Research & Engagement Grants Awarded

Five grants to receive funding

There were sixty-seven research and engagement pre-proposals submitted. Every submission was evaluated by at least three reviewers and the evaluations were used by a seven-member final review committee to select those to be invited to submit full proposals. Of the sixty-seven, eighteen pre-proposals received an invitation to submit a full proposal. The review committee evaluated the full proposals and the following five were selected for funding.

1. Entrepreneurship Based Economic Development

Most of the recent entrepreneurial interest has centered on two types of entrepreneurs: 1) the high-tech and presumably high-growth entrepreneur and 2) the low-tech, derivative and subsistence-seeking micro-entrepreneur. This research is about the once strong and now forgotten middle: the small manufacturer, the value-added retailer, the regional distributor, the agricultural services firm and the like. Another way to view entrepreneurship is to view it as a game — one must be exposed to it, try it, learn the fundamentals and then commit to it. This study is to see if a predictive model, tested on small-business incubators, can be used to identify those tasks communities can perform in order to increase the likelihood that their members will choose entrepreneurship as a career. The result will be a specific model that economic developers can learn, implement and measure. Economic development boards and community leaders will have guidance on what actions to take and how to measure their economic development staffs.

 

2. Community Marketing: Taking a New Look at Rural Communities in the Great Plains

The goal of this project will be to determine if a series of focused community-wide conversations and activities, using a study circle process with key community stakeholders and their network, will result in an increase in community confidence, capacity building and behavior change toward marketing their community to new residents. The collaborative effort will bring together the University of Nebraska–Lincoln Extension, South Dakota State University Extension, North Dakota State University Extension, six rural communities in three Great Plains states, community stakeholders representing both public and private entities and Everyday Democracy, a national non-profit whose purpose is to help communities work through difficult issues using positive community dialogue. As a result of the project communities will: (1) develop and implement aspects of a marketing action plan that they create which incorporates realistic and achievable strategies to successfully market their community; and (2) increase their human capacity in using the study circle approach to address future community issues.

 

3. Communities Creating Their Own Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurial Communities Activation Process

The Entrepreneurial Community Activation Process (ECAP) is a holistic facilitative process with the goals of attracting and retaining working age population and creating entrepreneurial environments that lead to community vitality. An extensive review of literature has identified a model of eight characteristics that consistently characterizes entrepreneurial communities. This project will test the model in eight communities contributing significantly to the research base on successful rural revitalization and to outreach efforts to support successful rural development. On-going research will determine whether the short-term goals are being achieved and if ECAP is an effective approach to creating an entrepreneurial environment. ECAP will initiate new dialogue with resource providers about progressive Nebraska rural entrepreneurial activity.

 

4. Rural Sourcing

The concept of “rural sourcing” relates to existing and start-up companies strategically locating operations in rural areas to reduce labor costs and increase employee reliability. This project aims to expand on a successful “cross-sourcing” model used by an existing software company and modify it to recruit University of Nebraska Alumni back to rural Nebraska in targeted professional service occupations. The first phase of this project will build on existing research exploring the lifestyle expectations and career preferences of Alumni who have moved out of state. Additional case study research seeks to understand the process and motivation for Alumni who have moved back to rural Nebraska and are employed in these occupations. Data collected from phase one will direct the strategies of communication and education for Alumni who have opted in to receive information related to current job opening’s or assistance for starting or buying a business in rural areas.

 

5. Using Crowdlearning for Leadership Development in Rural Communities

Developing the next generation of business and civic leaders is critical for all communities; however, in rural Nebraska, this issue is of particular concern. The proposed project addresses the lack of rural leadership development by designing and implementing a virtual (crowdlearning) casebased leadership development program for rural Nebraska civic and business leaders. In addition to providing leadership development for a cadre of rural Nebraska civic and business leaders, this project will: (1) result in a collection of available case studies focusing on the challenges faced by rural Nebraska leaders, (2) help create connections between rural leaders across the state, and (3) offer new insight into best practices regarding collaborative leadership development for virtual groups.