Big Data, Small Towns
A DISCUSSION OFHelping Communities Use Data to Make Better Decisions
In a rapidly changing world, communities must deal with a wide range of complex issues. These issues include adapting to a rapidly changing economy and providing a safe and healthy environment for their residents. In rural areas, addressing such issues is made more difficult because communities often lack the capacity to hire professionals and elected officials are typically stretched thin. In addition to their work with the community, leaders often have full-time employment, a family, and other responsibilities.
At the same time, many new data and other resources are available to assist communities. Data can help them better understand their current circumstances and prepare for the future. The problem is finding the time and expertise to effectively collect and analyze these data. I am convinced that the Community Learning through Data Driven Discovery (CLD3) model that Sallie Keller, Sarah Nusser, Stephanie Shipp, and Catherine E. Wotek describe in “Helping Communities Use Data to Make Better Decisions” (Issues, Spring 2018) represents an effective way to provide much-needed help to rural communities. The brilliance of the model is that it uses existing entities (Cooperative Extension and the Regional Rural Development Centers) to provide expertise that rural communities often lack. Cooperative Extension has representation in virtually every county in the country. The Regional Rural Development Centers have the capacity to make the necessary connections with Cooperative Extension in all 50 states. As director of one of the Regional Rural Development Centers, I am excited about this program and the potential benefits it provides to rural areas.
Executive Director, Western Rural Development Center
Utah State University