Rural Intelligence: The Online Magazine for Eastern New York, Western Connecticut and the Southern Berkshires
Saturday, July 22, 2017
 
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The Rural We: Peter Taylor

Peter Taylor has been president of the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation since January 2016. His path to philanthropy started while he was associate dean of students at Bates College; that’s when he started to serve on nonprofit boards. He left higher education to work for the Maine Community Foundation. The Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation has recently released “A Closer Look,” a research study that provides data on the pressing issues facing our region. Interestingly, the foundation’s footprint is nearly identical to the coverage area of Rural Intelligence, so the report’s findings are of great interest to us and our readers.

I’m from Ohio, but lived in Connecticut, Washington, D.C., Virginia and Boston before my 23 years in Maine. One constant has been our connection to the Berkshires. My parents retired to Lenox and we have gathered here as a family over many years. It has helped to have a strong affinity to the area, to know the specialness of it. My wife is a pediatric nurse practitioner who works at Community Health Programs, and my daughter goes to Monument Mountain high school.

The purpose of the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation is to build charitable resources to strengthen the community and improve the lives of the residents. We work with donors and other partners. We are very place based, focused on the region we serve.

Last January we wanted to get a deeper understanding of the trends and needs in the region. We wanted to identify a set of pressing issues to help us focus on the direction of the foundation. It’s an effort to build our knowledge that we will then share with nonprofits, their donors and residents.

As we were designing the study, we knew we wanted to hear directly from the residents, nonprofits, donors and other foundations, and civic and business leaders. We wanted to hear what was keeping them up at night. We conducted a dozen focus groups and sent out many surveys.

The report synthesizes a lot of the issues we’re seeing. Economic development and jobs are key challenges facing the region. Another theme to pay attention to are the demographic shifts that are happening. Rising rates of poverty are happening at the same time there is a growing proportion of homes owned by part-time residents. Another important issue is about youth in the workforce. They need to be able to see their futures here.

While we should be clear-eyed about what the data is telling us, it’s important to see the strengths and assets — of which there are many — as opportunities to confront the challenges head on. The solutions reside in building off what works here — the natural beauty, the culture, and the diverse population.

The report is available to anyone who’s interested. We plan to continue conversations with our communities to explore the implications of these issues. People can access the report by going to our website.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 07/03/17 at 05:18 PM • Permalink