In our last post, we described our attempt to identify and characterize rural-urban linkages using available resources and documentation. To add a third source of information to our assessment, we conducted interviews with town residents, elected officials and representatives from various organizations and agencies that serve both rural and urban communities in the Capital Region. Our goal was to learn what people think about rural-urban linkages based on their own personal and professional experiences.
As of December 31, 2019, 31 people were interviewed. Interviewees were asked the same five questions about rural-urban linkages. Questions addressed the types of linkages they are most familiar with, linkages they consider strong and weak, and where they see opportunities or need for improved linkages.
Interview Question 1: When you hear the phrase “rural-urban linkages” what is the first thing that comes to your mind?
Interview Question 2: What types and/or elements of rural-urban linkages do you relate to the most?
Interview Question 3: How are we most connected?
Interview Question 4: How are we least connected?
Interview results highlight gaps between our perception of linkages and what the evidence says about them. For example, during the interviews, farmers markets were identified as a familiar and common feature creating linkages between the Hilltowns and Albany. We know there are farmers in the Hilltowns and farmers markets in and around Albany, but there is no data demonstrating the effectiveness of farmers markets in connecting Hilltown farmers to urban consumers. That is not to say there is no connection, just that there is no readily available data to validate it. (The upcoming release of the Capital Region Food Systems Assessment conducted by Capital Roots will hopefully address this data gap.)
The interviews also brought to light several topics that were largely absent from our review of evidence. For example, the lack of mutual understanding and awareness between rural and urban communities was a top answer to question four. Yet, it could not be found in any of the resources we reviewed as an issue facing the region. Not only does this demonstrates the value of the interview process in the project, it also suggests one way to measure the impacts of linkages. Social connectivity between rural and urban communities is not typically a goal of rural or urban development, but, in the context of regional resilience and equity, maybe it should be.
The final phase of this project was to take the findings of the assessment and look for needs and opportunities for improving rural-urban linkages. Our next blog post will present a selection of these findings.
This article was adapted from “Needs and Opportunities for Rural-Urban Linkages in Albany County, New York” prepared by Rebecca Platel, Sustainable Communities Program Manager at the Carey Institute for Global Good, in partnership with the Town of Rensselaerville, Albany County, NY with support from the Hudson River Valley Greenway.