University of Idaho - I Banner
A student works at a computer


U of I's web-based retention and advising tool provides an efficient way to guide and support students on their road to graduation. Login to VandalStar.

Rural Studies and Outreach

Rural Studies and Outreach (RSO) is based in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology at the University of Idaho. It is a consortium of research, teaching and extension faculty conducting social, economic, cultural, political and environmental studies and outreach in the rural communities and regions of Idaho and the Inland Northwest.

We welcome contact from our colleagues around the university who are interested in these topics. We are looking for input and affiliates as we develop the mission and vision for the consortium. Our networks include faculty and administrators in departments of political science, natural resources and society, sociology, health and education, law, and bioregional planning, all of whom are engaged in research, teaching and outreach that focuses on rural communities.

Ripple Effects Mapping

Ripple Effects Mapping (REM) is a versatile participatory evaluation tool. The intent of REM is to collect the untold stories and behind-the-scene activities that can ripple out from a specific program or activity.

  • Designed to work effectively for gathering evaluation data from program participants, community or coalition partners, or other groups.
  • Effectively identifies what has occurred, as well as what is not occurring
  • Provides an opportunity to decide what direction the community, coalition, or group should head next.

Overall, the REM process is an effective way to get information from participants and on to paper in a visual way. 

If you are interested in having University of Idaho Extension conduct REM with your organization or project participants, or would like to have your staff trained in the technique, contact Lorie Higgins:

Community Data Tools Project

Decision makers need accurate and timely data to develop well-informed policies. The Community Data Tools Project helps Idahoans better understand the demographic, social and economic factors that affect their county. County brochures are available for each Idaho county through this project.

Community Data Tools

Indicators Idaho

Indicators Idaho shows you trends over time. Compare your area to your neighbors or the state as a whole. Includes population characteristics, education, income and poverty, health, employment, crime and safety, housing and more.

Rural Wealth, Inequality and Community Economic Resilience: Engaging Rural Communities in an Era of Economic Restructuring

The purpose of this project is to develop and use new knowledge about how investments in various forms of capital impact community resilience. The long-term goal is to improve rural communities’ economic well-being through cultivation of their economic resilience and wealth. Specifically, the project objectives are: 1) Analyze U.S. counties’ current economy using a community capitals framework to identify key factors influencing resilience; 2) Determine the relative contribution of different capital on economic resilience; 3) Develop a better understanding of how to create or improve economic resilience; 4) Assist local governments, regional economic development organizations, and community leaders to create economic development strategies that foster resilience; 5) Increase community leaders’ capacity to achieve their economic development goals by (a) using a value chain approach to target interventions that build multiple forms of wealth, (b) using a highly collaborative systems approach to align fragmented efforts (c) intentionally creating roles for low-income individuals in the development process; 6) Adapt and expand extension programming in rural areas that recognizes existing demand in the marketplace for products and projects that consider multiple forms of wealth including the utilization of sustainable products and practices, small scale and local producers.

PIs: PI: Lewin, P.; Co-PIs: Watson, P.; Weber, B.; Rahe

Funder: Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)

Time frame: 02/01/2015 -01/31/2018

Amount: $500,000

Sustainable Rural Development Using the Area Sector Analysis Process (ASAP)

ASAP is both an outreach and applied research tool designed to identify compatible intersections of community preferences and asset structures with industry production requirements and targeted community support. The process is based on the concept that sustainable area and regional development strategies should reflect the preferences of both the area/region and the businesses to successfully achieve sustainable regional economic development. The overall goal of the currently funded integrated project was to expand ASAP in the West while focusing on four specific objectives – (1) Implement ASAP in communities across the West by engaging currently committed, trained collaborators and training new collaborators; (2) develop case studies to document the success of ASAP, provide feedback to improve ASAP and sustain a network of trained ASAP facilitators and community participants; (3) expand the nationwide business profile database further; (4) analyze the community goal, community asset and business profile databases to better understand the process of sustainable community economic development over time and across various types of rural communities and industries.

PI: Harris, T.; Co-PIs: Albrecht, D.; Watson, P.; Lewin, P.; Borden, G.; Bentley, M.; Landis, M.

Funder: Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)

Time frame: 04/01/2017 – 03/31/2021

Amount: $500,000

Research & Understanding: Rural Assistance for Latino Businesses (RURAL Biz)

The goal of this project is to cultivate Hispanic entrepreneurism and business opportunities to maximize benefits for women, youth, families, and rural communities in Idaho. Specifically, this project objectives are: 1) Understand the social, cultural, and economic factors that affect the decision to enter into self-employment, and the financial performance and economic sustainability of Hispanic-owned small businesses; 2) Identify opportunities and constraints to Hispanic entrepreneurism that can be addressed through youth and adult programs; 3) Identify the role of family and gender in enabling or constraining Hispanic women’s entrepreneurial success;  4) Increase the reach and effectiveness of nonprofit partners to deliver adult programs that promote entrepreneurism in areas of southern Idaho with concentrated Hispanic populations.; 5) Increase the reach and effectiveness of 4-H to deliver youth programs that develop entrepreneurism skills and financial literacy in areas of southern Idaho with concentrated Hispanic populations; 6) Provide law school students with educational service-learning opportunities that support entrepreneurism among underserved populations in Idaho.

PI: Lewin, P.; Co-PIs: Newman, S.; Saul, D.; Rumel, J.; Lindstrom, J.; Vega, L.; Deringer, N.; Schmiege, C.; Tsao, L..

Funder: Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)

Time frame:  02/15/16 – 02/14/19

Amount: $500,000

Understanding and Improving Rural Community Revitalization Assessment Programs in Three States

Community revitalization assessment (CRA) programs help small towns identify their strengths, challenges, desired changes, and the local and non-local resources needed to meet community goals. The research goal of this project is to identify patterns of strength and vulnerability across more than 150 rural communities in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. Through surveys and other methods this project will gather data that will help CRA delivery organizations evaluate their programs and better target supports for community and economic development. This project will also provide follow-up organizational support and tools to communities participating in assessments, support a three-state working and learning group, and produce a guide to effective rural CRA that will have national application.

PI: L. Higgins; Co-PIs: Tifft, K., and Hamilton, M. (UI); Lachapelle, P. (MSU); and Williams, D. (UWy)

Funder: Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)

Time frame: 04/01/2017 – 03/31/2021

Amount: $500,000