Flagstaff County Urban-Rural Interdependencies Pilot


The purpose of this Urban-Rural Interdependencies Pilot project is to explore the nature of interdependencies between towns or villages and surrounding areas from the perspective of economic, social, and environmental sustainability and to determine their impact on the well-being and prosperity of the Flagstaff Community. This study addressed how towns and villages benefit rural areas and vice versa. It explores the conditions under which alliances are most beneficial, and the ways to facilitate cooperation that would lead to economic growth in the region.


Is there a tipping point when a people begin to realize important stages for mobilizing changes for the community? How can people deal with the complicated politics of identity and autonomy, while engaging in multiple partnerships? The goal of the study was first to understand how these alliances and agreements benefit or harm communities. The second goal is to see how cooperation fosters rural economic development and diversification, environmental sustainability, and social infrastructure. The study includes data collected by reviewing background documents, conducting a survey, and doing interviews.


Our report summarized survey and interview results, and provided a series of recommendations for next steps. Overall, respondents and interviewers recognized the value of forming partnerships. They wanted to encourage local partnership initiatives, while maintaining a broad framework of established guidelines together with adequate resources.

The conditions under which urban-rural alliances and agreements are most beneficial to the participating parties include: common goals; open communication; top quality administrative and political leadership; clearly defined roles and responsibilities; balanced outside expertise and local know-how; and shared knowledge, best practices, and resources.

The following challenges still impede the formation of partnerships, according to this study's participants: past failure, knowledge gaps, and pre-conceived ideas and prejudices against neighboring communities. Partnerships are further complicated by factors such as land use, municipal status, environmental sustainability (including water, sustainable agriculture), and social infrastructure, including seniors' housing and recreational facilities. Opportunities to form further agreements could come from existing partnerships.

Study participants also stated that urban-rural partnerships can be facilitated by providing guidance and structure for partnerships, while allowing communities to partner on their own. Furthermore, partnerships can be nurtured by fostering a spirit of cooperation and rewarding communities that invest in partnerships. Other conditions that influence urban-rural economic cooperation, according to the study participants, include the perception of regionalization as threatening community identity and the pressure to provide services that used to be handled by other levels of government. Fostering local innovation was felt by most (60%) survey respondents to be the best way to achieve diversification (as opposed to attracting entrepreneurs). However, at the same time many indicated the importance of creating an economic climate that would attract outside entrepreneurs. Partnerships are seen by many interviewees as potential opportunities for sharing knowledge and best practices, and may foster innovation in doing so.

Research Team

The Urban-Rural Interdependencies: Flagstaff Pilot Project was made possible by funding from Flagstaff County and the team effort of the following individuals (in alphabetical order of last name): Meaghan Bernard, Eva Bogdan, Wayne Defehr, Tania Kajner, Doug Knight, Amy Macdonald, Eileen Omosa, Jennifer de Peuter Chick, Rob Shields, Marianne Sorensen, Tera Spyce and Maryanne Wynne. We want to thank everyone who gave of their time and contributed insights and provided generous hospitality. We want to thank CAO Shelly Armstrong, Reeve Gerald Kuefler, and all of the council members of Flagstaff County. We want to also thank the University of Alberta at the Faculty of Extension for providing ongoing funding for the City-Region Studies Center.

Learn More

The Urban-Rural Interdependencies: Flagstaff Pilot Project - Main Report

The Urban-Rural Interdependencies: Flagstaff Pilot Report - Appendices

The Urban-Rural Interdependencies: Flagstaff Pilot Project - Annotated Bibliography