Often, the answers to what our small towns need aren’t found at home.

An August event in Pardeeville could prove just the road trip Cambridge and Deerfield need.

In August and early September, Wisconsin Rural Partners, in cooperation with the League of Wisconsin Municipalities, USDA, UW-Extension, Wisconsin Downtown Action Council and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, is hosting four Small Community Forums across the state.

The closest is in Pardeeville, about an hour from here, on Wednesday, Aug. 28. The others are a bit further afield, in Crivitz, Nekoosa and Independence.

The forums about a half-day long, according to www.wiruralpartners.org. They’re geared for everyone, not just elected officials or those in some other leadership role.

“If you live in, work in, or help shape your small community and/or region, please attend this forum. You’ll connect, network and talk with representatives from a variety of statewide resources and discuss with your regional neighborhood what your community needs and can do to grow and thrive into the future,” the website says.

Who should attend? The website continues: “Everyone who cares about your community’s future — residents, community leaders, educators, local and regional economic development staff, representatives of civic and planning organizations, elected officials and more.”

Activities at each forum include resource networking with state and federal representatives, sharing of “stories that provide examples of the good work going on in the community,” a presentation by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Extension Community Economic Development Program on “economic and demographic data analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of our communities,” a roundtable session about local business outlook and a networking lunch.

The cost is $20 per person.

Wisconsin Rural Partners was created in 1992. According to its website it is a “neutral, nonprofit organization that brings together a cross section of residents, organizations and leaders that cross political affiliations and organizational boundaries to advance initiatives important to rural communities throughout the state.” It has a 10-member board of directors which meets quarterly.

Wisconsin Rural Partners has recently advocated for broadband access and adoption; community infrastructure and systems; child and health care access; housing financing and construction; transportation maintenance, access and use; and agriculture and natural resource use and conservation.

There’s always room to learn and grow. Connecting with other communities our size could prove valuable. A contingent from the Deerfield-Cambridge area could bring back what they learn, sharing at a community forum or series of forums in the fall. Or, further breaking down barriers, a joint forum.

Who’s up for a late summer road trip?

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