Radically Rural kicks off its first-ever online event on Sept. 24 at 8 a.m. Event hosts, The Hannah Grimes Center and The Keene Sentinel hope the event will incite the sharing and shaping of ideas that will drive change, prosperity, sustainability and connection in and among small towns and rural communities.

The online platform, Hopin, will serve to assemble a projected 600 attendees and allow them to pick between six different tracks with three sessions each.

Mary Ann Kristiansen, executive director for Hannah Grimes Center, says, “The platform we selected was as close to replicating the real experience that we normally offer as we could find.”

In past years, the experience-based event has been designed to help people get away and think creatively as a collective.

With Hopin, a Main Stage allows everyone to gather for keynote speakers and idea slams, while separate rooms allow for multiple sessions to run at once. Participants can move between sessions and even network privately.

“Networking was very important to us, so we are glad to offer this opportunity for people to connect,” says Kristiansen.

As in past years, the event will include tracks themed around Arts and Culture, Clean Energy, Community Journalism, Main Street, Entrepreneurship and Land and Community.

The Arts and Culture Track will include key speakers, Savannah Barrett, exchange director at Art of the Rural, discussing the immediate urgency of arts funding across racial and geographical boundaries. Anthony Poore, executive director for New Hampshire Humanities and Barbara Schaffer Bacon, co-director at Animating Democracy, will discuss building connections, empathy, understanding and inclusion through the arts. Lastly, a debate from various artists as they discuss what makes art essential in rural communities at this moment in time, and why.

The Clean Energy Track will include key speaker Samuel Golding, president of Community Choice Partners, Inc., along with a panel of experts who will present case studies of rural communities from various states that have transitioned to Community Choice Aggregation. Dr. Danny Richter, vice president of governmental affairs at Citizens’ Climate Education and John Kondos, director of Monadnock Sustainability Hub, will present real-time scenario software, “En-Roads,” that models carbon pricing and its effect on global temperature and carbon dioxide levels. Lastly, Dr. Keith Paustian, professor at Colorado State University, along with Dr. Adam Chambers, a scientist at USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, will discuss regenerative agriculture and its promise for farmers and foresters.

The Community Journalism Track will feature moderator Amy Kovac-Ashley, vice president and senior director of American Press Institute and a panel discussion on the Table Stakes Program and how newsrooms can increase online readership and revenue using collected data. Kristen Hare, a reporter for The Poynter Institute, will be offering examples of new journalism models that are springing up across the country, suggesting ways these can be replicated at the small-town level. Lastly, Linda Conway, executive director of New England Newspaper and Press Association and Terrence Williams, president of The Keene Sentinel, will share 50 of the best ways to increase audience and revenue from some of the top game-changing news organizations in the country.

The Entrepreneurship Track is slated to include Ben Doyle, associate director of USDA Rural Development and Rich Grogan, executive director of Northern Border Regional Commission, who will talk about how to leverage local conditions and multiple sources of funding to bolster local business. Laurel Adams, president of REDC, will present at the annual Pitchfork Challenge where local rural entrepreneurs pitch their business with the opportunity of receiving funding. Participants will also gain access to the “operating manual” on how to run this event in their communities. Lastly, Erbin Crowell, executive director of Neighboring Food Co-op Association, will be moderating a discussion on rebuilding communities using the co-op business model.

The Land and Community Track will feature environmental psychologist Louise Chawla, who will discuss current research indicating that people’s wellbeing depends as much on frequent contact with nature as clean water and air. Moderator Ben Hewitt, donor relations lead of Rural Vermont, will be sharing information on how food hubs may just be the key to growing a vibrant and successful community in 2020. Lastly, Rebecca Burgess, executive director of Fibershed and Meg Erskine, co-founder and CEO of the Multicultural Refugee Coalition, will share the Fibershed model and promote a locavore lifestyle by sharing the practice of growing, producing and composting local textiles all within the community.

The Main Street Track will feature Deb Brown, co-founder of SaveYour.Town, as she discusses how to involve the community in using empty buildings for economic growth. Jo Anne Carr, director of planning and economic development for the town of Jaffrey and Jennifer Whittaker, research associate for Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, will discuss the concept of “New Ruralism” to be the reimagining of rural Main Streets as more than structures, but alive with the hum of community answering the needs of its residents. Lastly, Robert Stevens, P.C., founder and president of Stevens & Associates, will take participants on an architectural journey of discovery as he speaks to adaptive reuse of old buildings, sensitive new building design and creating a pedestrian-friendly downtown for the 21st-century.