About Us

agresearch resilient rural communities about us verandah group
Resilient Rural Communities brings together researchers in the social and physical sciences to investigate adapting to the changing farming conditions in New Zealand, while balancing economic, environmental, social and cultural outcomes. Topics within the project have included farming entrepreneurship, Maori youth in rural communities, resilience indicators and ecosystem services.

RRC has developed out of earlier research programme led by AgResearch, called Rural Futures. Rural Futures was a seven-year research programme which developed and tested innovation tools and processes that integrate social science and farm systems modelling to explore alternative futures. Its aim was to support farmers in taking a more active approach to envisioning and creating their own futures. That programme produced two important tools that continue to be used in Resilient Communities: the Exploring Futures Platform, a method for the envisioning and planning work of communities, and the Rural Futures Multi-Agent Simulation (RF-MAS), a multi-disciplinary model of farmer behaviour and land-use change.

An important part of both RRC and Rural Futures has been outreach to stakeholders and community members in the rural sector. There has been a concerted effort to create connections to people and organisations who have a stake in rural community development, in order to ensure that the research is useful and relevant.

As such, RRC is both a research and and extension programme, and the only one of its type in the country. The focus is on the widest group of stakeholders possible: farmers, rural residents, social and community groups, local and central government, industry groups, rural businesses, and allied business like banks and agribusiness suppliers.

There is a current portfolio of individual projects, as well as integrative efforts to pull together the learnings from the projects. Those projects are:

  • Business innovation – entrepreneurship in family farming
  • Creating agricultural futures for Māori youth
  • Farming in the digital era: implications for the farm business
  • Farm-community relationships
  • Dairy farming, policy and people
  • Tool development – EFP and RF-MAS.

As well, there is a foresight stream of work. 

This workstream is partly a scanning exercise to identify drivers and trends that are likely to affect the rural sector in the future. It is also an exercise in stakeholder engagement, to understand their concerns and invite them to be part of RRC work.

How do we define resilience? 

We define resilience as the ability of a social system to adapt. This does not necessarily mean adapting to return to the same state, but also transformation and renewal within rural communities. In this way, we see disturbances to rural communities as sometimes negative, but also as opportunities for positive change. While most resilience literature has focused on resilience in the face of natural disasters or traumatic events, this book focuses on adaptation to gradual change, like depopulation of rural areas. This definition is resilience means we consider it to be a) ongoing b) both positive and negative and c) part of wider system change.