Communications & Capacity Building: Exploring Clues from the Literature For Rural Community Development


  • Paula Romanow Carleton University
  • David Bruce Rural and Small Town Program, Mount Allison University


It almost goes without saying that communication lies at the root of all human development, in any context. Thus, capacity building for rural development takes place in the context of communication practices and processes. Historically, much rural development has taken place through communication in terms of education through university extension programs, radio and other traditional media, and perhaps most importantly, through the communal ties which are created and fostered by face-to-face communication. In today’s world, rural development is also becoming increasingly tied into new information and communication technologies (ICTs) such as the internet. Further, an examination of the literature surrounding rural development and capacity building reveals that in virtually all of it communication is inextricably involved in the process. The literature also provides some important clues as to why those involved in rural development for the new rural economy in a North American context need to pay attention to existing and potential communication tools and practices (or the lack thereof) when building capacity in their communities. With this end in mind, this article will present an overview of the literature concentrating on the following ideas: communication as a framework of oil, glue, and web; communication and capacity building, i.e., the role of communication in enhancing capacity and the capacities that good communications creates; participatory communications strategies; and communications capacity and conflict resolution in rural communities. While looking at literature concerning both the developed and developing world, the emphasis will be upon work which has a direct rural North American application. Finally, the article will discuss what this foregrounding of communication means in concrete terms to Canadian rural communities caught in the midst of global economic shifts, i.e., those trying to engage and sustain themselves in the New Rural Economy

Author Biographies

Paula Romanow, Carleton University

Paula Romanow is a doctoral candidate in the Mass Communication Dept. of Carleton University

David Bruce, Rural and Small Town Program, Mount Allison University

David Bruce is the Director of the Rural and Small Town Program at Mount allison University in Sackville, NB.