The Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs (IIRA) at Western Illinois University seeks to improve the quality of life for rural residents by partnering with public and private agencies on local development and enhancement efforts.
IIRA builds the capacity of community leaders and policymakers by providing technical support, applied research, policy evaluation, and training across the state. IIRA is a clearinghouse for information on rural issues, coordinates rural research, and works with state agencies on issues of importance to rural communities.
The Institute for Rural Affairs is the outgrowth of a need for an agency to monitor conditions in rural Illinois and to develop programming to assist community leaders and organizations find solutions to local problems.
In 1986, a Task Force on the Future of Rural Illinois conducted a set of 25 public hearings and one of the outcomes was a need for a permanent agency to study rural issues and to identify potential remedies. In 1989, IIRA was created as a companion agency to the Governors Rural Affairs Council and works with the Council on research projects to find innovative solutions to rural issues that can be implemented in Illinois and to provide technical assistance to policy makers. Recognizing that solutions to rural problems required a comprehensive and organized approach and that the only effective solutions will come from local leaders and policy makers, the Institute works on eight main issues:
1. Economic Development
2. Value-Added Rural Development
4. Health Care
5. Transportation & Infrastructure
6. Public Management including data to support effective planning practices
7. Innovative Housing Strategies
8. Information Technology
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