Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, 2005
Visions, Values, and Priorites

"I envision a rural Indiana that is characterized by genuine economic opportunity, responsible stewardship of natural resources, and strong, sustainable communities that provide a high quality of life for those who call rural Indiana home. We cannot become a state of haves and have-nots. Achieving this vision will benefit all Hoosiers."
- Lt. Governor Becky Skillman

In July 2005, Indiana's Lieutenant Governor Becky Skillman initiated an effort through the Office of Community and Rural Affars to create a vision and strategic framework for the future of rural Indiana. This framework helped guide the development of a document entitled, "Breaking the Boundaries: A Strategic Plan for Rural Indiana." This document outlines a Vision for rural Indiana, seven Pillars (or Values) they embrace, and five Priorities for moving forward with their vision. Those items are listed here:

OCRA's Vision
To work with local, state, and national partners to provide resources and technical assistance to aid rural communities in shaping their vision for economic development.

OCRA's Priorities
  • Develop a strategy to attract and expand philanthropic capital
  • Attract and retain entrepreneurial talent
  • Generate creative practices/programs for rural workforce development
  • Seek innovations in rural broadband development and deployment
  • Expand health and human service delivery to reach marginalized populations
Seven Pillars
  • Regional Frameworks
    Challenges in rural Indiana seldom respect boundary lines. The importance of high-speed Internet service doesn't change when you cross the county line. Likewise, many rural Hoosiers live in one community, work in another and see the doctor, shop and recreate in still others. Yet all too often we compartmentalize our thinking and our efforts according to boundaries. In order to deal with such challenges effectively, we must begin to think and work regionally. We must go out of bounds-for the good of our communities, our regions and all of Indiana.

  • Civic Leadership and Engagement
    Leadership is critical to the future of rural communities. And by leadership, we mean all who serve their communities. We must increase our pool of leaders and include people who have not had the opportunity to lead and serve in the past. We also must enhance the ability of all our leaders to serve. True leadership requires both the willingness to take bold, visionary, sometimes risky, steps as well as the willingness to really listen to those whom you serve. True leadership also empowers others to speak up and become involved and, in so doing, reinvigorates citizenship.

  • Asset-Based Community Development
    Rural Indiana has many assets upon which to build-people, churches, businesses, theaters, museums, hospitals, clinics, libraries, schools, community colleges, parks, rivers and more. However, we often overlook them. We need to identify these assets, see them as valuable and figure out how to leverage them for the good of the community.

  • Rural Innovation through Public and Private Entrepreneurship
    Rural communities need to adopt an attitude that says both "we can" and "it's okay to try and fail." In business, for example, we need to learn to grow our own jobs and not just rely on some outside company to move in and provide them. In public service, we need to stop relying on "the way things have always been done" and start coming up with new ways that make better sense for today's world. In education, we need to better integrate our schools and community colleges with our efforts in areas like economic development and health care.

  • Diversity, Access and Inclusiveness
    It isn't enough for some to take part in making our communities better; nor is it enough for some to enjoy the fruits of a better community. We must ensure that everyone is not merely accepted, but invited, welcomed and even celebrated. That applies to participation in community decision-making, and it also applies to access to services.

  • Youth Engagement
    While we worry and rail against the brain drain that takes our best and brightest away from us, we too often fail to involve our youth in making and implementing the decisions that shape our communities and their lives. If we want our children, teens and young adults to have a place to prosper, we need to involve them in building that place.

  • Wealth Creation and Retention
    Used wisely, wealth builds the future. And contrary to popular belief, rural Indiana has wealth. We need to tap into that wealth and put it to use for the good of our communities and our citizens. We can do that by identifying locally held wealth and providing the opportunity for donors to put their money to use locally.

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© 2008 The Institute for Small Town Studies