Monday, 30 June 2014


Will provincial Regional Economic Networks (RENs) work insularly, or think courageously and invite other areas of the province (and other RENs) to work together in their economic turnarounds? My experience tells me that's where our achilles heel might lie. 

Among the benefits REN claims, one is to "pool resources and combine talents to increase effectiveness, strengthen potential and improve outcomes".

Maybe rural counties need to think regionally to prosper, reports Josie Musico, in the case of rural west Texas that has seen a population decline over the past decades, and an out-migration of youth -- what I call next generation talent.

The Unites States Department of Agriculture's "Stronger Economies Together" (SET) program was set up to build rural economies. SET encourages people to think as regions rather than focusing on individual communities. Their website reads, "The purpose of SET is to strengthen the capacity of communities/counties in rural America to work together in developing and implementing an economic development blueprint that strategically builds on the current and emerging economic strengths of their region."

Let's hope Regional Economic Networks being set up in Nova Scotia helps rural economic development. The Ivany Report issues an economic and demographic clarion call to action, "most dramatically in our rural regions". REN has its work cut out for itself.

Monday, 23 June 2014


Can you imagine what would happen to our Nova Scotia economy if just 1% of all Nova Scotians started their own business next year? Wouldn't that blow economic hardship out of the water and lend an Ivany-Report-kick-in-the-pants kickstart to our quality of place!

I came across James Altucher's inspirational slide show on "40 alternatives to college" that epitomizes the spirit of the entrepreneurial mindset -- a mindset that can change the way we work, live and play -- a Georgetown Conference mindset. Altucher's first alternative to formal education is to "Start a Business". He tells us "whereas previously we've created generations of innovators and creators, now we are creating a generation of young people mired down in hopeless debt". Pretty incendiary stuff, but he does drive the point home. Jump in at the deep end and learn to swim.

So how do we innovate in a rural environment? Beyond Altucher's and Georgetown's mindset we can get ideas from 'Small Business Ideas for Rural Towns' and the Canadian Institute for Rural Entrepreneurship. We can learn from many real-life examples, such as Chemainus, British Columbia; Rosebud, Alberta; Prince Edward County, Ontario; Fulton, Kentucky, and Hardwick, Vermont. As Gail Lethbridge posted in Halifax' Chronicle Herald "Avoid insularity. It’s OK to look beyond our own borders and be inspired by the way they do things elsewhere. It’s OK to check out Estonia’s story or Wisconsin’s."

Industry Canada reports (2004) that almost 1/3 of all small- and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) are based in rural areas, with the greatest percentage in the Prairies. Interestingly, 2/3 of these businesses are in non-agricultural and non-primary industries (such as mining, fishing, forestry). Rural SMEs tend to be self-employed and smaller than urban SMEs. 

So, how do you build an entrepreneurial culture? Having studied hundreds of rural landscapes, interviewing thousands of entrepreneurs, and investigating dozens of rural development strategies, Don Macke and Deborah Markley (2006) conclude that the key lies with proactive, civic (NGOs, government, community, .. ) leaders who create an entrepreneurial environment. Invest in your local residents. Build support systems.

Becky McCray, author of "Small Biz Survival", tells us in "20 Small Business Ideas for Small Towns": be uniquely local; use what you know; look at existing businesses; use someone else's research; and, search idea sites and feeds. McCray lists nine small town and rural business trends for 2014, including growing Stage 2 businesses (10-50 employees).

This Blog is about being creative in a rural environment, and that involves "doing", and "just saying yes". Rural economic development starts with pulling up your sleeves, being courageous and visionary, working together, and maybe even starting your own business. 

Thursday, 19 June 2014


I attended the second half of a Whale Watching Training workshop held 16-17Jun2014 in Freeport, Digby County, Nova Scotia, Canada, organized by Fundy Tidal Inc.

My personal interest focused on the use of mobile Apps to monitor marine mammals and other species. The geographic area of interest was Digby Neck. Two specific tools were demonstrated: Spotter Pro and Whale Alert.

Google Map Link: Digby Neck and area, Nova Scotia

Why is this type of workshop important ?

In a rural environment, this encourages ‘citizen science’. With this technology, participants can share their experience with a global audience. Local observations on components of the environment that they value (i.e. marine mammals, sea birds, sharks, sea turtles) can be linked to a global understanding of the state of the oceans.

This workshop was based on collaboration between marine scientists, tidal energy engineers, tourism operators and local residents.

What is the larger opportunity ?

The opportunity is to transcend disciplinary boundaries and encourage a science-based approach to resource management. It fits under the ‘creative rural’ rubric, by bringing local knowledge together with global technology. It is designed to meet multiple objectives: marine science, experiential tourism and environmental monitoring. Most important, it demonstrates a collaborative approach to environmental problem solving.


Before making too many entries under the ‘creative rural’ heading, it is perhaps appropriate to define a few terms.

What is the distinction between ‘rural’ and ‘urban’ ?

By ‘rural’, I mean a sense of space, proximity to natural processes, as they influence humankind, plants, animals, climate. I expect a visibility of landscape: I can see across the Annapolis valley to South Mountain. I have a certain understanding about the density of activities, in terms of human processes, the partitioning of space.

The term is not being used negatively towards ‘urban’, simply emphasizing the distinction.

How does this relate to ‘creative rural ‘?

There are opportunities for contemplation, an ability to be holistic, to not separate the physical and the mental. ‘Creative’ here means new ideas (new thinking), new technologies and new applications of technology to address complex problems in a non-reductionistic way. We are not separating out business interest from environmental interest. We are not separating local from global. We recognize a nested hierarchy of scale: community (local) – county – region – province – country – Earth (global).

-- Dr Bob Maher, research scientist

Monday, 16 June 2014


According to WikipediaOutlander, Titanic and Dev-Con 4  are among eighty-two big screen films with shots on location in Nova Scotia. Who knew? We have geography that appeals to the film industry. 

The film industry in Nova Scotia can play a significant role in kickstarting a revitalized Nova Scotia rural economy. I see two thrusts. First, rural areas can find and promote film shoot locations, to attract location scouts and film crews from around the world. Second, rural areas can develop tourism products based on film.


Location Managers and Scouts find locations that set the stage for film, television, commercials, music videos and advertising. They work with the directors and producers. To promote rural film-shoot locations and attract film crews and investors, you need to do more than simply re-paint your white picket fences and hope that passers-by take notice. You need to be proactive. Film shoots require support -- people, facilities, utilities and resources. One needs to easily locate and secure this support. Also, considerable energy is required to research and catalogue each potential location. is a global directory and Google map of movie and TV show filming locations. On this site you lookup where your favorite TV show was shot or discover movies that were filmed near you. shows backdrop locations for film makers interested in areas in and around Bath.

While the above examples point in the right direction, they are sparse. My research shows that there exists untapped potential in creating valuable online and interactive film-shoot location maps and databases.


Film-tourism works. Claudio-Elena Tuclea and Puiu Nistoreanu (2011) relate the impact of film to film-induced tourism and recommend ways to maximize this relationship for economic and cultural development.

I have previously posted related items in this and other blogs (StorytellingWar of 1812)  . How many people have visited the graves of those who perished with the sinking of the Titanic then toured Halifax? Who has browsed the shoot location and the Nova Scotia town of Shelburne where the 1994 film The Scarlet Letter was created? 

We can learn something from the Welsh Tourism Movie Map in North Wales and consider creating something similar here.

This map gives you a sample of the variety of films and television programs shot in North Wales, and will tempt you to come and visit the location settings for yourself such as: Casanova (BBC 2005); Backbeat (Beatles 1994); From Russia With Love (1963); Chronicles of Narnia (2008); Clash of the Titans (2010). predicted in 2012 that the American remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo would boost tourism in Stockholm, Sweden, by 3 to 4 percent, translating into hundreds of millions of euros. 
In the 2006 article "Promoting Destination via Film Tourism", Hudson and Ritchie (Journal of Travel Research, 44,387-396) note that the film Field of Dreams increased tourism numbers in Iowa, USA, by 35,000 visits in 1991.

New Zealand is now affectionately known as "Home of Middle-Earth" after the wildly popular film The Lord of the Rings helped boost visitor counts by 40% between 2000-2006, according to Hemisphere Magazine.

Tourism Magazine (2010) states that 3-6% of visitors to the UK visit film locations during their stay. CNN Travel reports that India's Ministry of Tourism has built "an entire Land of Pi" tourism campaign. In a study in Italy, New Zealand and Sweden, Sue Beeton, CNN Travel author and professor at LaTrobe University, Australia, found people often change travel plans in an area when they are aware of activities related to film. 

Beeton points out that, however, "there is a lack of integration between most tourism commissions and film commissions". In an interview between Switzerland's Anthony Lack and Dr Peter Bolan (University of Ulster, Ireland) Bolan endorses a need for greater collaboration between tourism and film officials. 


A well presented geography, people and resources (in map form on a website, for example) can attract film-location scouts, film production crews and investors from around the world. Successful film tourism can boost destination tourism and visitor numbers. This, however, calls for collaboration between film and tourism stakeholders and visionary leaders with some influence. The right players need to play together in the same sandbox.

With developments in new media and communication technology this task should be made easier today. 

Thursday, 12 June 2014


Thank you for your interest in this blog, where we search for and celebrate creative and innovative rural communities, ideas and stories. 

Saturday, 7 June 2014


Experiential learning helps us get down and dirty and understand the world about us. It is a great way to learn by doing.

A sheet of paper recently came across my desk titled "Citizen Science Projects in Nova Scotia". The paper presents links to citizen sighting projects, volunteer projects and phone App projects; such as Bat Conservation, The Butterfly Atlas, and Ice Watch. These are projects in which we can improve our understanding of the environment, engage in meaningful research, and learn about how to observe and measure the world around us. And, we are not expected to hold postgraduate degrees to get involved. We simply show a willingness and passion to volunteer, get out there and help.

Drilling down one of the links on this paper I came across a Carnegie Mellon University Research field data collection tool called SENSR.

"SENSR is a tool to create, share and manage a citizen science project running on mobile devices to harness the power of citizen scientists."

You need, simply, a download of the iPhone SENSR App, an idea for a project, and citizens to join in the data collection. No programming skills are needed to build the data collection tool and share data.

What a great way to develop experiential learning!

Existing SENSR projects include categories such as archaeology, climate and weather, food, ocean and water, ecology and environment, and health and medicine.

I can picture a project in Nova Scotia, along the lines of the Appalachian Mountain Club Flower Watch Project, in which SENSR observers can photograph and map plant species to observe microclimates and follow long-term trends due to climate change, or a coastal project to photograph and map coastal debris.

An alternative learning path to formal education is through experiential learning. Maybe we should look more closely at organizations such as Citizen Science AssociationCitizen Science Alliance, and CARP, and field tools such as SENSR, to get our communities reconnected to our rural environment.