Listening Sessions Initiative Rural Community, Economic, and Workforce Development

Identifying Needs and Opportunities in Rural Recovery

In the wake of multiple chronic challenges exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, rural communities and small towns across the United States are beginning to build back from the associated impacts on their economies, workforces, and communities. These recovery efforts pose critical questions of where and how to invest. To identify where stakeholders engaged in rural development see the greatest need, and the greatest opportunity, the Regional Rural Development Centers have embarked on a process to collect feedback through a year-long initiative. This feedback will be shared with with USDA NIFA and other federal partners as stakeholder feedback.

Phase 1: Assessing Stakeholder Priorities for Rural Development

The first step in this process was a survey through which key rural development implementers and other stakeholders could provide baseline feedback. Use the tools below to explore findings from this assessment, including a 48-page report, a series of infographics, and an interactive data tool.

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Phase 2: National and Regional Listening Sessions to Identify Long-Range Strategies

In 2022, the RRDCs will host a series of facilitated listening sessions with invited stakeholders aimed at diving deeper into survey findings and identifying long-range strategies on key priorities. Each of the four RRDCs will host one regionally focused listening session and one of national scope focused on a specific topic area. The topics for the four national discussions are Broadband and the Digital Divide, Community Planning and Engagement, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and Workforce Development. Invitations to join the discussions will be sent in late February.

Report cover page


Comprehensive Summary of the National Rural Development Stakeholder Listening Sessions (February 2023)

This report summarizes results from the initiative's eight virtual listening sessions, which convened stakeholders to identify investments needed to fill the gaps between rural communities’ assets and opportunities. These facilitated dialogues included four sessions conducted at the regional level focusing on issues of regional importance, and four national sessions on topics of widespread importance.

Findings from a Rapid Assessment of Stakeholder Priorities for Rural Development (October 2021)

This report provides findings from a national survey carried out in the fall of 2021. It reveals the highest priorities for rural communities to address in the next five years, both by region and nationally. It also highlight the kinds of activities and programming that are likely to have the greatest value in supporting rural development practitioners’ work.

Person reviewing report on tablet


Explore key findings from the report by viewing these infographics.

Interactive data dashboard preview


Explore the findings more closely via our interactive data dashboard.