Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Nonprofit and Social Economy Research

On the Edge in Rural Canada: The Changing Capacity and Role of the Voluntary Sector

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Nonprofit and Social Economy Research

On the Edge in Rural Canada: The Changing Capacity and Role of the Voluntary Sector

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Local service provision in rural areas and small towns has always faced the challenges of small population numbers and large distances between settlements. While these challenges were somewhat mitigated during a period of proactive public policy and Keynesian economic reforms following World War Two, since 1980, the application of neoliberal policy and neoclassical economic modelling has resulted in the widespread downsizing and closure of rural and small-town services (Markey, Halseth, & Manson, 2012). Such services, however, are vital to supporting both community and economic transformation and renewal (Williamson, Beattie, & Osborne, 2004). In response, service providers and nonprofit groups have engaged in voluntary work in order to retain some basic service supports. At the same time, economic and social restructuring has changed the environment within which voluntary groups work. If we are to understand the impacts of rural restructuring, we must also understand and address the needs of the voluntary sector. How voluntary groups are impacted, and how they react, will affect the ways in which community development plays out in rural and small town Canada.

Drawing on almost 15 years of research across northern British Columbia (B.C.) and Canada, this article explores the changing capacity and role of the voluntary sector in rural areas and small towns. The purpose of this review is to highlight thematic directions and opportunities for the Canadian rural voluntary sector, and to connect them with trends in other industrialized countries. This article includes three sections. The first introduces background on the state of rural areas and small towns in the new rural economy. The second looks at some specific barriers to renewing the rural voluntary sector. Finally, it concludes with a discussion of lessons learned and innovative approaches being adopted to renew the rural voluntary sector.

THE NEW RURAL ECONOMY

The new rural economy continues to evolve within a constantly shifting global economy. This global economy is about diversity, speed, and change. The increasingly hyper-connected global economy means that attention to community development and community economic development is needed on an ongoing basis. As such, rural areas and small towns must pay increasing attention to their place-based assets, and to how developing those assets for local benefit correspond with local aspirations (McDonald, Brown, Frost, Van Dijk, & Rainnie, 2013). The emergence of an increasingly fast-paced global economy, and the subsequent transformations affecting the new rural economy, are also set against a wider backdrop of change in public policy support. Since the early 1980s, public policies adopted in many developed countries that are part of the Organization for Economic Co- operation and Development (OECD), have increasingly called for "bottom-up" community development (Argent, 2011; Shortall & Warner, 2010). This transition-often associated with the adoption of neoliberal policy approaches-also fits well with the desires of many rural and small-town regions to have a larger say in community and regional development (Young & Matthews, 2007). To be effective, however, this transformation in public policy supports and bottom-up renewal rests on continued synergy between the two. Bottom-up community and economic development ideas need the support of public policy in order to be realized (Markey et al., 2012). Unfortunately, while public policy has countenanced increasing bottom-up aspirations, it has concomitantly and systematically removed basic supports in terms of services and associated skills of former public sector workers (Markey, Harketh, & Manson, 2007). The out-migration of professional and government employees from the service sector to regionalized centres, for example, has led to a loss of quality-of-life amenities and imposed burdens on those least able to afford the additional costs of travelling to access regionalized supports. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.