2024 Reimagining Rural

From thought-provoking guest speakers to inspiring local stories, the 2024 reimagining rural series was a great opportunity to learn and grow together.

Session 1 | Monday, January 29

Tara Mastel, MSU Extension Community Vitality kicked off the first night of Reimagining Rural with data to debunk the myth, “small towns are dying.” Plus, we heard from the community of Roundup on their downtown revitalization success story.

Recording and Resources 

Session 2 | Monday, February 12

On night two of the winter session of Reimagining Rural, Sabre Moore of the Carter County Museum shared more about Ekalaka's journey with Reimagining rural program over the past few years and the impact it has made on their community. Additionally, the forces behind SaveYour.Town Deb Brown and Becky McCray shared their research-backed, Idea Friendly Method that helps communities be more resilient and open to new ideas.

Recording and Resources

Session 3 | Monday, February 26

On the third and final night of the 2024 Reimaging Rural session, Rebecca Undem shared love notes and wisdom for the doers, dreamers, and spark plugs in small towns. From finding co-strivers to enduring idea squashers, Rebecca divulges her own story of success from Oakes, North Dakota, and some of the inspiration behind "Growing Small Towns."

Recording and Resources

2023 Reimagining Rural Inspiration Hour

Making things happen in small towns. 

Visit here for more information.

2023 Reimagining Rural Gathering - June 13, 2023 - Townsend, MT

A successful one day, in-person conference for funders, policy makers, and partners invested in a vibrant future for rural Montana. The morning session was an overview of changes afoot in rural Montana and ways organizations are adapting to make an impact in remote communities. The afternoon session included speakers from four communities across the state who shared how they engaged their community and accomplished inspiring projects. Throughout the day, people had the opportunity to connect with peer organizations to discuss new ideas and learn how to work better with rural communities to help them achieve their vision and goals. Click here for more information about the conference and resources available.

2022 Reimagining Rural recordings:

Help your local leaders get energized and re-think what is possible by participating in the 2022 Reimagining Rural Virtual Gatherings.

Participating communities:

  • Receive up to $200 to defray costs of local event.
  • Have community coaching available as you plan your local event.
  • Receive free facilitator training for the local facilitator you chose.
  • Receive individualized free marketing materials to assist in local promotion.
  • Have access to county data on some of the changes happening.

Reimagining Rural participating counties map


2021 Reimagining Rural recordings:

  • September 13, 2021.  Rewriting the Rural Narrative. Reframe your view of rural with "Brain Gain" author Ben Winchester.  View the recording of the September 13th talk here:  https://youtu.be/CE4y_YAGhAs .
  • September 27, 2021.  We did it and you can too! Short stories of successful projects from rural Montana community leaders that made things happen.  View the recording of the Sept 27th session here: 


  • October 4, 2021.  Winning in Winnett MT. Hear about how residents in Winnett MT, population 182, went from possible dissolution of their county to a robust Beef to Schools program, new housing and construction of a new community center.  View the recording of this session here:  https://youtu.be/BYzhALyfQco .

2020 Reimagining Rural recordings:

Colorful word cloud titled "What drew newcomers to your community"

How it all started.  The Fall 2019 In-Person Event

The Reimagining Rural Planning team hosted an in-person event in Harlowton attended by over 100 people in September 2019 to learn about and discuss rural issues with other statewide counterparts.  The goal was to raise awareness about rural and build relationships among organizations that have a stake in the success of rural communities. 

The Reimagining Rural event had a significant positive impact on the attendees and the audience as indicated by the positive evaluations and the interest in sharing the message of the keynote speaker, Ben Winchester, from the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Community Vitality.  Winchester’s “Brain Gain” and positive message about rural life was so relevant that three different organizations invited him to give the keynote address at three separate events in Montana during the spring of 2020.

Bringing Reimagining Rural to Rural

Following the success of the in-person event, the Reimagining Rural planning committee was awarded an outreach grant by Montana State University to recreate the in-person event remotely in 20 rural communities across Montana.  The goal of the virtual event was to bring the important message shared by Winchester directly to groups in rural communities so they can learn new ideas and gain inspiration to take positive action in their communities.  The resulting program was initially planned for the spring of 2020 but was rescheduled for Fall 2020.

Rescheduled and Expanded Thanks to Additional Partners

Thanks to a partnership with The Burton K. Wheeler Center  and additional support from the Montana Community Foundation, we were able to increase the number of communities participating in the fall 2020 program and we were able to expand the program to three days.