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- Observe the challenges facing small towns and rural areas and learn how these communities respond by adapting to and embracing technology.
- Learn about tools to facilitate remote community engagement activities and some best practices for digital community engagement.
- Understand how partnerships with universities can help rural communities expand capacity.
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Small towns face significant challenges when it comes to development and growth. With the help of intentional partnerships and innovative technological strategies, communities can address some of the obstacles that once held them back.
With little staff and financial capacity, the City of Nolanville, Texas, successfully implemented a comprehensive plan, completed the plan update, and piloted an ambitious project to re-envision ”smart” city solutions through a partnership with Texas A&M University. Several projects emerged, including ENDEAVRide, the world’s first autonomous taxi-and-telehealth medical service, which supported vaccination and other medical assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Caldwell, Texas, took up the challenge of intentionally engaging the community to prepare its first-ever comprehensive plan. Although high-speed internet access was (and continues to be) a challenge, the planning process occurred virtually, using online tools and surveys. By putting inclusive and equitable engagement at the center, the city was able to bridge the digital divide and ensure authentic community participation.
The Texas Freedom Colonies Project has increased the visibility of historic black settlements by using an online atlas. The project adapted to COVID-19 by hosting virtual heritage conservation training to sustain and amplify the efforts of freedom colony advocates, preservationists, and descendants to preserve endangered rural places.
Presenters demonstrate how rural communities and small towns can meaningfully engage community members through equitable and inclusive approaches to create a space for constructive dialogue, establish a shared community vision, and develop innovative solutions that advance community priorities.