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Rural Synergy Foundation- Bridging Urban and Rural for Peace and Economic Sustainability

The Rural Synergy Foundation is creating a mutually beneficial relationship between rural and urban communities.

Photo of Christina Schwanke

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*Please Upload User Experience Map (as attachment) and any additional insights gathered from Beneficiary Feedback in this field

Every user of the Rural Synergy Foundation has unique talents, needs and desires. Our partnerships have enabled us to design a program supporting the individualized needs of participants in rural towns. RSF hosted a virtual focus group and surveyed sixty end users during the beneficiary feedback phase. The user experience maps show a sampling of demographics and scenarios based off the surveys, direct feedback and partner guidance.

Why does the target community define this problem as urgent and/or a priority? How is the idea leveraging and empowering community assets to help create an environment for success? (1000 characters)

Rural residents are experiencing a decline in resources such as healthcare and education due to year over year decreases in population that leave less economic opportunity. In some towns the decline has been so detrimental residents no longer have access to basic services such as grocery stores. Companies in urban centers are struggling to find enough qualified workers while fighting a skills gap. Jobs urban companies need filled require skills but don’t demand a wage that is livable in cities. RSF’s focus beyond workforce is collaboration and capacity building. We work with local nonprofits, schools and government agencies to improve communities and address hurdles for our participants. Local assets provide support with skills training, workspace, technology resources and more. In return RSF reinvests funds generated into local education and healthcare resources.

How does the idea fit within the larger ecosystem that surrounds it? Urgent needs are usually a symptom of a larger issue that rests within multiple interrelated symptoms - share what you know about the context surrounding the problem you are aiming to solve. (500 characters)

The desire to contribute and to be a part of a community is an innate part of the human experience. In rural communities this overwhelming desire is frustrated with negative feedback loops of population decreases and job losses. The hopelessness is obvious when considering the opioid crisis which disproportionately impacts rural areas and according to a 2017 NBER study is in part caused by joblessness and other traumas. Thus, RSF seeks to be one part of restoring hope within these communities.

How does the idea affect or change the fundamental nature of the larger ecosystem that surrounds it (as described above) in a new and/or far-reaching way? (500 characters)

Technology is creating a world where spatial limitations for careers are increasing toward irrelevance and thus, opening previously untapped labor markets, within the rural United States, that share a common language and culture enabling high levels of service. This in turn creates economic development and provides hope for communities hungry for opportunity yet in need of help entering and meeting the demands of the emerging economy.

What will be different within the target community as a result of implementing the idea? What is the scope and scale of that difference? How long will it take to see that difference and how will it be sustained beyond BridgeBuilder support? (500 characters)

Net new economic opportunities for individuals have positive cascading impacts for the larger community not only in monetary terms but also with positive neighborhood effects that are followed by improvements in living standards. In the next year, RSF is positioned to serve up to 50 people across 5 counties which positive impacts will be seen within the next two years and will be sustained and grown through gained contracts.

How has the idea evolved or responded to your user research during the Beneficiary Feedback Phase and any further insights provided if you participated in the Expert Feedback Phase? (1000 characters)

Rural Synergy Foundation hosted a virtual focus group of rural residents across the United States during the beneficiary feedback phase. 95% of users who expressed interest in utilizing our program were women. 75% of end users have completed some college, 45% possess a Bachelor’s degree or higher. 50% of end users preferred part time employment to full time. The feedback illustrates the need of RSF to obtain contracts that conform to the career needs of primarily women seeking more flexibility in schedules and work options. The other takeaway is the higher educational capacity of RSF end users that allows RSF to cast a wider net for initial contracts. Initially RSF intended on reaching 25 end users in the first year. Our virtual focus group, we reached over 59 individuals, 32 of whom would like to be employed. Given the enthusiasm and higher volume of interest RSF will expand our scope to serving 50 by the end of the year one. Urban Feedback supports this number.

What are the key steps for implementation in the next 1-3 years? (You can attach a timeline or GANTT chart in place of a written plan, if desired.) (1000 characters)

Please see attached timeline. Access actual timeline at: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1wQmOyRA3i84PxruiucaD_m1RBf0OoGUzLeJ2vdbw6ow/edit#gid=1709744959

Describe the individual or team that will implement this idea (if a partnership, please explain breakdown of roles and responsibilities for each entity). (Feel free to share an organizational chart or visual description of your team). (500 characters)

Rural Synergy Foundation is supported by a dedicated team of individuals and partners who are equipped with a well rounded variety of skills and passions. Each person and partner have given countless hours and resources to bring this idea to life and are dedicated to see it's success. Every week we have new people and partners join our movement through networking, social media, OpenIdeo and word of mouth.

What aspects of the idea would potential BridgeBuilder funds primarily support? (500 characters)

The BridgeBuilder funds will support training, outreach, travel, participant resources, program development, contract procurement, and IT Costs so Rural Synergy Foundation can expedite it's program to reach a wider swath of participants. RSF will continue to be heavily supported by volunteers and mentors but will create one full time and two part time positions to focus on implementation, RSF anticipates reaching agency sustainability within 1 year. Please see images.

In preparation for our Expert Feedback Phase: What are three unanswered questions or challenges that you could use support on in your project? These questions will be answered directly by experts matched specifically to your idea and needs.

1. In thinking about scale-ability to various states, what would be the most essential components to ensure are in place to make the scaling occur with minimal difficulty? This includes internal organization, systems building and legal compliance. 2. With half of our respondents desiring part time work is it economically feasible to offer benefits such as health insurance? What kind of options do we have to assist part time workers with benefits that would not crush us fiscally? 3. We are always open to apprenticeship routes and additional educational resources. Do the experts have any suggestions?

Final Updates (*Please do not complete until we reach the Improve Phase*): How has the idea evolved or responded to your user research during the Beneficiary Feedback Phase and any further insights provided if you participated in the Expert Feedback Phase? (1000 characters)

1. Rural residents who would utilize our program are primarily women with higher education and/or work experience who desire a clear path to hire, opportunity for growth professionally, and financially with a flexible schedule. Therefore RSF has expanded eligibility to be more inclusive. 2. Urban Companies suggested we offer specific services with the ability to allow workers to spend in person time with seasoned employees. Therefore we have narrowed our service area to a 5 hour radius of Reno, NV. RSF is also pursuing certifications to become a consultant partner with salesforce.com. The salesforce.com partnership allows RSF to provide a specific expertise with a clear training path for participants. 3. Expert advice was start slow, provide specific services for specific regions to better develop quality management and processes. This coincided with urban end user recommendations which is why we narrowed geographic focus. Implementing TQM and systems is also top priority.

During this Improve Phase, please use the space below to add any additional information to your proposal.

Rural Synergy Foundation spent the past several weeks getting feedback from not only rural end users but urban companies (urban end users) as well as experts within the the technology world, specifically software engineers and data analysts to better shape our path. After collaboration RSF determined a few hurdles that we would have to get over: Determining a value proposition for urban companies. Specific training to provide most value to participants, plus several paths to success for different personalities. Technology hurdles including cost of servers, security etc. After much guidance and exploration RSF discovered what we believe is the best path to circumventing our hurdles. Currently RSF is pursuing a consultant partnership with Salesforce.com and is on track to have certifications completed by the beginning of October. Salesforce is the fasted growing CRM company in the world and the partner ecosystem is projected to add 3.3 million jobs and $859 billion to the economy by 2022. There is not only a large need for salesforce trained individuals but a solid path to success within the Salesforce infrastructure offering several career paths for different personalities. The added benefit is salesforce.com is a cloud based inclusive software alleviating the need for RSF to invest in high end equipment and cyber security services. *This is not a radical change but a more defined and attainable path to success.

Note that you may also edit any of your previous answers within the proposal. Here is a great place to note any big final changes or iterations you have made to your proposal below:

Edits and final changes for refinement were based off feedback from rural and urban end users, RSF assigned expert, and OpenIdeo platform comments. Most notable changes by group: Rural End User Feedback: Participant Eligibility is now more inclusive. RSF has grown the vision of hiring 25 participants to 50 participants. (This is supported by urban feedback as well.) Urban End User/Expert Feedback: Narrowed the Geographic focus of pilot to a 5 hour Radius of Reno, NV. RSF is now utilizing salesforce.com internally to build systems and implement quality management practices. (TQM) Partnering with salesforce.com externally to provided specialized value added services to urban companies. OpenIdeo Platform/Expert Feedback: Created more images in 'bridgebuilder funds' section to clarify and explain rural/agency financial sustainability models. Updated images in 'explain your idea' section to provide a clear explanation of the why/what/how of our program.

Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

Whether listening to a conversation in a rural diner or reading academic sociologists such as Robert Wuthnow, it’s clear mutual frustration between rural and urban communities runs deep and is on the rise. As the population of Americans living in rural communities shifted from 54% in 1910 to 19% in 2010 (US Census Bureau) their representation in government decreased. This shift has created an increasingly greater divide due to rural life and commerce being governed by increasingly disconnected government and by urban concern of the seemingly more closed minded, rural communities. As an example in 2001 Tulelake, CA farmer’s water was diverted by court order of an urban judge to protect an endangered suckerfish and salmon. Consequently, many farmers cultivating food for the US went bankrupt, businesses shut down and jobs were lost. This is one of many stories where both urban and rural are affected; food supply decreases, poverty increases, families are forced to move and the population gap continues to increase, adding to under representation of rural in government. Urban areas are affected with rising food costs and diminished natural resources; it is not a matter of pointing fingers, yet a matter of bridging the communication gap on both sides. RSF’s proposed project is to create social and economic equity (prosperity) for rural communities and ease the population decrease by fostering mutual respect and communication (peace) through interdependent, business relationships. RSF will establish a working partnership with urban companies and corporations struggling to hire employees and connect jobs to rural individuals in satellite offices. RSF will provide an apprenticeship style program offering free education, a livable wage and a viable modern career path. This will create economic and population sustainability for rural communities, provide urban companies untapped talent and create a bridge that is highly needed for US’s morale and economy.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

The Rural Synergy Foundation workforce training pilot program will be focused in rural California and Nevada. The demographics we anticipate serving in our pilot are: • 95% Women • Disabled Individuals • Mothers of young children Participants in rural counties face unique challenges because of the expansive yet barren geography. Outlying towns in Nevada and California can be 50 + miles from community colleges, gainful employment and even grocery stores. USA Today states that unemployment can never be 0% partially because rural residents can't access jobs. (https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2018/06/03/unemployment-can-go-lower/664879002/) We have human centered partnerships currently in Mono and Inyo Counties and in the process of forming partnerships in Modoc and Butte counties.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

Our model is unique because it combines three successful for profit models into a nonprofit agency to provide a human centered and equitable approach to workforce development. The for profit models are as follows: 1. Apprenticeships: Apprenticeships are a common method of skills development. Apprenticeship workers gain skills without falling into student loan debt. 91% of people who complete apprenticeships go on to find employment that pays at least $51,000 a year. 2. Support Contractor: According to the Wall Street Journal, large companies contract out 20-50% of their labor. This number is continuing to grow with technological advances. 3. Remote Labor: Since 2005 the number of non-self-employed workers who work remotely has grown 115%. It is projected by 2020 that 50% of the workforce will work remotely. (US Census) We provide participants training and a paycheck. This model also provides sustainability for RSF as well as partner nonprofits in underfunded regions.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Prototype: I have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing the idea.
  • Pilot: I have started to implement the idea as a whole with a first set of real users.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

We are a foundation changing the way society tackles economic sustainability- bridging urban employment needs and rural individuals/communities with employment. www.ruralsf.org

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

The three directors of the Rural Synergy Foundation are originally from Surprise Valley, California, a rural community that is struggling with economic sustainability to the point of losing resources such as education and healthcare. The directors collaborated their skills to do their part in reaching the UN Sustainability Goals 1, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13 (https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals). RSF's program is a well rounded approach for sustainability.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

RSF is bridging urban and rural communities using prosperity to promote peace. A. (Prosperity) RSF will help provide opportunity for people to stay in their rural communities and slowing the population decrease while building economic stability for individual families and their communities. This will in turn decrease poverty and increase community resources and influence. B. (Peace) Trade and business relationships are pragmatic in their very essence and thus, they bring groups together for a mutual goal which helps parties evolved to understand each other's cultural and perspectives. This project will build trust, knowledge and stability for everyone. As partnerships form urban companies will enjoy the benefits of untapped rural talent and play a large role in solving the economic instability crisis in rural communities through a workforce lens. This program is based from feedback from urban (Reno, NV and SF, CA) and rural (Inyo, Mono, Modoc, and Butte, CA) end users.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

Current human centered partnerships iclude: County of Mono, Department of Social Services will send workforce ready welfare to work participants. Partner will provide eligible participants with workspace, career counseling and tools such as computers. Vouchers for childcare will be offered to eligible mothers. Wild Iris Family Counseling & Crisis Center will counsel and advocate for victims of domestic violence. We will be working mainly with their transitional housing program but in Mono County specifically they will provide ‘Healthy Relationship Training.’ Inyo Mono Advocates for Community Action, Inc. (IMACA) will evaluate and help work ready homeless participants trying to escape poverty. IMACA clients will get help with workspace, tools and affordable housing. Entrepreneur Assembly- will provide mentorship and resources to secure vendor contracts from urban companies. Our partnerships ensure that RSF participants have a clear path to personal growth and success.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

The competitive advantage rural communities in California and Nevada have is the large quantity of ready to work individuals, especially women, who are not utilized in the labor market. In addition; California and Nevada have a highly developed infrastructure grid in rural communities allowing for development of a remote workforce. Also, agencies in these states are dedicated to collaboration to empower residents.

Geographic Focus

Rural Synergy Foundation is currently serving rural California and Nevada, with plans for the US.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

The Rural Synergy Foundation is positioned to begin the workforce training pilot program by October 2018. This idea will take 12 months from funding date to implement to the point of sustainability. After the initial 12 months this program will continue indefinitely and be sustained by revenue generated by the business model. Success will be noted within the first 6 months as rural residents earn paychecks, 36 months is the anticipated apprenticeship completion timeframe.

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No
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Team (5)

Jesse's profile
Jesse Hunt

Role added on team:

"We are excited to collaborate with Jesse on lowering the poverty rate in Salmon, Idaho from 22%. He can elaborate more in the comments on the challenges his community faces."

Christina's profile
Nomusa's profile
Nomusa Keninda

Role added on team:

"Nomusa directed us to code.org for the 'Hour of Code' program."

Marnie's profile
Marnie Glazier

Role added on team:

"Marnie is helping us to brainstorm adding art into our program."

Sydney's profile
Sydney Gray

Role added on team:

"Sydney is helping us clarify our idea!"

110 comments

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Photo of Céline Steer
Team

This is a very interesting project. Addressing urban-rural growing divide is key to a region's economic and social stability, especially when we see a lot of focus on metropolitan areas.
I particularly like the focus that you give to the big picture (notably highlighting the SDGs that are related to your idea). I also applaud the emphasis on partnerships to make this idea happen.

Good luck

Photo of Christina Schwanke
Team

Hello Celine,

Thank you for your kind words. This all started as a way to help one small town and because of the idea and user feedback the vision has grown. We fervently believe we can be part of the solution across the US. This notion makes our partnerships so valuable. In the past 6 months we have been approached by potential partners in Tennessee, Texas, Idaho, and Pennsylvania; we are building these relationships so we can quickly scale after the pilot.

I haven't got a chance to read your idea but I'm going to hop over to it right now!

Christina

Photo of Marnie Glazier
Team

This looks really solid and I think you've done a great job of incorporating your user feedback and really giving some strong visuals that illustrate not only the viability but also the feasibility of the project. Keep us the excellent work!

Photo of Christina Schwanke
Team

Marnie Glazier Thank you for your kind words! I am so glad we met along this journey. I brought you up in a meeting last week....not enough to report via email as of yet but the wheels are still turning! Your idea is coming along nicely as well!

Photo of Marnie Glazier
Team

Thanks and yes, I look forward to talking more in the next few months!

Photo of Andrew Drain
Team

This is a great idea and appears to have some good understanding of the access to and reliability of technology in remote areas in the US.

It is a challenge that needs central body support which you have talked about and to be able to support this effectively, there needs to be solid foundations which I think this project can provide, great work. The increasing disconnection between urban and rural populations is a challenge worldwide and this sounds like a good starting point for many communities, both developed and developing. I have a couple of questions;

1. The financial sustainability of the project is not 100% clear to me, could you please provide some more detail on long term income/funding generation?

2. Have you found any foreseeable long-term challenges in relation to having remote employees for urban companies? In relation to the general human desire for connectedness, remote workers may find that being physical disconnected from the office environment isolating. Is the plan for RSF to have employees based in a rural hub which will be supported and furnished by partner organisations or for people to be able to work from their homes?

Photo of Christina Schwanke
Team

Hello Andrew Drain ,

Thank you so much for your thoughts and questions.

1. I appreciate you asking about the sustainability. It shows me I have to come up with a clearer graphic. We have operate a profit generating business for sustainability. Some nonprofits have thrift shops. We have a tech contracting firm. This allows us to A) Hire and Train rural participants giving them equity and the workplace, free education and an income. B) generate funds to sustain Rural Synergy Foundation. The basic explanation is we get a contract with a company to preform work and bill them for services provided, let's say for easy math $30 per hour, we then pay rural participants a fair wage for the job $15 an hour the excess pays employment costs (training, insurance, taxes etc) $7.50 and sustains our agency $7.50. This may not seem like a lot but with 25 people (our lowest projected workforce) x $7.50 x 2000 hours= $375,000 annual RSF Operating Budget which is enough to get us started and allow us to grow.

2. The answer to that is yes our partners do supply hubs for workers to come and work and get connected with others. That being said we want to allow workers the freedom to work from home as well. As you know rural life is different than urban life in the way that many residents are accustom to working independently and social interaction is easier when you know most of your neighbors. It is easy to disappear in urban communities, not so much in the rural.

Let me know if I can further answer your questions. :)

Christina

Photo of Christina Schwanke
Team

Andrew Drain I update the sustainability model in the section 'how would bridgebuilder funds...' section. If you have time I would love to know if it helps clarify our sustainability model?

Photo of Anthony Gleason
Team

I really love this idea and project goals, particularly the fact that it's already running, and already has experience with clients. The sustainable (post-grant) funding model is a little weak and perhaps could use better explanation. I also really like that you've explicitly identified how your program is tied to UN SDG's.

In response to Question #1:

Many Quality Management principles and processes are relevant to not only helping expand your organization, but improve consistency and promote continuous learning & improvement for existing processes / practices. It would be helpful for the management team to learn about ISO 9000, TQM, etc., then identify and implement those aspects of QA systems that you find helpful.

Perhaps you could create an "Inquiry Process Template" that would apply to targeted expansion states or regions. Develop a consistent, comprehensive set of questions to ask for each different state (even municipality) regarding legal / HR / other requirements relative to apprenticeships, compensation, taxes, insurance, etc. in those different jurisdictions. If you can you recruit legal and HR professionals in targeted expansion states or regions to assist (ideally pro-bono) your program, then having a pre-designed template would help those professionals help you by focusing your needs for them and reducing their time required to help.

Develop Templates / Procedures for various internal processes. Procedures don't have to be set in concrete, and can improve over time as you learn, as you make mistakes, etc.

Develop a Continuous Learning culture. Develop a consistent process to review mistakes & problems, successes & breakthroughs, identify and implement system improvements, then document all of the above to ensure institutional and long-term learning. Compile and encourage ‘lessons learned’ for program participants to complete – either post-participation or in 2 – 3 stages during and after participation - you can learn a lot from your participants' perspectives. Repeat with those companies that provide apprenticeships. Periodically ask your stakeholders to evaluate your programs, your implementation, provide suggestions, etc.

Question #2:

Start slow: don't incur costs you cannot afford until you understand the costs and have identified revenue streams to cover those costs. When you understand specific (detailed) costs involved, then you can start to improve budget planning or donor requests. Recruit / Enroll HR or healthcare professionals to assist developing a better understanding of costs and options in the different regions you work. These costs and options will vary from state to state, even region to region and among different healthcare providers.

When costs are understood and incorporated into budget planning, that allows your organization to negotiate in bulk with healthcare providers -not simply paying for health insurance one by one at retail prices. It is common practice among companies to negotiate lower prices for bulk purchases. Utilize bulk negotiation strategies to reduce costs.

Identify and promote (marketing) sponsorship opportunities for companies providing apprenticeships, for potential and existing donors, and possibly even for government agencies by first understanding costs and identifying the financial cost (specific number) for an individual, a group, or a regional program.

Question #3:

Target specific regions to work in, be deliberate where you work. Identify common criteria for where you will work, and define why you've chosen those particular criteria. An important part of strategy is understanding when / where to say "No".

Identify government workforce agencies in targeted areas to help you identify both participants and companies to provide apprenticeships. Identify quasi-governmental workforce / regional development agencies that can provide assistance and reach out to them for assistance. Identify the largest employers (top 8) in those areas you work and reach out to their HR.

Develop and continuously improve a marketing kit and pitch. Ask existing companies who provide apprenticeships to speak on your behalf. I think you're already doing this.

Hope this helps!!

Tony Gleason

Photo of Christina Schwanke
Team

Anthony Gleason 

Thank you so much for taking the time to respond so thoughtfully to our questions!! Just for the sake of transparency we have identified pilot participants but the program is not up and running we are mentored by companies that have had success in training and economic sustainability in rural areas but are forging a new path in the arena of remote apprenticeship and tech education.

I really appreciate your insight on TQM and spent some time reading through the basics. One of the things that we are working on right now is our processes and I am super excited! We are actually building out our Salesforce CRM as we speak and have been so inspired by the whole process have started pursuing the Certifications to become registered partners.

One of the reasons for our Salesforce path is we have spent the past two week really digging into conversation with the urban set of 'end users' the companies and they have suggested(like you have) to get very specific on what we offer and do it at a high quality and get stabilized in one region. Salesforce offers a clear and concise path of learning with their Trailhead program that we can supplement with other resources. Plus it is cloud based alleviating the heavy burden of IT support and security because it is one of the benefits they provide. Plus they offer a great deal of mentorship to new partners to instill a high quality of work. All that to say your insights have really solidified that we are headed in the right direction and gave us some deeper insight to dig into!

If you have any additional thoughts I am always open to discussion and refinement!

Best,

Christina

Photo of Joy Banerjee
Team

Hello Ms Christina Schwanke ,

Very Interesting idea to bridge the gap between urban and rural areas for social well being of communities as it faces unique , economic and institutional challenges , There are more people leaving and left rural areas than arrived though rural regions makes significant contributions to the nation building but still it is ignored in many parts of the world. In my opinion it probably needs a greater attention of the policymakers to design comprehensive policies to meet the multifaceted challenges working with organizations like yours. All the best for your mission. thanks

Photo of Christina Schwanke
Team

Hello Joy Banerjee 

Thank you for your thoughts on our project. You are right the contribution from rural areas to Urban is very high. In California close to 90% of food and water that urban areas enjoy comes from rural parts of the state. It would not be good if these communities collapsed. In my opinion policy can be helpful but this matter is to urgent to wait for policy changes and unfortunately rural communities are all unique and often policies leave many behind. We strongly believe designing a flexible program that can be utilized by individuals we can make deep, long term changes efficiently. Every day we are getting closer to implementing our idea!
Best,
Christina

Photo of Macheru Karuku
Team

Your idea is just great! It does not take long to fathom that it is founded on innate concern for others whose basic livelihood needs are at stake. I wish you all luck in this endeavor and thanks.

Photo of Christina Schwanke
Team

Macheru Karuku thank you for your kind words. I read through your proposal and one of the things that really resonated with me was 'On enquiring, they informed us that the education they received was theoretical and would just lead them to poverty and joblessness.' It is the one of the things we are seeing in some groups and regions within the U.S. I believe a theoretical education is valuable it is not meant for everyone. I am so glad you are hearing the voices of people in need. Best, Christina

Photo of Kurt Davis
Team

Building apprenticeship skills are a must. I think we should take this to organizations like Google and https://girlswhocode.com/. There are lots of ways to help with skills. This rural - urban gap is a BIG problem in the US not just in terms of your focus but just general politics, culture, and economic equality.

Photo of Christina Schwanke
Team

Hello Kurt Davis !

Thank you for your encouragement! I looked at your Linkedin account and wanted to know if we could have a video chat? I would be interested in some more in depth feedback based off of your background. I took a look at your proposal. I believe in parts of the United States we are blissfully unaware of how fortunate we are to have such an efficient distribution system for basic necessities. I have lived in parts of the U.S. where it is difficult to get clean running water but have always been able to afford bottle watered to drink. The experience made me so much more empathetic to those who aren't as fortunate. Though I appreciate your model to empower people to start their own business. Lately I have been reading case studies about projects that while created with good intentions had consequences to the communities being 'helped' ie Toms Shoes. I would like to know more about the loan process for refugees and the affordability. Let me know if you are up for connecting via zoom?
BTW- we agree the gap is a huge problem in the U.S. in so many ways. Every rural area has a unique set of circumstances which but overall jobs is the one most have in common. The intent is to create a sustainable revenue stream to utilize to address the unique gaps communities face. As an example there are some areas in California that don't have access to grocery stores. This leaves the most vulnerable to at best have a diet of highly processed foods. One of our intended partners is working on a traveling 'market' that brings reasonably priced fruits, vegetables and whole foods to communities without grocery stores. Their other mission is to empower community gardens. There is a lot of work that needs to be done to close the gap but we intend to be part of the solution.

Best,
Christina

Photo of Kurt Davis
Team

Yes, absolutely. I'd love to come visit as well. lets talk more kudavis at gmail dot com

Photo of Christina Schwanke
Team

Great! I just emailed you!

Photo of Anubha Sharma
Team

Dear Christina,
It is so important for the marginalized to have a champion and its good to see there are people like you out there willing to pitch in. Using technology to bridge the gab between the potential employers and those seeking jobs using technology is an obvious solution with the US farming out jobs all over the world.
Its unfortunate when enough is not done to support the poor in large economies, the same problem exists in India. However the corporate social responsibility law introduced a couple of years ago now forcing profit making large businesses to spend 2% of their profits in socially responsible projects, this law has enabled organisations like ours to find some funding. However its ironical that even now its difficult to find funds for developmental work or capacity building.

Photo of Christina Schwanke
Team

Anubha Sharma 

This platform is such an amazing tool to meet people all over the world who are trying to make a positive difference for the marginalized. The United States have so many resources for individuals, before starting RSF I volunteered for an non-profit helping gang members escape that lifestyle and another non-profit helping women escape poverty. The vast majority of funding in the U.S. comes from private donations and the biggest struggle that every organization I've work with is attracting those dollars. Non-profits that serve children and animals seem to have an easier time attracting donors while adult based social issues (which in my opinion are just as important) fight to get by. It is one of the reasons we are attempting to create a mutual beneficial alternative funding stream.

It is interesting that despite the law to spend 2% on socially responsible projects there is still as struggle. Do you have an idea why funding is still a problem?

As far as the United States farming out jobs we believe that good trade relations among the nations are important, even with a huge amount of labor being outsourced there is still a need for workers. Rural Synergy Foundation's program is just a small piece of a very large puzzle.

Christina

Photo of Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO)
Team

This sounds like a very promising project! How do you plan to help shift rural stereotypes and one-dimensional perceptions of urban dwellers and vice versa?

Photo of Christina Schwanke
Team

Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) 

Thank you for your encouragement. I love your question because it is truly the heart of what we are trying to accomplish one person at a time.

'Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.' Mark Twain

This has always been one of my favorite quotes but in the past decade it became even more meaningful. My husband and I moved from California to North Dakota to pursue a career. When we got to ND we found ourselves in a small town comprised of people who had never met a Californian and made assumptions about who we were based off of things they had seen on the news or in movies. From most people we were not warmly welcomed. To make matters worse any interaction the locals had with urbanites was usually negative because it was often in attempt to gain access to their precious farm land to drill oil wells.

My husband and I spent 3 years in this tiny town, during this time I negotiated right of way for the local power company. Day after day I spent time in the houses of the locals. I met their families, I listened to their stories and more often than not I got a glimpse into why they were so resistant to outsiders. I passionately advocated for their right with the oil companies and worked hard to build trust. Over the 3 years many people began to accept me, we both realized that despite our differences we could work together to make a situation better. When I left in 2015 I felt like I left part of my home and my family. I also fervently believe I changed the minds of many when it came to their perceptions, and many of my perceptions were changed as well.

That being said with technology the way it is today we have an opportunity to connect people in a way that has never been possible before. While travel is optimal this is second best. The only way to truly shift stereotypes and perceptions is to connect people and in my experience mutually beneficial 'trade' is a great way to accomplish this goal.

Christina

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Great job addressing the challenge questions, bringing in additional evidence, and speaking to the opioid crisis - an increasingly difficult hurdle for rural communities to overcome. I am confused by this statement though: "Technology is creating a world where spatial limitations are increasing toward irrelevance..." Do you mean that technology is making spatial limitations irrelevant? Or the opposite, in spite of its' ability to connect, technology is increasing the impact of spatial limitations?

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Thank you Marnie Glazier for bringing to light the needed to be clear about spacial limitations! We mean that a person in Rural America can now do a job in Urban America without leaving home because of the advances of technology. I will reword it so it is easier to understand.

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Excellent! Keep up the great work and I look forward to talking more.

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Hi Christina Schwanke , Congratulations on getting shortlisted for the refinement phase! It's great to see your proposal of bridging urban community with the rural. I would love to hear more about the prototype that you did. What did you want to test? How did you do the tests and what were the learning?

And also in your submission you have mentioned, "This program is based from feedback from urban (Reno, NV and SF, CA) and rural (Inyo, Mono, Modoc, and Butte, CA) end users". Can you explain a bit on the feedback you received?

With the pilot, do you have any success/failure stories so far?

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Hello Gayanjith Premalal ,

Thank you! RSF is really enjoying the refinement process. I appreciate you asking questions because I believe I overcomplicated choosing the correct box. However in many ways we are past the initial design phase because of the involvement of our mentors and partners.

As far as prototyping we are in essence working on scalability based on working models that we consider the prototypes from the RSF mentors. Our two working models are Mountain Plains LLC. and Killdeer Mountain Manufacturing. The President of Mountain Plains LLC (RSF Mentor Tony Wood) started Mountain Plains 8 years ago to offer power line design to a utility who did not have the resources to keep up with the demand. In 8 years Mountain Plains has hired over 60 employees, over 80% came with no education or training to perform the job duties. Mountain Plains trained all employees from the bottom up. Ninety percent of employees with no training have either stayed with the company or gained enough work experience to obtain employment in most of the U.S. that would translate into a $50,000 + career. That being said I am one of the products of Mountain Plains commitment to training under qualified individuals and I am eligible for jobs in Nevada that pay $90,000+. The biggest learning point that Mountain Plains struggles with but is helping us think through is how to empower trainers to teach and empower others to encourage people to keep growing. Where we differ from Mountain Plains is as a nonprofit we can take our time to create a more well rounded apprenticeship and use grant funding and donations we can create equity for society's most vulnerable. We can also focus on fundamental workforce development needs that have formerly be unsuccessful due to several variables but often in rural areas due to the necessity of survival over self betterment.

Our second mentor is Erika Bauer co-owner of Killdeer Mountain Manufacturing. KMM was started in the late 80's due to a major oil bust and economic downturn in rural Dunn County, ND. The town of Killdeer was effectively a ghost town. The hedger's started the little manufacturing plant with 4 people. Killdeer almost immediately saw an impact. Currently there are two rural plants employing over 80 people, providing benefits to 80 families and contributing over $3,000,000 worth of wages between 2 towns of 1000 residents each. Most of KMM's employees start with no education or experience and are able to grow their income from $28,000 a year to an average of $52,000 a year. Our mentor at KMM is helping us with training and company culture. The family culture of KMM is considered the reason why people are empowered to grow their careers and they have almost zero problems with their remote workforce.

So while RSF has not formerly prototyped the high involvement from our mentors give us a strong understanding of what works and what hasn't.

As far as the feedback from our end users, before we started developing our program in California and Nevada we wanted to confirm need and desire. Just because the USDA statistics indicate a need for employment doesn't mean every rural community struggle with this problem. Also the harsh reality is just because somebody needs a job does not mean there is one available. RSF reached out to nonprofits, school districts and social services in four counties in California. The overwhelming response was 'Please bring jobs!' After our initial outreach we have been approached by the MBA group from the University of Tennessee and communities in Texas, Nevada and Idaho making the same request. Employment is the gap that no one seems to be able to get a handle on. We have formed partnerships with several agencies (working on others) to create support system for individuals to successfully succeed. We have been offered workspace, computers, training assistance and more to help get this off the ground. We have also talked to individuals within companies like Microsoft, Disney, Uber that are expressing that the skills gap and hiring is a major issue and the response to our proposal has been overwhelmingly positive. Up until the beneficiary feedback phase we didn't realize the depth of skilled talent we had to offer companies.

We are just now entering the pilot phase which includes obtaining company partnerships and putting together the first wave of rural end-users to participate. Nothing to report as of yet.

As I mentioned before choosing the box was a difficult decision but this project is not based off theories but real life experience. It is guided by many years of experience. (I would happily change the box though if I overcomplicated it to a fault.)

I would appreciate any feedback you have to offer or any other questions that can help me better articulate or think through our project.

Christina

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Great contribution. I love it when you keep on improving. Resilience is one of the strongest traits in life. Keep up the good work.

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Nomusa Keninda Thank you! I couldn't agree more. We appreciate your encouragement!

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Your proposal is very strong and I look forward to talking next week!

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Sounds good! Will text back and look forward to connecting by phone.

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Christina,
Congratulations on making the short list! Sorry we missed one another by phone, but I'd love to try again to set up a time to talk. I am here in CA until late July, so let me know when you might have time. Hope to connect soon!

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Marnie Glazier 
Thank you! We are so grateful and excited! Congratulations to you as well! I texted you. Let's try for next week!
Christina

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DeletedUser

Hi Christina
I believe RSF will be one of the important ideas to blossom here, and much credit to you. While the rural-urban gap is something all of us are aware of, few of us delve into the key questions: why is it there? why does it continue to grow? what are the community level (economic, education, healthcare, etc.) impacts? how communities can 'actually' do something about it?

It's particularly the domino effect which was hiding in plainsight for me here - with economic weakening rural communities loose buying power for private sector education, healthcare services, etc. which therefore exit, and this puts the public sector services under stress. Very insightful! I applaud the sponge-like way in which you have absorbed the critical inputs & suggestions of this community, so constructively, and built the idea. Special mention to Sydney Gray on working with you. It makes us respect your personal experiences and honest passion, even more.

Rural settings due to vast land tracts have been 'tagged' with the agriculture, animal husbandry (& if lucky - food processing) occupations in modern times. Supporting the technology industry from rural areas is something you have already progressed in, and we can see that you're exploring the arts & new-media circle too. The country-side should foster fertile ground in content generation - in literature, music, fine-arts, entertainment - reinstating a legacy it once enjoyed. If the publicity & early facilitation is done right, I can easily picture happy country folks developing new works during the day in calm & peace and showcasing their talents on Youtube, etc. and LIVE! in nearby cities on evenings & weekends!

Building on the same you'll find ideas to achieve resources support for city coffee drinkers in the idea Roots Coffee Connect and resource & workforce support for construction projects in the idea Open Project Teams - Breaking oligopolies, growing formal employment & avoiding middlemen in Construction sector for planet and prosperity! Both concepts use platforms & passionate teams to avoid middlemen and foster grassroots prosperity. I'm not sure how serious the middlemen malaise is in the developed part, but in developing world it is extremely rampant and we are striving to build bridges in our communities. Open Project Teams' following modules once fully implemented, contribute in the stated manner:
1. Kelydo - marketplace with local workshops' products - will enable just-in-time local sourcing and reduce construction industry's reliance on few profiteering brands.
2. Amigo - a la Uber for construction workforce - will reduce construction industry's reliance on migrant labour and engage local populace directly.
We are in the Idea & Prototype stage, in Bangalore, India. So right now your queries & suggestions are welcome and if you're as excited about it, we fully intend to work closely to enable in the CA/Nevada communities in future.

All the very best to RSF
Thanks
Saahil
@DeletedUser 

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@DeletedUser 

Thank you so much for your kind words. This is not just a project for the directors of RSF but a lifestyle. I have read through your idea and would love to have a further discussion. We have some of the same problems but some opposite problems as well. I will have more time tomorrow and would like to really articulate my thoughts. I'll comment on your project....I love the idea of collaboration.

Thank you!
Christina

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Christina Schwanke ,

I agree with Saahil that you have an important idea to blossom! I am also onboard with how might rural communities use platforms & passionate teams to avoid middlemen and foster grassroots prosperity. After reading this rich discussion thread, I was curious if there are already "rural innovation hubs" sprouting up and came across https://ruralinnovation.us. You have a great skill of networking and I wonder if there are other similar organizations/centers that have inspired you in the direction that RSF is taking?

Onwards,
Carrie (part of Dusti Becker 's team)

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Hellos Carrie & Dusti Becker  Thank you for your kind comments and thoughts on our project. I looked at the website you provided and I believe it is an organization worth reaching out to for us. That being said our inspiration comes from a few places but most notably a manufacturer in North Dakota. A woman I respect greatly runs a plant that produces circuitry for Boeing. Her grandfather started the business to bring industry into a remote part of North Dakota to provide a way for struggling ranching families to earn extra income and health benefits. It is a wonderful business. As far as other nonprofits we have not found one that combines the jobs with the free education. We felt very strongly we needed to be creative and proactive to most effectively serve rural communities that are difficult to help. To elaborate I live in Storey County, Nevada. While Storey is a rural county it is a very wealthy county because it provided affordable land and tax incentives to major companies, most notably Tesla. Storey has the advantage of being located within a short drive from Reno and Tahoe which provides workers with resources and incentive to relocate and work. Unfortunately many rural counties in California and Nevada do not have the magic combination of land, incentive, workers and resources to inspire growth so we are aiming to help bring stability and sustainability one person at a time. As an example one of the counties we serve is 2.5 hours from a Walmart or mall and 3 hours from a hospital that can treat a heart attack. There are several people in the community that would benefit from our program and their benefit would help the community greatly but at this time bringing industry in the community would not be doable because there are not enough skilled workers the sustain a business. There are many other factors that have fed into this project, such as a few communities are land locked by government land or some communities are to expensive to afford childcare for women to work outside the home. As we have dug we have been reminded over and over there is not a one size fits all solution so we have to empower individuals take control of their lives to better their communities without leaving. I apologize if that was rambling. As I expressed to Sydney I am so close to this project and it is such a huge part of my life I have a difficult time writing about it because there is so much to say!Christina

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Christina Schwanke Keep following your heart!

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@Svetla I read Free Online Univercity I would like to know what skill you have to implement your project? Is it an idea and you are looking for skilled individuals or do you have the ability to create a platform? We are working with partners currently to provide educational resources to our participants but eventually we would like to build our own platform, Would love to know your thoughts!

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Hi Christina,
thank you for your interest to my idea. I already start preparation of the online platform and I`m searching for partners. I will be glad if I can help you. I saw that your project is verry similar to mine. Would you like to be part of my team. The Free Online University will operate globally and I`ll be verry happy if your organisation could be our partner for your region. I have made changes to the application to explane more clear my idea. I will be glad to understand your feedback.

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Svetla 
Thank you for responding. Yes! Please add me to your team and I would be happy to add you to mine if you would like? What would be the best way to connect for interaction after the challenge? I would be interested in seeing your platform. I read your updated proposal and I had some thoughts.

1. I think that you have a wonderful idea but would like to know what sets you apart from Coursera or Kahn Academy? One of the things (in my opinion) that would be helpful is offering university level courses that come with a certification. Many of the online programs you have to pay for a certification and while the prices are low they can be unaffordable for those who actually need the proof.

2. What region are you initially planning to serve? What language is the education going to be offered initially? What are the needs and shortages in the region? These are all questions that will affect initial development and implementation.

3. You talk about serving the poor youth. I wanted to point out that many of the poor in the U.S. are working poor. While the expense of gaining and education is a barrier it is not the only barrier. Time to complete the education is a huge barrier and understanding which education leads to which career is confusing (why we chose apprenticeship, paid education with a clear path.)

It is great that we have a forum to learn from each others experience. I hope that these questions help you refine your project. I am looking forward to learning more!
Christina

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Hi Christina,
Please add me to your team. I will be happy to work together.
Thank you for your comments. Please see below my answer:
1. The main difference is that the speciality, education process and the period of education will be defined by the partner companies for the needs of their vacant /opened/ work places. And yes, they will receive a certificate after completing the education and exams. They will not pay for that.
2. I`m planning to operate Globally from the beginning, that is way I would like to work together - because you know better the specific needs and to be able to reach students for your region. The education will be in English as universal language. The needs of our region are very similar to yours. We have the same inequality between rural and urban region.
3. Off course we can include your target group as well. But we need to define clear income criteria in the application form. That is way I choose for criteria income below minimum wages for each country, because they are defined for each country by the government according the social conditions and status of living. If you have another suggestion for income criteria I will be happy to share it with me. The criteria have to be globally applicable and fair. The Online University will give opportunity students to work remotely from home after the first year of education. Off course they can start earlier, but this will depend of their skills and this will be decision of the partner company.
We can continue our correspondence via e-mail: sdstaykova@abv.bg.

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Svetla 
Thank you for your response!
1. I would encourage you to talk to some potential partner companies to find out what they look for in people. We have found that there is a wide variety of answers to what they require which is why we have chosen to pick and choose courses from existing sources. Developing an entire curriculum is going to take time considering mix of participant skills and partner requirements.
2.Operating Globally from the beginning is a lofty goal. Every region has a different set of needs and challenges. Even in the United States we are finding differences by region that will effect our expansion. World wide education style varies, infrastructure varies, etc. Perhaps I don't have the vision you have. In our experience building partnerships and developing a program that serves our end users just in a limited region has required 12 months. We are finally at a place we can move forward in two state adequately meeting the needs of our users.
3. Income requirements can be a tricky subject. You can leave people behind that would really benefit from you service. The other reality is when you choose a number below minimum wage your end-user most likely does not have the resources to participate in your program. As an example we are looking to work with mothers in poverty in the U.S. the problem is they can't afford internet or computers. We have had to creatively address this problem. This goes back to the issue of operating globally....people have different needs and it's difficult to address them without the right partners.

Christina

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Dear Catherin,
Thank you for your answer.
I have already start conversation with company partner. The idea is very well accepted.
1. I know that each region has their own specific requirements. That is why I ask you to be our partner for your region, to be able to reach the people. Off course it is on-going process. All provided information and advices are very welcome to be able to develop the platform on the best way.
2. The platform will be very flexible in order to meet the requirements of the users. The weak point of already existing platforms and courses is that they are not so flexible.
3. The income criteria can be revised based on the specific requirements for each area.

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Liz Taylor-Kerr I read your idea Access to Financial Education for all school children . I believe this is a highly valuable idea! I as curious how you would implement globally so quickly? Do you work with partners? I see you work with schools and government. The reason I tagged you here is because financial literacy is a piece of our apprenticeship and you noted that you already work with adults. Is your work in person or online? Do you have a website I could visit. I would appreciate if you could read our idea and let me know if you believe you would be a viable option for collaboration, keeping in mind most of our outreach is remote.

Thanks,
Christina

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Thanks Christina. Yes most of what we do is online. Let me get back to you after I’ve finished what I’m doing and I have a chance to give this some more attention

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Liz Taylor-Kerr  sounds good!

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Dear Christina,

You may want to have a look at https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/bridgebuilder2/ideas/inclusion-sourcing-and-universal-basic-employment. My Refival initiative addresses similar matters in Europe but in relation to refugees and migration.... what is comparable is the Internet based outsourcing and education required....

Hans van nieuwkerk

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Hello Hans,

Thank you for reaching out. I actually forwarded on of your resources to my cofounder this morning. It was encouraging to see the work in India and the impact it is having.

While I can see your passion, I am a bit confused by your submission. I had a few questions that may either help you redefine yours or us put more thought into ours.

1. Where do you see your funding coming from? You noted in your submission that your vision is to rethink 'narrow “paid job” definition.' Is your program similar to ours or is it paying people for philanthropy etc? Or is it a hybrid?

2. What about people that do not have the physical/mental ability to contribute? Or people who do not have the desire to contribute?

3. What incentive is there for a person to pursue more difficult or undesirable tasks?

4. What bridge does this create? I am in the center of the divide here but I have no context on Europe?

I hope you will take the time to explain further because your submission is very interesting!

Christina

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Dear Christina,

I fully understand your confusion because there are actually two projects which complement each other, the first project is “Inclusion Sourcing” which I submitted last year (http://www.openideo.refival.org/) and this one is likely the most relevant to your situation. (By the way, I use a similar remote apprenticeship concept in relation to prevention of migration from Africa in my project as you do in yours).

Fighting a change in the political climate in Europe I, as a result of this, meanwhile developed a second framework named Universal Basic Employment, which complements the first one and which protects society from a further decay in solidarity.

-1- The UBE part is funded in an identical way as UBI is; it is tax based and simplifies welfare structures reducing administration cost. It will be a bit more complicated to implement because it would likely use tax credits and a negative income tax system as its basis. The basic difference between UBE and UBI is that UBI gives a basic income without any strings attached, however this requires solidarity. Although most UBI implementations were successful up till now, there is in my opinion one big catch in future namely virtual reality, it will become quite easy to escape reality and to not participate in society. This is exactly what UBE wants to prevent. By giving a tax credit for “any positive contribution” to society (and this is of course including normal jobs) the result is both a basic income and solidarity out of connection to society.

-2- As I write in my articles, welfare will remain available for those who are not able to participate in UBE. The level has to still be determined because many people, even if they are currently considered to be disabled, can contribute in one way or another. For people not having the desire to contribute to their society, UBE does not guarantee any income. Of course must the spectrum of contributions be very wide, for example educating oneself is considered to be a contribution in my current UBE approach.

-3- UBE is in principle a capitalist competitive system regulated by supply and demand, tasks that nobody wants to do will be well paid. Further UBE, like UBI only guarantees a minimum wage/income so most people will earn more and pay income tax over the money they earn on top of their basic income. Like UBI, UBE gives workers a stronger position to negotiate with employers; if labor conditions are inacceptable, people can say no to them.

-4- Inclusion Sourcing creates a bridge between separated rural and urban communities, UBE creates a bridge between people inside of a community; they are complements of each other.

If you have any further questions or comments, please let me know,

Hans van Nieuwkerk

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Johannes Cornelis van Nieuwkerk 

Thank you for your quick response. I have been thinking about your proposal. It's fascinating because in our region what you are suggesting, in my opinion, would not create solidarity. While it may be helpful to one group it would upset another. Partially because in rural areas in the United States many workers live in poverty. I am curious how European rural communities differ from the U.S. and how solidarity is achieved. I love how different regions can be throughout the world. It is fascinating how a solution can be perfect for one region and not another.

Christina

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Dear Christina,

Inclusion Sourcing (like your project and my 2017 Openideo contribution) requires solidarity, UBI require solidarity.... because both transfer something from privileged (or urban) to disadvantaged (rural) areas and require some form of affirmative action.

Since in Europe this is a big problem by now after the "refugee crisis" (which is no crisis but a solidarity crisis and which reflects general insecurity rather than real economical factors).

I encounter strong headwinds because of it and therefore now designed a solution which in my opinion would create/increase solidarity and this is my Openideo 2018 UBE contribution.

Since Universal Basic Employment is entirely based on rewarding (any type of) contribution to society, I expect it to generate solidarity because the collective benefits should be visible to everyone.

There also is a strong life-long-learning philosophy embedded, which should give everyone the optimal possibilities to develop oneself and contribute with passion instead of being forced to accept every job in order to survive.

As such this is very similar to UBI, with the difference that there is no freedom to completely disconnect from the community/society (which with a virtual reality revolution coming very near is in my opinion something important to avoid).

Of course there will be groups who will not like anything universal because this in general of course does not allow the levels of inequality as we currently rapidly see developing (http://wir2018.wid.world/). However, at the same time is UBE surely neither socialism or communism based and it does not restrict basic inequality or income differences it just guarantees a basic income if one contributes.

For the poor life will likely improve a lot, for ordinary and moderately rich people (financially, tax pressure wise) nothing much will change..... and yes the super rich will likely have less because they will likely have to pay more tax.

Compare it with a rentier state (such as many OPEC countries) and consider robots and AI to be public resources with low investment (like drilling for oil) and high profits, strongly increasing GDP, then it becomes quite logical to share the returns more equally over the population.

Hope it makes sense to you what I write here..... comments welcome......

Hans van Nieuwkerk

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Dear Hans,

I really enjoy being able to discuss and learn others point of views. You clearly have invested a lot of time in thinking through your program and while I understand the theory behind it I am more curious about the overall feedback you have received from end-users on both sides. While I can see how you can relate your previous program to ours; they are actually very different by the very nature of the end result. The following are the main similarities and differences I see between your first program, second program and ours:

1. The first extremely important point is we do not see one population having more privilege than the other. I have personally spent half of my life residing in both populations and see that there are privileges and disadvantages that come with both. The problem we are addressing is that rural areas are losing population to urban areas due to lack of opportunity and barriers to success. This is not the fault of the the urban population nor is it intrinsically their responsibility to fix. The issue becomes tension that arises from the shift which negatively affects both communities.

2. Secondly, while your programs addresses ways to help the disadvantaged populations (which we highly respect) they don't address problems that U.S. urban areas are facing. After generating feedback from both sets of end users we have found that the urban communities are struggling with a huge skills gap. This is why we are adapting the apprenticeship model. Our aim is to cultivate a skilled- highly skilled rural workforce. While our focus is on rural communities it is imperative to RSF that we provide a mutual beneficial relationship. Thus 'Rural Synergy Foundation.'

3. RSF has no intent to create or influence policy. One of our core principals is to create a bridge without changing the personality's of the communities we serve. It is our intent to create incentive for both communities to positively work together to create beneficial change for both urban and rural not force change or raise taxes.

4. I absolutely agree with your premise that UBI would allow some to completely disconnect from society, especially in rural areas and this would further deepen the problem.

5. I also agree that it is valuable to incentivize education because it is adding value to society. That being said in the U.S. we have major shortages of skilled labor both in technology and the trades. With the limited resources of our foundation and the problems our end users are expressing we find that the best use of our time and money is to bridge people to the most needed skills.

Which OPEC countries would you use and example. I would like to do more research. When oil crashed in 2015 Venezuela went from being a wealthy South American country to their country's citizens having no access to food.

Again thank you for clarifying your idea.

Christina

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Dear Christina,

Thanks, due to a lack of time, just a "short" response. First, yes the US is very different from Europe and I both spent traveling the US for almost a year and did business there. Inclusion Sourcing is clearly written from a European perspective (and from the point of integrating two million mostly non-skills-matching refugees into the already problematic European labor market). Unfortunately there is no feedback on Inclusion Sourcing yet and social engineering experiments are needed to prove a number of assumptions. I propose such experiments in a scalable way and not a revolution.

-1- Developments are nobody's faults, they are just developments. However, they can easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy if 90% of the policy makers have a urban mindset and implement measures in a way that one environment blooms and the other dies. In my opinion affirmative action is required in which those tasks which can be relocated are more evenly shared or even positively discriminating rural versus urban. For example it does not make sense that Budapest has 50.000 fully Internet based shared services jobs (about 20-25% of the local economy depends on it) whereas the countryside has near to zero. Private sector is not always cost driven, at least in Europe they are more process driven and cost plays only a limited role. Urbanization has further a lot to do with demographics (www.n0418.refival.org) in many places and maybe partially other than in the US (scale factor) agriculture is a relatively weak basis (Europe: 2-4% of GDP, 20-25% of rural population) to build a rural society on. Non-agricultural rural jobs on the other have great future potential because the trend is decentralization by now. Finally, urban clustering causes a housing crisis in Europe in which people no longer can afford decent housing in cities and thus we see terrible two incomes no kids demographics.

-2- I agree on the synergy. Incubating refugees in a rural setting would in my case mean cost effective skills development followed by migration of those being specialized who are more needed in cities. There always has been a division between a highly specialized and interactive city environment and a less specialized but nature related rural one. Both are each other's complement and I see the optimum more related to stages in life as to a black and white choice. Rural may be more child-friendly, urban may be better to live for elderly. Important is to balance the two and make both an attractive choice again. I always make the comparison with sustainable forestry, one can cut trees as long as one plant new ones.... I think the same about urbanization.

-3- In the European situation it is too late to balance the two environments without policy change. As I said previously the mindset of politics is an urbancentric one and without change there is no rural future.

-4- we agree.

-5- we are very similar here.

In respect to my OPEC example I rather look at the Middle-East and Russia and with lower oil prices there are also there of course serious problems in adapting their economies. However, robots and AI follow a similar crash logic.... if people do/will no longer have the money to buy the products they produce, the current economic model does not work either. Finally, with public resources I do not mean Marxist state ownership of technology but a better balance between the rewards of the private sector exploiting them and "society" receiving a share in the replacement of human labor by more efficient technological solutions, which will strongly increase GDP. If in the end a few people own a great part of all robots this cannot exclude all others...... so in my opinion there can be a robot tax (Bill Gates) or a licensing system comparable with radio frequencies in Europe.

Success!

Hans

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Hans,

Again, thank you for your thoughtful response. I think you focus on AI is interesting, while I have read some articles on the matter I have not thought a lot about it. I wanted to thank you for pointing out the housing crisis in urban areas, the US is experiencing the same problem. We also see this as a benefit as creating economic sustainability in rural areas.

I don't know enough to speak to AI but I do find it concerning emulating OPEC regions due to the fact oil is an EXTREMELY volatile commodity. I have personally experienced an oil bust and it is very problematic event for oil reliant regions. Again, just my personal experience.

Out of curiosity are you from a rural region or an urban region?

Christina

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Dear Christina,

Thanks, rural and urban are complements and especially from a demographic point of view rural has space and birthrate advantages because of cheaper housing. With policies in place to reduce migration everywhere..... low birthrates (Cities often face a TFR of 1.0) and ageing can easily become a problem (www.a0418.refival.org, in rural Europe this definitely is already the case).

Oil is indeed very volatile and the Arab spring protest movement is largely related to the fact that the growth of for example the MENA population is much faster than the job growth in the region (also: many public sector jobs, few private sector ones in rentier states) and it did of course not get better after the oil price started to decline. So there currently is enormous migration pressure.

I grew up in a small village and lived in "rural" areas in The Netherlands (for as much as The Netherlands has any rural areas) but I also lived for years in Arnhem, Rotterdam and The Hague. In Hungary I lived both in the countryside and in Pécs and Budapest. So I have ample experience in both worlds, although rural in Europe means something else than in the US due to a much higher rural population density.

Hans

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Johannes Cornelis van Nieuwkerk Thank you again for the lively conversation! Best of luck in your endeavors!

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Sydney Gray I've made some edits. I would love to know you thoughts as to whether or not our peace and prosperity picture is coming into focus.
'Peace between rural and urban America is largely a lack of empathy knowledge of the opposing community. Rural communities are tense toward urban communities due to an economic crisis:
Almost one quarter (23.5%)(Source: USDA) of children in rural communities are living in poverty.
Causes of Poverty include five factors;
• Lack of Access to Knowledge or Education
• Perpetual Dependency on public resources
• Dishonesty from people in power to make change
• Apathy or lack of confidence/self-worth
• Disease and Access to Healthcare
Individuals in rural communities experience a lack of access to jobs, education and financial resources, causing family and community instability. This instability leads to less; access to healthcare, community resources and educational opportunities. This set of circumstances causes tension and resentment toward urban communities. Meanwhile Urban America struggles with rising food costs and gap in ideology leading to a divide. This bridge is a must!'

Again this is the overall goal of our agency but sometimes I am so close to the project I don't adequately explain it! Also, I saw on your Linkedin you are a 'storyteller', my fellow director and I were advised to reach out to a storyteller because our story is really the fuel behind our project. What does the process of working with someone like you look like?

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I had been going back and forth on whether or not to give deeper feedback, but since it's explicitly requested... and to give context, my main paying profession has been as a storyteller. I excel in two key areas, grant writing and data-driven storytelling.

First off, this is a much more solid draft than your last one. You're going to read a lot of comments below, but know you're are making good progress. Instead of a complete disconnect between the need and program that I saw in the previous draft, I now see a tenuous connect and line of logic. So let's break this down and strengthen it.

Starting from the top:

I would argue that the premise you put forth on why I should care "the 2016 Presidential Election", I don't buy it. Some people believe that the issue is "white, rural America" feeling disenfranchised. But there are many, MANY people who have different opinions on what caused the outcome of the election (especially those who are happy about it). Your argument on why I should care about this rift could be a bit more solid - what does this rift lead to? Are the people in the rural areas being left behind? Is it sowing discontent that's causing the urban areas to lose something? Why should I care?

This ties into the purpose for this initiative. You cite a lack of awareness, knowledge, and empathy as the cause for the rift I should care about. And you start to draw the connection between this and the programming by discussing bridging the gap between the urban and rural employment divide. But you don't quite close this gap. The need area would be greatly strengthened by giving some sort of data (or even a declarative statement) that shows that disparate economic opportunity contributes to or (better yet) causes the divide.

That's just addressing the first paragraph of your project idea. After that you move into what RSF is doing. And this is much better. As I mentioned earlier, you better connected the thread here between why you're doing it and what you're doing. I can see you directly connecting urban companies with rural people in this line.

Then this could be further strengthened by framing this as fulfilling problems experienced on both sides... lack of opportunity in the rural area, and lack of labor for the urban companies. And I see the benefit to the rural population, alleviating what (presumably) causes the strife on the side of the rural population (poverty). The main question this paragraph raises to me is whether or not educating urban companies is going to do anything for either economic opportunity in rural areas or the rift cited in the previous paragraph. From my understanding of your program from the rest of this application, this might be better framed as connecting companies with stellar employees and contractors from rural areas, busting misconceptions of the people hiring from these companies (it's better to connect to people, not organizations - businesses don't have behavior, people do).

I will tell you, I am HUGELY skeptical about the idea of "educating" conglomerates on the virtues of rural America. But I don't feel like that's actually what your proposing and this proposal just needs a shift in framing by a few degrees. The theory of change, as I understand it, is that by connecting urban opportunities to rural employees and contractors, you can alleviate the economic burden souring perceptions, create connections between urban and rural people to overcome stereotyping, and benefit urban companies, incentivizing their continued investment. If that is the theory of change, it will be important to make that crystal clear.

I highly recommend the TED Talk by Simon Sinek titled "How great leaders inspire action". People don't buy what you do, they buy WHY you do it.

From that, I think you could even (slightly) shrink the section on your pilot program - what you're proposing should've already been sold earlier in the question with the need. So you work to connect rural people with the opportunities, providing them the training they need to excel, and connect the urban opportunities with the talent they're missing.

Now what training you provide, you can list in the question about your beneficiaries, outlining the training you provide and how it's all targeted at the barriers people in rural areas suffering from poverty face.

And particularly: your theory of change as outlined in the first question must be mirrored in the question about the local context. Also make sure you're landing on why I should care in both places.

Okay, now that was a lot for a very small part of your application - but it's the backbone on which the rest of the questions rest. Just in case this is overwhelming, my feedback can be summarized as follows:

1) Why do I care? No really, why do I care?
2) Okay, now you've got me to care. But what's causing the problem I care about?
3) How does your program directly solve what's causing the problem I now care about.

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Ran out of characters. Okay! Yes, it's perfectly normal to get too close to a project and need outside review. I ask for this all the time and always find out how my beautifully written deck or pitch (in my eyes) is actually not sensible to anyone outside the field. We get too close to the work and many things become automatic when they aren't.

And yes, storyteller. I put that there because it's a summation of what I do. As I briefly mentioned above, my history of paying work is in fundraising. And I'm good at it because I tell clear and compelling stories, backed by data. I tell people why they need to care about something, what's causing the problem, and how I am going to fix it for them.... provided they give me money, of course.

You said you were advised to reach out to a storyteller, but my question to you is to what end? I agree that storytelling is the fuel of all impact work (forprofit or non), but what form that takes varies.

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Sydney Gray THANK YOU SO MUCH! I really appreciate you taking the time to express the disconnect. Your feedback is valuable and gives me a lot to think through! Thankfully I have some time to reframe the beginning before the deadline. Do you write grants for several agencies or just Maji Mamas?

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Of course. I find your idea interesting.

And I have written grants for a number of agencies, but right now I write primarily for my employer (a social innovation accelerator where I'm the Director of Development) and my side passion (Maji Mamas).

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Sydney Gray I responded before I got your second message! Compacting messages into the allowable amount of characters is a huge struggle for me.

My fellow cofounders and I came to an intersection where we really had no choice but pursuing this project. It's a very long story but our talents came together at a time that our community (Surprise Valley, CA) was/is facing losing their school and their hospital. This means that people will have to travel through often adverse weather and difficult terrain 50+ miles to obtain an education or health care. In the event of an emergency this distance can be life or death. As an example a few years ago I was the first person to find a flipped cattle truck in rural Nevada. The driver had a broken Femur and was hanging upside down out of his truck. We were lucky enough to have cell service but had to wait over an hour for emergency services to arrive while one person held his leg in place and I held his head. If it had hurt the artery in his leg he would have bled out. All that to say if something in our community doesn't change people will not only lose their livelihood and resources but in terrible cases their life.

There are three of us who started this and have been fortunate that others have come along side of us and supported our vision with their talents. We have a lot of passion and talent supporting us but our ability to convey the urgent need and our overall story is still evolving. I can't say that I am sure of our exact need in storytelling because it's not the way my mind works but acknowledge what you do is of high value and something we need to explore and understand more!

Thank you again for your support in this process. Please let me know if there is a way I can support you as well!

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Of course! Well as always, any input on our submission is always supremely welcome. As I said, even I get too close to the work sometimes.

And I would like to back up for a moment and say that this response is a beautiful use of story. You conveyed a sense of love, connection, and dedication to your community and then immediately connected it to a very visual and compelling pain point. The brutally clear story of a situation you personally found yourself in and what it caused, and what that means for your community is really compelling. This is a story someone can put themselves into - an unraveling community and someone desperately hurt. It's much, MUCH more compelling than the standard "10,000 people in a community losing a hospital" that many people use. And particularly when you are giving people your why, I would focus on versions of this story. I am betting this would be particularly powerful given verbally. It certainly made me care.

That doesn't help this application, though, as the RFP is focusing on peace // planet // prosperity. You've got to find the story that captures that intersection of what you're doing. Prosperity is clear, it's the peace you just need to clear up.

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And I just looked up your community, Christ y'all are super north. I considered my family Northern California (Red Bluff/Trinity County/Redding), but y'all up up there at another level. And in a very disconnected piece of geography.

My dad and brothers actually grew up in Dunsmuir, which is almost as north - but it's more connected along the 5. And they all left to cities for jobs.

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Sydney Gray your feedback has created some great dialogue between my fellow directors and I! We are working on an updated draft now. You are clearly very talented if you accomplish so much with us through posts on a submission!

Our school actually played sports against Dunsmuir! You are right it is more connected but it still faces many of the same challenges. Thank you for taking the interest to look us up. Did you grow up in California?

I read through your submission again and have some more questions. I will post on your submission!

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Of course! Glad it was so helpful.

Yes I did. My dad left Dunsmuir for the big city, so I grew up in Sacramento. Lived in Sacramento until I was 18, then the Bay Area until I was 26, and now New Orleans!

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So interesting! I love when people are brave enough to experience living in a variety of places!

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Sydney Gray I wanted to thank you again for your feedback, we took it very seriously. We changed the two main parts of our application. It was such a stretching experience to write about a conflict we are so close to and so personally divided by! Again, we appreciate you taking the time to challenge us!

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Wow! This is SO much stronger! You guys have done a WONDERFUL job reframing and rethinking. You've clearly put in a lot of effort, and it has come across with a much cleaner and clearer narrative. Congrats!

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Hi Christina Schwanke , I just read through your project and checked out your website and must say you have created a really wonderful project. I also very much enjoyed reading through the conversation and intensive feedback from Sydney Gray ! The divide between urban and rural communities is a world-wide issue. Our own idea Smart Villages for Rural India: Building vibrant, sustainable rural communities to stem urbanisation is addressing this same issue in North India. We would love to hear what you think about it as you’re addressing this issue in a different setting!

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@United for Hope Thank you for taking the time to read our project. @Sydney Gray has been a huge help in spurring thought and we are in the process of updating our application right now! It is interesting to see the Urban and Rural divide affects so many countries. We very much relate to your need to create a comprehensive program. When we approached several rural communities the biggest unaddressed need was job skills and employment. Many programs have failed because the end user does not have the time or money to actually utilize the program, ironic. We decides based off many conversations to create this program and use the funding generated to support the 'big picture' which in our targeted ares is education and access to healthcare. The ultimate goal is to provide funding to multiple communities to fill gaps. For instance some communities lack access to fresh produce or even a grocery store. We have a partner non-profit in mind to deliver whole foods to those communities. This is a lot to take on but the reality is a matter of life or death. I think there are some valuable ideas on this platform that might be of assistance to your big picture. Unfortunately I have a limited understanding of India and I believe opinions who have a better cultural and geographical grasp on your project would be very helpful. We have been so grateful to our collaborators during this process. I will tag the project on your page for reference!

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Christina Schwanke thank you so much for your response. It is very interesting to see the similarities in this Urban/Rural divide within different country-settings. Likewise, we have experienced that the biggest unaddressed need (what we were mostly asked for) is job skills and employment. Thank you so much for referring these other projects to us! We will take a look and explore them to see how they can be helpful for our bigger picture.

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Gabriel Stiritz This is our program. It has some similar attributes to yours. I would l think connecting would be valuable to both of us in the future. Let me know what you think.

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Marnie Glazier I read Salinas Arts & Innovation Hub and realized that our program is not utilizing arts in our apprenticeship model. I would be grateful if you would read our idea and help us brainstorm practical ways we could include art in a practical way.

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I love the arts, I think that technical programs in graphic design can help members of a community to find jobs. I know my little bit of skills in Photoshop and Illustrator has opened doors for me.

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Thanks so much, Christina. I would love to collaborate and join one another's teams - especially given our overlaps, both geographically, and practically. It is surprising how many ways art overlaps with every other sector, so I think that you can quite easily incorporate the arts into your program - from the most fundamental marketing and collaborative/team-building, to more complex applications. As an applied theatre practitioner and educator, we've been partnering with organizations from health care, to agriculture, doing forum theatre workshops to engage dialogue, bringing team-building exercises, and then more pragmatically, making videos and doing visual works for client/partners. Let me know if you want any more specifics on any of this. There are a number of good publications on the subject and I have some things that I'm in the process of publishing as well.
There is a growing tendency toward art as healing - whether through mindfulness practices in health care setting, or art therapy among a variety of population groups, the only thing that is lagging, is federal policy that still hasn't recognized art therapies as evidence-based practices. Many, however, are working to address this flaw.

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Jesse Hunt I am so glad you are collaborating for us. I never thought about graphic design opening door! What kind of jobs does Photoshop and Illustrator open? How many hours of training would give somebody a solid enough foundation to start growing in a career with these skill? Is it something that somebody who is not artistic (like myself) could learn enough about to be an asset to a company?

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Marnie Glazier Thank you so much for your input! A lot of the work we will be doing is geographically spread out, while much of it will be based in Northern California and Nevada we are currently working out a partnership to provide jobs and education to homeless or at-risk of being homeless in Tennessee. I would love more information on you theatre workshops and team building exercises....actually everything! I am curious if you think we could creatively come up with a way to implement this into our program virtually.

Do you work in the Art Therapy realm as well? If not could you direct me to someone who does. A lot of our clients will be survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and other trauma, it would be great to give them access a way to further healing.

I am going to add you to my team. I would love to be part of your team as well if you see fit.

Christina

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Christina,
Thanks so much for asking! Yes, many of our community partners work in art therapy, and one of our partner organizations, Urban Arts Collaborative is heavily focused on healing through arts. See their website here: https://www.urbanartsco.org/ and feel free to reach out to Juan Carlos Gonzalez, founder. Let him know that I referred you and I can also probably set up a time for the three of us to have a conference call if that's easier.
In terms of the theatre workshops, we have been using a number of techniques and are working on publishing a paper on the nursing collaboratives we're doing (will have a link to that soon, but it's still in the works.) meantime, here is a short video on the nursing work, in which I talk a bit about applied theatre & forum theatre: https://www.youtube.com/watch?
v=u3FYbYuibfY&t=4s
This will give some foundational information especially about Boal and Theatre of the Oppressed. Some of the other work we do is in the overlap between communication theory and performance studies/theatre. I will work on gathering a more comprehensive list of techniques.

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Marnie Glazier WOW! The Urban Arts Collaborative looks like an amazing organization. I will be reaching out to them, I believe the art therapy would be a huge asset but while I was looking at their website I got super excited by the other programs! There Food Justice Program looks amazing, one of our partners is in the beginning stages of planning something similar in rural communities. Many towns in California are 30-100 miles away from a grocery store and in mountain towns that can mean very little access to nutritious foods for people living in poverty.

I'm not sure why but your youtube video isn't loading. I would like to see it! I would like to connect on the phone when I have a more solid idea of information I am aiming to collect. Plus I would like to involve our other director who specializes in education and is designing our curriculum. If you could please let me know how contact you after the challenge I would appreciate it! You can connect with me online:
https://www.facebook.com/ruralsynergyfoundation/
https://www.linkedin.com/in/christina-schwanke-3660b468/

Thank you for offering so much information. I am really looking talking more in depth!

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Hi, Thank you for your connection. I'm in South Africa.

Nomusa Keninda on Facebook /LinkedIn, @musakeninda @ICTclub_MP nomusakenindan@gmail.com

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I think graphic design opens doors for others to start gaining a skill set that many are lacking in rural communities. There are multiple industries that exist in small towns that sustain the town as a service. Design services, printing industries, sign shops, websites, logo design, and print design are all services that can stay in a rural town rather than be shipped out of town. One thing I see in Salmon, Idaho is people like staying local. They have a great sence of pride in local. I believe a graphic design program can help people develop the skills to use in any field. I came from an artistic background so I really wouldn't recommend a program for someone who does not have a passion for it. This type of program offering could help someone who is creative put that love to work. However, many of the Adobe Suite can lend itself well to someone who just has an eye for spacing and general design. Such as Adobe Indesign which deals with publication design. This absolutely can be taught and is a learned skill that can be developed. This skill of being able to have the confidence to create solutions for a company is what changes people paradigms.

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Thank you Nomusa Keninda I am simply amazed by the connection we can have with people who are so far away! I know it is unlikely we will ever meet but when we expand and need coding wisdom within the next year I am thankful we are connected!

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Christina,
Yes, I would love to talk and to connect in more detail and am so glad you will reach out to UAC! They are really amazing. I will try to send the link again for the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u3FYbYuibfY And I can be reached by cell phone at (319) 331-4782.

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I think you hit on a few great points. I know my hometown likes to stay local but because of the skills gap often time that is not an option. One of our priorities is to not only employ rural residents but create a sustainable form of revenue for local non-profits. The idea is if we act as a vendor and excess revenue we generate will be granted to local non-profits to further empower communities. I apologize I know that was not the point of your comment but it's an extremely important dynamic in rural communities, partially because they are watching large towns and large companies take over and they can't compete.

Secondly, I appreciate you point about someone having an artistic background. People have so may beautiful and unique gifts. Our vision is to have multiple apprenticeships to allow individuals to use their gifts and talents. I do however believe exposing people to what the world has to offer is important. I have a degree in public relations, I was exposed later in life to non-profit, I am so glad I was because this is my true calling! I will have to say I would love to learn Adobe Indesign...my involvement in a startup has made me realize having many tools in my tool belt is super important!

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Thank you, there are annual ICT Conferences organise around the globe, hopefully we shall meet there one day. Stay connected

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Marnie Glazier I saved your phone number. I am going to comment on your idea because my brain is going crazy from the video you sent!!

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I think this is awesome, so I am going to pose some critical questions:

1) California is large, rural California making up most of that. Do you have any more specific target area(s) than the whole state?
2) I don't see the connection here between the workforce development and healing the rural/urban divide. The workforce development piece is critically important in itself, but your application would be strengthened by more clarity between the need you've established and the program.
3) Given that this looks like a workforce development program at its heart, I have a sector-specific question. I know one of the biggest issues in workforce development initiatives is a tenuous connection to employers and limited ability to connect beneficiaries with direct employment opportunities. I know some of the strongest initiatives have basically been pipelines for specific corporate partners. How are you addressing the job placement part? It's possible you've already iterated this in your proposal, so if you have it might be worthwhile to make the connection more clear.

Good luck!

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Sydney Gray Thank you so much for taking the time to read our idea and provide some thoughtful and clarifying questions. I spend so much time on our project I lose sight of what might not be clear to other, I appreciate you shining a light!

1) Currently the RSF pilot program is based in Inyo and Mono County in California. We chose to run our pilot in these two counties because they have the resources to support the social equity we desire for our program, plus the infrastructure (phone, internet, etc.) is highly advanced. Our program is in the beginning stages but we already have agencies in other counties (and states) interested in collaborating with us. In the next 24 months we are staying focused on working in communities that we have a high level of collaboration with local agencies.

2)I appreciate you bringing this piece up for clarification, I will be working on our idea to better reflect the connection. To answer your question directly the Rural Synergy Foundation was actually created to address the divide and this is the program that we came up with . This article our of North Carolina addresses what my fellow directors and I are seeing in California: http://www.newsobserver.com/opinion/op-ed/article208120829.html The 'brain drain' and resentment are very real problems in rural communities all over the United States. Our program aims not only to address the poverty and lack of education but to provide a forum to learn , grow and communicate with urban peers. I am going to work the next day or two to update our idea to concisely answer this concern and tag you when its modified. I would love your feedback.
3)This hits on the very innovation of our program. When a person is connected into a company without the adequate skills they run the risk of losing the job and losing confidence. Corporate America is not geared toward flexibility or equity. This is why the Rural Synergy Foundation will be the employer of every participant in our program for the first 18-36 months. RSF is in the process of obtaining contracts to be the 'vendor' for mid-large companies. This accomplishes two goals, RSF can provide each participant individualized tools, training and resources the ensure success. The second goal is creating sustainability as an agency so we can help as many people as possible without relying completely on grants or private donors. Any excess revenue after operating costs will be injected into rural communities toward health and education. Ultimately we want every participant to have the option to stay employed with RSF and help empower new participants but it is also imperative that upon completion each successful participant will have the skills and work experience to further their careers with other companies.
I would sincerely appreciate any other feedback or questions you have!

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Super interesting. As a vendor, are you looking to specialize in a specific service or suite of services?

And I look forward to reading your new draft when it's available.

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RSF has a mentor within the Tech industry who is advising us to keep an open mind. That being said our initial goal is to provide entry level support such as data entry. Participants would be hired into a 'pre-apprenticeship' so we could properly evaluate skills and provide basic training in prerequisites such as typing and algebra. In the next year we would like to provide apprenticeships in data analytics and software engineering but are open to other industries if we can fill a need. Eventually we would like to offer a broad selection of apprenticeship options including bookkeeping, health coding and manufacturing support.

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So I currently live in one of the most rural towns in America, Salmon, Idaho.

I love the heart and soul of Salmon Idaho. It is a town of people who know how to help each other out. Yet, it has its own unique challenges. Amongst those challenges is the seasonal nature of many of the jobs that are available to people. In the Spring and Summer, the population increases and the number of people working goes up. As the weather turns cold these jobs end and people move away. These industries are in river tourism, and Forest Service, BLM. Salmon does have a new industry that is currently ramping up which is Cobalt Mining. This will create new jobs and opportunities. Salmon, however, will face growing pains for these jobs as rentals and housing numbers are very low in number.
Salmon, ID is located in Lemhi County. Salmon is a small, rural town with a population of about 3,300 people and an estimated 22% of individuals living below the federal poverty line. Salmon is located about 160 miles from any major city the closest being Rexburg, Idaho in one direction and Missoula, Montana in the other.

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Jesse Hunt Thank you for sharing this to our page. One of the things I personally have experienced is the growing pains of a community when major industry comes into a town. It is so great to have jobs but rapid changes can be hard. Are there agencies, churches, etc in Salmon that would consider working with us to provide opportunity to seasonal workers, stay at home moms and low wage workers?

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There is the Idaho Department of Labor is here in Salmon. I believe the faith centers and churches have a valuable resource to this town. I do plan on staying in Salmon after September. I have been able to make connections with many different people. What industries are you interested in learning more about?

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Jesse Hunt we are more focused on serving women in rural communities right now. Our partners in California include counties, school districts, homeless agencies and domestic violence agencies. Partners provide our clients with the tools they need to successfully complete our apprenticeship program. As an example the Domestic Violence Agency provides our clients who are DV victims housing in their transitional housing program, a computer and a workspace, plus counseling. Our relationship is intended to help DV victims gain the skills they need to be independent while getting the help they need to cross barriers to success. One of our biggest needs is workspace with reliable internet for people who have not yet developed the time management skills to work from home and can't afford reliable internet. Salmon may have different hurdles, we don't want to enter any community without partnering with current agencies who best know the needs of their residents. I think that's why I like your idea A Community Empathy Lab- Social Community Building because it will bring people and agencies together to solve problems in an individualized way.

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I also think that the lab will build the resources to be able to start making bigger connections in the future. Our biggest resoirce in Salmon is the Salmon Public Library. They provide sting internet and free spaces, two conference rooms and a recording studio. We are also in the process of building out a makerspace. So that is one key resource. I am currently working to develop that makerspace.

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@Jesse Hunt- I have never heard the term Makerspace before, I had to google it! I'm really glad you brought up the Library. My husband and I travelled the country for his line apprenticeship, my job was based in North Dakota but I worked remotely part time while I travelled with him. I have had to be very resourceful to get my job done using coffee shops and hot spots. The only town I have worked remotely in with a well developed library was Casper, Wy. I would not have though of the Public Library as a great resource. I found this agency: http://www.mahoneyhouse.com/ When we get further along I will contact them because domestic violence survivors are on of our priorities, but I was thinking for your empathy lab they might be a really good resource. I know Wild Iris, the agency we work with, offers classes and counseling in parenting and healthy relationships.

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I am well acquainted with Mahoney House our town is very small 3000 people they are a great organization and are doing great things. If you need any contacts I can help out there as well. I will have to check out Wild Iris.

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Nomusa Keninda Can you leave contact information so we can keep in touch after the challenge? As we get further along in our program I may have a few more questions about your programs. You can also connect with us on Linkedin or Facebook.
https://www.facebook.com/ruralsynergyfoundation/
https://www.linkedin.com/in/christina-schwanke-3660b468/

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Christina - The keyword is 'synergy' that catches my eye and interest. I too have a project idea in this Challenge. It lives here:
https://paulwennis.me/2I62BHB

The synergy I may be able to offer would fall into the educational curricula development parts of your work. My goal would be to help you ensure that your young families are being provided the knowledge and continued inspiration to grow their reading/literacy skills and thus their ability to gain increased awareness of your other program objectives.

Good job all around on your project proposal.

I've lived many years in and around rural areas and populations. At this time we're out in the country - just close enough to the cities nearby and far enough away to hear the hawk's cry.

This Challenge is going to be a lot of fun.

BTW, if you'd like to add a 'Read-Aloud Specialist' to your team I would welcome the opportunity to partner with your project here within the OpenIDEO in that manner. Lemme know your thoughts.

Enjoy your day.

- Paul

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Paul,

Thank you so much for reaching out! We believe it is important to lock arms with many people to create a better society. In addition to the partners we have listed above we are working on agreements with several school districts and counties to further education.

I read your proposal and it triggered me to think about my own upbringing. My father struggled to read when he was young, as he got older he had to work extra hard to get a good career and pursue his passion of studying philosophy. While I was growing up him and my mom read to my brother and I, in my opinion this set a foundation for success as adults. All this to say I think your initiative would be a valuable resource to us.

I will add you to our team. Feel free to add us to yours as well.

Do you believe you could empower families virtually? Do you think it would be of value to add an hour introductory seminar to our apprentices as a life skill? I would love to get a better idea of how we could logistically work together in the future!

Christina

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Christina - Reaching out was easy. Synergy has its own magnetic force - most times I just follow.

What a sweet story you shared about your personal experience with reading-aloud in your own family history.

Yep, that's as simple and profound as it gets. The love of reading, the enjoyment of being read to - the establishment of that link early on in children's lives is magical and yet practical, as well.

There's plenty of current 'science' behind what goes on therein - when we travel off in our imaginations thru a book that's being read to us well before, and even after, we learn how to read on our own.

Virtual connections, multi-media delivery systems/methods - those are all yet to be developed by RTMM, which is why we're here within the OpenIDEO.

Reading curriculum materials need to be developed that include practical modern teaching tools - supplemented by frequent read-aloud sessions (daily if possible).

We're not saying you can teach someone to read by just reading-aloud to them.

We're saying that you can teach someone to love, value, treasure, and enjoy reading (plus, a whole lot of other good stuff) by simply reading-aloud to them.

Collaboration is in the wind, on the table, ready to take place - let's let the OpenIDEO process flow along and we'll know what steps to take next. That's just how these things work best.

BTW, please e-mail me a short bio-statement about 'you' that I can include on your 'Team Member' add a 'Note' section on our project page.

If you take a look at RTMN's team listings you'll see that I'm wanting you all, and others, to get to know a bit about each other going forward and that 'Note' section is a convenient place to do so.

Thanks and we'll talk more soon.

e-mail: paul@rtmn.info

- Paul

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Paul,

Thank you for your thoughtful response. I will email you shortly. Not to get to into the depths of our thought process but on of our general goals is to impact change in families to end generational problem whether it be illiteracy, financial illiteracy or domestic violence. Childhood development is key to our program because we want to empower parents to equip the next generation.

This is very personal to me because my own parents were empowered by school counselors and nonprofits to exit the California party scene of the 1970's. This allowed them to thoughtfully raise my brother and I to be empathetic, thoughtful contributing members of society with few barriers to success. I hope to pay it forward.

I am excited to see how the Open Ideo process pushes both of our programs to the next level!

Christina

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Christina - Personal is good. Paying it forward is a choice. You've made/are making a good one. My wife taught me: 'All is Chosen'. We live by it every day. Enjoy your evening - I will do the same. - PWE/RTMN

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Jesse Hunt Can you add to our comments about the challenges Salmon, Idaho? We are looking to expand into Idaho and I would like to have an idea of what to expect.

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Great work I must commend.
Keep doing what you have to do to better the lives of rural people

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Thank you Segun! If it is of interest to you please connect with me on Linkedin and/or follow us on Facebook so we stay in touch if the opportunity for collaboration arises.
Christina
https://www.facebook.com/ruralsynergyfoundation/
https://www.linkedin.com/in/christina-schwanke-3660b468/

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Hi Christina, i appreciate your comments about my idea.
your idea is very inclusive i love the fact that 80% of the beneficiaries are women and also most importantly the 30% domestic violence victims.
the human centered and equitable approach is amazing we are going to borrow a leaf from your idea because my conscience tells me that if individuals gain financial independence it promotes personal confidence and self worth. thank you.

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Team

Susan,
Thank you for reading through our idea! It's amazing how everything is so intertwined and every piece is so important. I would love to see how your program progresses! Do you have a Facebook or Linkedin? You can follow us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ruralsynergyfoundation/ Please reach out if we can be of any help to you through collaboration!
Christina