by James Martin
Concordia-related research projects have been awarded a total of $4.4
million in research funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research
Council. They are part of Canadas fledgling Initiative on the New
Economy (INE), a wide-ranging project that will see some $100 million
disbursed by SSHRC over five years.
The grants were announced by federal industry minister Allan Rock on Nov.
15 as part of a cluster of of awards to Montreal-area universities. The
INE supports research in global issues concerning the new economy, management
and entrepreneurship, education and lifelong learning.
Two major projects are led by Concordia professors. One is Electronic
Negotiations, Media and Transactions in Socio-Economic Interactions, a
study of society-transforming interactions between people and technologies,
headed by Decision Sciences and Management Information Systems Professor
Gregory E. Kersten, which has been awarded $1.4 million over four years.
Another project, called Building Rural Capacity in the New Economy, led
by Sociology and Anthropology Professor William Reimer, has been awarded
In addition, Finance Professor Lawrence Kryzanowski is a member of a team
working on a project on e-finance, headed by Georges Dionne of HEC.
Dr. Reimer explained that Building Rural Capacity in the New Economy is
an extension of a previous project that is just coming to an end. The
New Rural Economy (NRE2) was a five-year research and education project
examining the challenges facing 32 rapidly changing rural communities
In the increasingly globalized economy, towns are affected by changes
beyond their control to the industries on which they depend, such as mining,
fishing and forestry.
Also, the increasing urbanization of Canada drains power away from small
towns. The NRE2 addressed the dramatic effect
of out-migration, especially by the young, and the resulting vicious cycle
that affects the essential services in these shrinking towns, such as
their schools and hospitals.
The new Building Rural Capacity in the New Economy, also known as NRE2,
is a four-year extension of its predecessor.
The first project was about finding out whats going on in
rural areas, Reimer explained. We have a wide range of findings
about the situation. We know rural Canada is in trouble, but we also realize
theres a tremendous ability and interest and motivation among people
in rural areas to improve things.
Its this promise of positive change that lies at the heart of NRE2.
This is not an exercise in handwringing or dour pulse-taking. Its
about discovering the kinds of opportunities available for rural
people. What kind of options might they choose, and how they might go
The $3 million will largely go toward covering the transportation costs
in reaching the often remote communities, training students (grads and
undergrads from several institutions) to conduct field research, and organizing
conferences and workshops at which ideas can be shared.
Reimer said that not only is the research informed by an exchange of ideas
among communities regarding social and economic revitalization, such as
a community in rural B.C. literally talking with a community in rural
Quebec, but the researchers make sure to report their findings back to
the community, contributing to this exchange of ideas.
Were doing research at the sites, but, at the same time, transfering
knowledge both ways. Were teaching the local people how to do research,
and theyre informing us about their situations. The project brings
The sharing of ideas shows these communities that theyre not alone,
and their situations arent hopeless. Reimer cites the example of
a Quebec town which, when faced with losing its school, aggressively marketed
itself to nearby urban centre as an attractive education alternative with
a smaller student:teacher ratio. This gutsy move worked. The rural school
not only survived, it prospered.
They reversed the trend, Reimer said.
Other communities hear about this, and think, Maybe we can do something
similar. Its those kinds of stories that get other communities thinking,
Maybe weve got more to offer.
NRE2 will also try to raise awareness about the relationship between urban
centres and their rural neighbors.
An obvious example is the
case of rural areas providing drinking water for urban communities. Reimer
says its time for city-dwellers to become informed about these connections.
We have to start thinking about the ways in which rural Canada provides
for, and has mutual interests with, urban Canada. Thats not being
Unlike its predecessor, which drew its funding from a number of sources,
NRE2s existence is almost entirely contingent on the new SSHRC money.
It was getting to the point where we were saying, If we dont
get funding after December 2002, NRE2 will basically become a caretaking
operation, Reimer said. We had no guarantee that wed
He added, We put all our eggs in one basket, referring to
the gamble of staking the projects future on success of its SSHRC
application, but, as it turns out, the basket was full. This is
really a tremendous bonanza.