Digital storytelling: the megaphone for rural voice

Stories have connecting power. They give us a behind-the-scenes look into people’s lives. They invite us to relate to people on a human level and have the potential to inspire action. That might be why video is expected to be the dominant form of online content by 2017.

In today’s Daily Yonder, TechSoup blogger Jim Lynch talked about how rural communities and organizations can harness to the power of video to create stronger ties to those they care about, decrease feelings of isolation and provide the opportunity to show what living in rural is really like – counteracting existing stereotypes.

So dust off your camera lens and zoom in to these quick tips Lynch gives to be successful in rural advocacy, fundraising and community development efforts.

  • Long-winded in out. Really short is in.

The average attention span of an American is now shorter than that of a goldfish. So, to be successful on social media, you need to give people what they want the most: short stories told visually.

  • Post your video in places where you know your audience is at.

Just because you’re telling a story about a small community, that doesn’t mean the potential audience for that story is small. Social media gives your story a chance to reach an even bigger audience.

  • Seeing is believing. Some rural communities don’t have the right tools to “see.”

You can tell the most stunning visual digital story, but it won’t matter if your audience isn’t able to watch it. Many rural communities face significant technology access challenges. Pew Internet reports that 20% of residents in rural areas, where access to broadband is limited, aren’t online at all.

Take this into consideration when crafting your video and selecting where it will be shown.

See below for additional resources about creating powerful video.

Ten Video Tips for Nonprofits

Five Tips for Creating a Compelling Nonprofit Video

Tips for Shooting A Winning Video For Your Nonprofit


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The Birthplace of Brain Gain: Mitchell, S.D.

Minnesota migration map shows population gains of people ages 30-39. SOURCE: University of Minnesota Extension

Sometimes innovation springs from the strangest places – like a palace housing over 275,000 ears of intricately designed corn.

Mitchell, South Dakota is home to the nation’s only Corn Palace and as Northern Minnesota author Aaron Brown says in his recent Daily Yonder article,

While some might only know Mitchell as a tourist trap on the way to Mt. Rushmore, or as the boyhood home of former Senator and unsuccessful presidential candidate George McGovern, this city has quietly reinvented itself as an economic center for technology, marketing and manufacturing. The nation’s leading supplier of rural telecommunication services developed itself right here, and billboards for miles around tout new high-paying jobs in Mitchell.

Brown spotlights Mitchell as the “Home of the Brain Gain,” a migration trend showing that young adults, ages 30-50, are moving to rural communities from urban centers. He recently wrote a post for us describing the concept in detail.

So how did this happen? And what can rural cities all over American learn from Mitchell, South Dakota?

From the mouths of sociologists, economic developers and recently relocated rural residents…it’s all about quality of life!

Bryan Hisel, executive director of the Mitchell Area Development Corporation, said Mitchell’s success has been a combination of existing local talent and a collective focus on improving quality of life and infrastructure in Mitchell.

“Every community has this opportunity whether they know it or not,” said Hisel. “It comes down to whether the smart people who grew up and live in your community think it’s a good place to live or not.”


“We have really smart people who live in rural America,” said Hisel. “This is a desirable place to grow up, to stay and grow your career and enterprise. If you work on building the community into a quality place to live, that’s the key.

Read the full article at The Daily Yonder and check out our blog post for links to brain gain research and stories.


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Putting generational differences to work in rural Minnesota

Watergate. 9/11. JFK assassination. WWI. WWII. Y2K. What major events shaped the way you view the world? Chances are it depends when you were born.

Similarly, the way you communicate was probably influenced by the technological advances that occurred as you were growing up. These influences, along with parenting trends, media, education, location, and general philosophy, shape our values, said a representative from the Northeast Minnesota Office of Job Training at last week’s Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon. They also shape our work expectations.
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Blandin Broadband Communities Strut Their Stuff

Colorful, dancing feathered figures and the hum of ancestral melodies filled the room as Fond du Lac (FDL) students arranged themselves in such a way that they created a cornucopia of technology. Brandishing iPads, they celebrated their Ojibwe culture, together with community members, through the creation of mobile applications.

Held at the end of July, the FDL App Camp was one project created and executed to highlight the value of broadband in their community. The Camp’s close was the perfect opportunity to celebrate the hard work the community has put in to ensure the FDL reservation has the broadband technology in place to thrive now and into the future.

As a Blandin Broadband Community, during the past year FDL has expanded broadband coverage to 80 homes through hot spots, introduced iPads in the 8th grade classroom and held the App Camp.

Leaders all around the state are crafting creative, dynamic approaches to connecting community members to high-speed Internet. FDL is one of nine Blandin Broadband Communities doing this work. The others (Itasca County, Kanabec County, Lake County, Lake of the Woods, Lac qui Parle Valley, Mille Lacs County, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, and Southwest Minnesota Broadband Services) are carrying out equally-inspiring and important projects that meet the needs of their community.

Blandin Foundation staff are touring these locations, celebrating the hard work of local leaders who are paving the way to a better future for their community.

To get a glimpse into what these celebrations look like on the “Strut Your Stuff Tour,” follow the links below.

Blandin Foundation is currently seeking up to ten new communities for the 2015-16 cohort of Blandin Broadband Communities. Applications will be accepted through October 17, 2014. Click here for more information.


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Albert Lea busts poverty myths to build community

Photo courtesy of Leaders Partnering to End Poverty Freeborn County Facebook Page

What does poverty look like to you? For many, it looks like a crumpled-clothed, weathered-looking man holding flimsy cardboard sign with chicken-scratch writing.

BUSTED MYTH #1: Not all poverty looks like this!

In fact, poverty might look like your next door neighbor, the woman you say hi to in the grocery store or the child with crisply-pressed pants. Poverty comes in many forms. It’s not easy to identify and even less easy to talk about.

BUSTED MYTH #2: Poverty isn’t easy to talk about

So how do you start the conversation?
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Celebrating rural resiliency and passion across the U.S.

If you threw a dart at a map of the United States, it might get stuck in a canyon in the Southwest, perch on the peak of a prodigious mountain in the Northwest or skim swaying wheat fields of the Midwest. Regardless of where you land, it’s likely to be in rural territory.

An astounding 72 percent of the United States is rural and about sixty million people call it home. Each rural community counted in that 72 percent is unique in their own right, not only in its landscape but in the opportunities and challenges they face. Just like urban areas, rural communities see a world of possibilities for the future.

Yet, they have fewer philanthropic partners dedicated to helping them realize that potential.
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Ecosystem philanthropy: a recipe for change

Problems do not exist in isolation. They are entwined in complex ecosystems. Changemakers must be mindful of the ecosystem, and whenever possible, put the ecosystem to work for them. Herein lies the roots of effective philanthropy.

Bush Foundation President Jen Ford Reedy hit these key points in her recent TEDx talk on ecosystem philanthropy. Her 18 minutes on stage were jam-packed with anecdotes and stories that highlighted the potential pitfalls of quick-fix problem solving that disrupts an ecosystem versus the benefits of longer-term, creative approaches that can change an ecosystem.

She surmised three elements of successful ecosystem philanthropy:

  1. Activate others. Ideas require people to power them. Determine who and what you need to make your idea happen. Go from there.
  2. Do. Wait. Watch. Be patient as you look for the change you want to see happening. Ecosystem philanthropy is not a quick-fix.
  3. Think long and lasting. Create a strategy for the long haul and alter conditions as needed.

You can watch her full talk below. It’s worth your time!

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Want young people to boomerang back to your community? Get sticky with your high-achievers.

This year, we’ve written quite a bit on the misconceptions surrounding brain drain – the outmigration of young people after high school graduation – in rural communities. Outposts guest blogger Aaron Brown recently discussed brain gain and the promise it holds for the future of healthy rural communities. He started by saying “Our future rests not in whether we lose young people, but how we welcome them back”.

So we know young people are coming back. But why? Quality of life is a top priority, said sociologist Ben Winchester. People are moving back, then finding jobs – in that order.

Also, if people have already lived in or visited a location, they’re more likely to move there because they have an established connection. “It comes down to, ‘how much do you love this place?,” said Robert Bell, co-founder of the Intelligent Community Forum in Brown’s post.

Think of your community. How could you identify the young people who love it the most? New research might help. Published in the American Educational Research Journal, three scholars found that while high school high-achievers are the most likely to leave their rural community after graduation, they also have a stronger desire to return than non-high-achievers. Why? Because of their deep levels of community engagement.

The perception of local economic conditions has an even stronger pull factor. If young people believe they will be able to find a job in their home community, they’re more likely to stay.

What is your community doing to show high-achieving young people that there are growth opportunities right in their home town? Post below!

For more on the study, see this article at the Daily Yonder.



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Rural MN looks to generational wealth transfer to stimulate vibrancy

In the Midwest, 41-45 percent of people move throughout their lifetime – but it’s not just people that migrate. So does money. In fact, we know that in the next twenty years, $47.9 billion will transfer from one generation to the next in Minnesota.

This could mean big things for small, rural communities. But if heirs leave their hometowns, their money often leaves with them.

The challenge, then, is how can rural communities keep that  money local to bolster vibrancy and seed a legacy?
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Engage in conversations that matter. Attend Art of Hosting training!

Are your volunteer meetings loosing their zest? Have strategic planning sessions got you in a funk? Mix it up!

Art of Hosting is a training for all those who aspire to learn how to work with groups in more interactive, engaging and effective ways. Meadowlark Institute is offering a September training, at no cost, to community members living in Itasca County. If you’re interested, please see the following flyer: Art of Hosting Flyer September 22-24