs to create a national rural strategy to help rural communities develop and thrive. He emphasizes the importance of locally led development that takes advantage of real-world, on-the-ground knowledge, builds on local assets, and improves equitable outcomes. Topolsky urges lawmakers to make rural a priority and keep in mind the diverse racial and economic contexts that exist in rural. She also reiterates the importance of flexible funding, so local organizations can decide how best to deploy that funding. This episode and the three-part series are sponsored by the Brookings Institution, www.brookings.edu.