The Rural Youth Project was initiated by agricultural and rural communication specialists Jane Craigie Marketing (JCM) in early 2018 to find out more about young people living rurally and their challenges, aspirations, and needs, in order to support the future of participating countries’ rural youth.
The Rural Youth Project, which has been supported by a number of industry partners from the UK and Europe, has a three-prong approach. At its core is the online research survey, which ran from January-June 2018 and received responses from 755 young people aged 18-28, living or working rurally, with a specific focus on Scotland, England, Wales, Australia, Canada, Sweden, and the USA. The aim was to find out more about the opinions and attitudes of this group to housing, transport, connectivity, employment and opportunities, and their degree of optimism with a view to better understanding how they can be supported by the wider industry and policy-makers.
Respondents of the Rural Youth Project highlighted the interconnected issues of poor transport (78% can’t live where they do without access to a car), poor digital connectivity (64% have poor or no 3G/4G) and inadequate housing (expensive and limited availability). It’s an ecosystem exasperated by the tyranny of distance.
Despite the aforementioned, 72% of respondents feel optimistic about the future and many regional young people attribute growing up regionally as an important part of their identity.
The Rural Youth Project culminated in an Ideas Festival attended by more than 100 young people from across the UK accompanied by international delegates from Spain, Sweden, Australia, and Canada. The festival's agenda included inspiring speakers and workshops to help participants to not only examine the issues in their communities but create real solutions and encourage them to take lead in changing their community.
This meeting of the minds has also resulted in an active community of like-minded young people who have a safe space to discuss and support one another on what it is like growing up rurally. Unprompted, mental health is a subject brought up regularly by Rural Youth Project vloggers and was a theme throughout the Rural Youth Project’s Ideas Festival and the lack of mental health support through isolation from services is a major concern to rural youth with a desire for long-term planning rather than short term relief to build resilience in their communities.
The Rural Youth Project's first object was to find the root problems that divide and isolate rural youth from their city cousins, and now, the Rural Youth Project aims to empower and spur rural young people on to create change in their communities.
To achieve this, the project recently collaborated with Scottish Enterprise to take five young people and fifteen rural leaders on a learning journey to the Netherlands with an aim to "think different" about their communities and rural enterprise.
The visit was a huge success with the five Rural Youth Project delegates returning inspired and with new mentors from the Scottish Enterprise Rural Leaders who have become champions of change for young people in rural Scotland.
The Rural Youth Project continues to highlight the needs of rural youth from Scotland, and across the globe, to industry and government decision-makers with an aim to empower them to become leaders in their community.