Why Wall Rocks Series – #14 A New Rural is Emerging

2 Jul 2018


The Wall Economic Development Director Cheyenne McGriff and Board Member Carolynn Anderson had the opportunity to attend the RuralX: eXperience what’s possible conference, hosted by Dakota Resources, June 27th – 28th. The conference focused on what it means to be a “rural shaper.” Rural leaders from across the state and beyond gathered to discuss rural successes, challenges and development strategies.

The RuralX provided several inspirational takeaways that WEDC is excited to share. The following thoughts were highlights from presentations by Joe Bartman, Dakota Resources President, and Tuesday Ryan Hart, The Outside.

The rural we knew is never coming back

In order to move forward, we have to stop looking into the past. The way things have always been done is not the only way. How can our community look forward, face our challenges head-on, and thrive anyway?

Make thriving and vibrancy more important than growing

Yes, bringing new businesses and jobs to our community is very important. New businesses, jobs and housing keep our community and tax base growing.

event stageOutside of growing, it is important to make sure our community is thriving. Are our community members engaged? Are we providing outlets for creativity and space for new ideas? Do we have a safe, walk-able, connected community? If we are lacking in these areas, how can we improve?

The leadership we’re used to is not working

We are conditioned to think that getting something done requires a committee, officers, agendas and meetings in City hall. However, how many times have you found yourself saying or asking:

“Where the heck is everyone?”
“Why don’t people show up?”
“Remember how it used to be?”
“Who is supposed to do this anyway? It’s not my job.”
“Why are you talking about that different idea? Let’s stick to the agenda.”
“Somebody should really do something about that.”

How can we better engage people where they are? If people are not coming to “your meetings,” how can you reach them in a different way? How can we open our minds, meetings and plans to new ideas, people and gathering places?

Collaboration is changing

In our world today, we are often asked to do more with less. We have more demands, less time, fewer resources and more and more people to please. The speed and rate of change is accelerating, and we are all trying to keep our heads above water. This is often true of any career or volunteer effort.

idea boardWhat does this mean for community work? Don’t just rearrange a broken system. Discover new ways to work. As time, communication and roles shift, how can we change how we work with one another to make new, different progress in our community? Demographics are shifting, and we must shift with whom we work and how we complete that work. There will be new, different people, with new, different ideas, which must be embraced to experience growth.

With shifting times and demographics, it is difficult, and often impossible, to have one “shared vision” for our community. Different community members have different passions and different approaches. What if we all worked toward making our community the best place to create a life, and allowed a variety of ideas that may not fit on the “path” or in the “strategic plan” we have created? To increase engagement, let’s start listening and trusting what others want to do.

Don’t get too focused on YOUR idea and YOUR plan. You might miss the chance to be part of something bigger.

So Many Questions!

“How” can we do something, and “What If” we tried it this way? Community leaders often feel tasked with having all the answers. This can make the work of community progress feel impossible and full of unrealistic expectations and pressure. Answers are the end of the conversation. Questions keep us moving forward.

How can you ask more questions and provide fewer answers? What ideas and progress may come from this approach?

Remember, everyone can tell you what should be done, but what are people willing to do? How can we empower community members to create the growth and change they want to see?

The Rural X Conference left WEDC thinking, “What is possible in our rural community?”

Let’s “think possible” together.


As always, thank you for being such a great community. It is because of you we have it all in Wall!

For more information, check out our website, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @WallEconomicDev.

Cheyenne McGriff
WEDC Executive Director
(605) 279-2658

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