University-Community Partnerships as a Pathway to Rural Development: Benefits of an Ontario Land Use Planning Project


  • Christopher A Fullerton Department of Geography, Brock University


A growing body of research has demonstrated that rural communities can achieve highly positive outcomes when they engage in local planning and development through the use of 'bottom-up' and place-based' strategies. However, many communities lack the capacity to do so for reasons such as a shortage of financial resources, an absence of local residents who understand how to initiate and carry out development projects, or even an absence of social cohesion that prevents the community from working together. At the same time, university-based researchers have increasingly been called upon to engage with communities outside the academy in order both to demonstrate the practical relevance of their research activities and to provide their students with hands-on experience that might help them secure employment after graduating. Thus, there is an excellent opportunity for universities to partner with rural communities to address their respective needs. This article documents one such initiative, a five-year project where the author and a total of seventeen Brock University Geography students worked with the Township of South Algonquin to create its first ever land use plan. Among other benefits, this initiative provided a much-needed set of formal land use policies for the municipality, a rich body of rural development research data for the faculty member, and career-oriented community planning experience for the students. Keywords: rural development; university-community partnerships; service learning; action research; rural land use planning