Mar. 29

How do Rural and Urban Communities Affect Volunteer Trends?


To continue our strategic planning research on how relevant trends might impact our organization and the larger volunteering sector, another topic we looked into was the role of business in rural vs. urban communities and specifically how volunteer programs may differ in rural and urban communities.

Rural Life

Found in “2011 Trends Driving Rural Small Business” article, released January 2, 2011 the overall rural business outlook is good.  Rural business is expected to be impacted by shifts in local, government, and economic trends.  With the increased emphasis on local foods, farming is expected to see a boost in rural communities.

Shopping local has become a local movement, and with that comes increased competition among local businesses, which ultimately will improve the quality of local, rural business.  Economically speaking, strong agricultural markets are trending more favorably for rural businesses than their urban counterparts.

With some experts believing the global outsourcing craze may have peaked, rural sourcing is an emerging trend that claims several advantages over global outsourcing, including, shorter supply chains, better data security, cultural compatibility, convenient time zones, and lower costs when compared to traditional urban firms.

Urban Life

From Global City Indicators Facility “Themes” overview, The Global City Indicators Facility (GCIF) has developed a list of 22 themes that measure a range of city services and quality of life factors.  These themes are comprised of city services: education, energy, recreation, fire emergency response, governance, health, social services, solid waste, transportation, urban planning, waste water, and water; and quality of life: civic engagement, culture, economy, environment, shelter, social equity, subjective well-being, and technology & innovation.

Based on this information, it is plausible to conclude that urban society will place increased priority around these themes in the coming years, especially if participation in GCIF by urban localities continues to rise.

Key Findings

Through this research we tried to figure out what it means to be civically engaged in a rural setting vs. an urban setting by using our definition of volunteering including time, talent, voice, and money.  Rural volunteering we assume has a focus on a smaller community population and a personal feel that you may be helping those that may be your neighbors and friends.

The rural economy is boosted when community members buy local and support local businesses and in that way are volunteering through their voice by speaking out against non-local unsustainable practices and using purchasing power and money as one’s influence as a consumer and a community contributor.  There is a boost in rural agricultural markets, where there must be increasingly more volunteering opportunities.

Urban populations can also use their purchasing power and consumer practices of buying local and not globally outsourcing.  Urban populations are usually larger and may have a higher percentage of people within the community in need.

Physical acts of volunteering may involve larger volunteering programs for example soup kitchens that mobilize more volunteers in order to feed a greater population within an urban community.

Just because the population is larger does not mean the volunteering will always be less personal.  In urban volunteer settings it is probably best to use outreach through technology and various forms in order to draw the volunteer population and then create a smaller community within the urban setting that is more personal.

What are your experiences with urban and/or rural volunteering? What overlapping rural and urban trends (i.e. added focus on local, sustainable practices) make the most sense for volunteering programs to engage in?

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