Rural Development in Alberta

Title of Proposal

Rural Development in Alberta: A New Approach and Evaluation Method

Presenter Name(s)

Paul Watson, 
Dee Ann Benard
, Judy Ferguson, 
Leslie Ayre-Jaschke


The Alberta Rural Development Network is a partnership of Alberta’s 21 publicly-funded, publicly-governed post-secondary institutions (PSIs). Our mandate is to use the combined expertise of Alberta’s PSIs to support rural development in Alberta and help rural communities grow. Our primary goals are to broaden and deepen relationships among our post-secondary members, and to develop relationships between rural communities and our members. The desired outcome of these goals is that research projects will be initiated that have community engagement throughout the research process, from project inception through knowledge transfer and exchange.
From a research perspective, this means determining what rural-related research is being undertaken in Alberta and who is involved. This helps to develop better partnerships. On the community side, we engage in a number of activities: 1) Provide resources to rural communities, 2) Work with communities to identify their needs, 3) Provide a proactive source for up-to-date information, knowledge and models of beneficial practices in rural development, and, 4) Facilitate strategic research on economic, cultural, environmental and social issues affecting rural communities.
ARDN has funds to support activities that fall under our 3 operational themes:
1) Community and Research Networking – Partner PSIs and communities with each other.
2) Knowledge Translation and Mobilization – Translate knowledge into plain language for dissemination and available so it can be turned into action
3) Education & Training – Identify opportunities to improve rural access to education and skills training.
ARDN is using a novel method for evaluating our influence. Our method, Outcome Mapping, has not been used in a similar context in North America so far to our knowledge. Outcome mapping is used by international aid agencies where impacts are often far removed from actions. This method does not use the traditional approach of assessing the products of a program (e.g., policy relevance, poverty alleviation, reduced conflict). Instead it focuses on changes in behaviours, relationships, actions, and/or activities of the people and organizations with whom a development program works directly. ARDN’s specific approach is to quantify changes in relationships and behaviours among and between PSIs and communities.

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