In many counties today—especially those with smaller populations—finding ways to create, attract and retain good jobs is a challenging process. In today’s global marketplace, economic development improvements are more likely to be realized when rural (and metro) counties work together as a multi-county region to assess, design and implement plans that build on their collective assets and comparative economic strengths. That is what the Stronger Economies Together (SET) program is all about.
The Indiana SET program is now inviting proposals from counties that are geographically connected to another and that are committed to collaborating on the preparation and implementation of a regional economic strategy.
The purpose of SET is to strengthen the capacity of communities/counties in rural America to work together to develop and implement an economic development blueprint for their self-defined multi-county region, one that strategically builds on the current and emerging economic strengths of that region. SET is the result of an important partnership of USDA Rural Development (USDA RD), the four Regional Rural Development Centers (RRDCs), the Purdue Center for Regional Development (PCRD) and land-grant university-based Extension educators across the country.
Since 2010, SET has been launched in 28 states and nearly 60 regions. The above map highlights those states that have been part of SET in Phase I (2010-11), Phase II (2011-12), Phase III (2012-13) and Phase IV (2013-14).
For regional teams taking an active part in SET, the program offers high-quality coaching and training that:
Several modules and resource materials have been developed to help you launch the Stronger Economies Together (SET) effort in a region. These are outlined under six major sections—Gearing Up, Core Modules, Supplemental Modules, Data Products, Evaluation Resources and Putting All the Pieces Together. In addition, a separate section of the website gives extensive information on how to develop a high-quality economic development plan, one of the essential outputs that each SET team is expected to produce and implement in its region.
A variety of products have been developed to help you prepare for launching the SET program in your region. The following is a list and brief overview of each of the resource materials you can use to lay the groundwork for the SET program in your region.Two-Page Overview of SET
Offers a brief, concise description of the SET program and the variety of topics covered as part of the core modules. The document can be used to inform and invite individuals and groups to be part of a SET regional team.
Contains valuable insights on the important elements of the SET program such as its purpose, the pool of national, regional and local entities that have partnered to create SET, the role of the State Partner Team and State Training/Coaching Team, the core module topics and benefits that regional teams receive when they take part in the SET training program and the application form that teams are asked to complete to become part of the SET project. This module can be a great resource that can be used to garner interest and support for the SET program by local and regional leaders, organizations and county/community residents.
Provides valuable information on what the SET training/coaching team should do in preparation for the launch and delivery of the SET modules in a given region.
The main component of the SET involves the delivery of eight specific modules. These are the core modules that a state training/coaching team would deliver to new or existing regional teams wishing to develop and implement a high-quality regional economic development plan. Collectively, the modules provide regional teams with approximately 20 hours of training and several additional hours of coaching assistance.
You are encouraged to explore the variety of resource materials available by each of the eight modules listed below:
Four supplemental modules are available to support additional in-depth training/coaching for regional teams wishing to become better versed on specific issues/topics that align with their interests and needs. For example, Module Four briefly focuses on “entrepreneurship” as well as the “community business matching model”—two strategies that a region may wish to embrace in its efforts to strengthen and diversify its regional economy. Two of the supplemental modules (Supplemental Modules 3 & 4) offer more detailed information on these two strategies. So, regional teams are encouraged to carefully review these supplemental products and to explore how the information contained in these modules might offer valuable ideas/strategies that could be included in a region’s economic development blueprint.
One of the important benefits of being involved in SET is to gain access to a variety of data resources that can be tailored to meet the information needs of most regions. The list of data reports generated and provided to the SET regional teams are listed under the Module topic in which they are studied and discussed by the regional teams.
Exploring the Region’s Economic & Demographic Foundations
Focusing on Regional Competitive Advantage
Exploring Strategies for Enhancing the Regional Economy
It is important to monitor the value and benefit of the SET program. Since SET is funded, in part, by USDA Rural Development, it is important to document the impact of the SET program on those regions that are investing their time and resources in this important work. The following are the tools that should be administered by the training/coaching team during the course of the SET program.
|Pre-SET Assessment Questionnaire||
Each regional team member should complete this form prior to the start of the SET Module 1 session.
Regional team participants should sign in for each session that they attend. This form is one the SET trainer/coach or other designee should have available for attendees to complete at the beginning of each module session.
|Module Session Evaluation||
At the completion of each module, the trainer/coach should ask each regional team participant to complete this brief form. It offers the participant the opportunity to identify the topics that were most useful to them and recommendations on how the specific module could be strengthened.
|Trainer Summary Report||
At the completion of each module, the person serving as the key trainer should complete this form. It offers the person the opportunity to share information about the session including the key information covered, what went well with the session, what were the challenges and changes the trainer would recommend with the module or the session procedures.
|Post-SET Assessment Questionnaire||
Each member of the SET regional team is asked to complete this survey after Module 9 has been completed.
NOTE: All completed evaluation documents should be submitted to Rachel Welborn at the Southern Rural Development Center. Her email is: firstname.lastname@example.org. Contact her at 662-325-5885 if you wish to send the materials by regular or express mail.