Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Rural Rehabilitation Services - Rural Economic Leadership by People with Disabilities
Rural community and its economic environment
Study purpose or goal:
Used by researchers and economic developers to identify business creation or expansion opportunities
Who administers this tool?:
The original study used vocational rehabilitation consumers as researchers.
Basic organization and management skills are needed for researchers. The program includes two days of training.
Measurements have moved from paper and pen to palmtop which allows people to conduct ecological momentary assessments.
Some issues may appear sensitive.
Are any approvals required?:
How is it administered?:
Trained team members conduct community research in libraries and records archives. Then members interview local business and economic development leaders to identify potential opportunities. Measurements have moved from paper and pen to palmtop which allows people to conduct ecological momentary assessments. Devices go off at random intervals and participants use devices to report events occurring during that interval. This facilitates developing simple measures of a sense of community/belonging.
What is the scope or what areas does it cover?:
The tool focuses on strength-oriented issues and covers community infrastructure including education, training, tomography, four core areas then an additional eight if staff is available. Library and records research and interviews of community members provide much of this information; interviewing business owners who represent selected sectors of the business community identifies imports which could be bundled in or across fields and produced locally, and identifies raw materials or second order products to which value can be added for sale locally or for export. Some issues may appear sensitive: There may be skepticism about the purpose of government-sponsored activities in rural communities. Leaders may directly experience some discrimination against people with disabilities and lack of trust. Some team members risk of self-exposure as people with disabilities. Some business owners/economic leaders express reluctance to divulge what they may believe is proprietary information.
This tool was developed based on a series of growth and decline of urban settings studies by Jane Jacobs in 1970s, combined with series of value added processes in economic liturature. RRTC researchers studied research funded by the Rural Development Administration at the US Department of Commerce and the Federal Reserve Bank. The Journal of Community Development is the main journal for the field. The impetus came from two national surveys conducted by RTC: One of independent living centers and one of vocational rehabilitation counselors in urban and rural areas. All pointed to lack of economic opportunity as the second largest problem in rural areas (transportation is the largest problem). Researchers also tried to conduct research within the strength-orientation and with alternative approaches to rural advocacy (taking responsibility for leading change in the community).
Questions and methodology were selected based on long standing research in the field.
Consultations were made with post-doctoral researchers in economics, including Pat Abbey, and economic development specialists.
Consumers took on the role of local "principal investigators". They were trained as project leaders responsible for managing local application.
Relatively small rural communities
he original approach was to develop a sample of communities to recruit with certain characteristics but discovered that selection is a critical variable.
It is essential to be invited into the community to ensure greatest success. In communities where researchers wanted to try it but had to convince community members, it did not get implemented.
It was too complicated a process.
At the time of the interview, data analysis had been completed for the project in Utah. The first of eight blocks had been collected in Vermont. The tool measured rates of engagement. Raw data is analyzed by researchers and advisory board. Rates of engagement varied across conditions. The measure of sense of community encountered a ceiling effect. Baseline measures were so high there was no room for increasing sense of commuity. No one reported a decrease. In terms of economic development opportunities, in the Utah assessment, 64 new businesses were created with only 2 “failures.” One-hundred and fifteen new jobs were created as a result.
The data has significant implications for the practice of VR in rural communities. It provides a mechanism for VR programs in rural communities to take on a slightly different role in economic development than their counterparts in urban areas. These programs can be effective in achieving their mission by being more involved in the effort of creating economic opportunities. This would mean expanded opportunities in rural communities, and greater participation in the economic development process by VR programs, CILs, etc.
The tool measured rates of engagement. Raw data is analyzed by researchers and advisory board
Impact of these findings on the field:
Practical impact is that people with disabilities can effectively lead small town economic development projects that identify economic opportunities. The constellation of employment and economic development organizations can work together to create those new opportunities.
Who uses the collected data?:
Vocational rehabilitation programs, Sec 121 (American Indian rehabilitation), economic development practitioners. The tool measurements of levels of belonging which may provide a model for measuring participation as articulated in the ICF.
Contact the Rural RTC for more information
888/268-2743 (V), 406/243-5467 (V), 406/243-4200 (TTY).