RuralX Watch Parties Cultivate Local Collaboration
Attending a virtual conference may seem like experiencing the best of both worlds – all the learning without the travel – but in order to foster learning and cultivate true connection amongst attendees, a little intention goes a long way.
That’s why this year’s virtual RuralX conference, hosted by Dakota Resources on June 16, 2021, piloted Watch Parties to encourage conversation and collaboration amongst the changemakers living and working in rural communities. Eleven RuralX Remote Watch Parties were held in rural communities across the nation.
To help illustrate the lively discussion and collaborative environment of these Watch Parties, Dakota Resources surveyed Watch Party organizers after the 2021 RuralX conference.
“The stories shared in the survey responses further reinforce the importance of rural communities engaging in real-time interaction and discussion while attending RuralX,” said Ellie Naasz, Director of Community Impact for Dakota Resources. “Hearing about how each community uniquely embraced the format of RuralX and adapted their conversations to the topics that the speakers brought forward to their own community’s needs was impactful. It also helps us understand how we can continue to make changes to our program to better speak to our mission.”
The Watch Party that gathered in Custer, South Dakota, used its OpenX time to localize their discussion to the most pressing needs in their community.
“During the OpenX, we focused on issues facing Custer, like community communication, housing and a fall gathering, and created a plan to handle them,” said Colleen Hennessy of Custer Area Economic Development Corporation. “Throughout the day, the Watch Party environment gave us a chance to get to know each other and share ideas.”
The communities of Lemmon, SD and Hettinger, ND joined together for a Watch Party this year for RuralX, and both Judy Larson with the Placemakers Co-op in Lemmon, SD, and Jasmin Fosheim, Executive Director for the Adams County Development Corporation, shared the benefits of sharing The Rural Collective space in Hettinger, ND with other rural shapers in their area.
“When I think about how respectful, collaborative and participatory our Watch Party group was, it makes me very hopeful,” Larson said. “It was a cross-section of ages, leaning toward younger folks, and many were from different sectors of the community–business, education, healthcare, media, NDSU Extension, and agriculture. The time that we had together, especially during OpenX, was such a great community and collaborative possibility builder!”
Fosheim agrees. “I think our OpenX was great because it provided the local connection that everyone wanted,” said Fosheim. “In the future, I would encourage Watch Parties to host their own in-person OpenX segment.”
Take Action: Want to hear a little more about our keynote speakers’ experience in South Dakota? Check out James Fallow’s blog post on their website.