UACES Facebook Rural Innovation Director to Address Breakthrough Solutions Conference in June
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Rural Innovation Director to Address Breakthrough Solutions Conference in June

By Ryan McGeeney
U of A System Division of Agriculture
April 19, 2019

Fast Facts:

  • Breakthrough Solutions Conference scheduled for June 26; pre-conference workshop scheduled June 25
  • Understanding how to create entrepreneurial ecosystems and take advantage of opportunities in your community or region is critical in a fast-moving 21st century economy
  • Conference and pre-conference workshops will present new tools communities need to succeed 

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LITTLE ROCK – Matt Dunne, founder and executive director of the Center for Rural Innovation in Hartland, Vermont, will be the keynote speaker at the 2019 Breakthrough Solutions Conference, scheduled for June 26 at the Four Points Sheriton in Little Rock.

Matt Dunne

The annual conference, which focuses of community and economic development, will offer community leaders the opportunity to hear about the latest approaches to finding solutions to problems that impede advancement. The theme of this year’s conference is “Creating Connected Communities in the Emerging 21st Century Economy.”

The Center for Rural Innovation is a non-profit “action-tank,” dedicated to fostering digital economies in rural areas of the United States, Dunne said.

“We need to create digital ecosystems in rural areas that support rural entrepreneurs and unleash the untapped talent and ideas that exist in small towns across the country,” he said. “Since the last recession, urban areas have seen renewed economic vitality, but rural America has been left behind: populations are declining, wages are stagnant, opiate addiction is rising, and increasing workforce automation is putting jobs at risk.”

Dunne has a wide-ranging background in rural and economic development, including having served as directorof AmeriCorps*VISTA under President Clinton; as associate director of the Rockefeller Center on Public Policy at Dartmouth College; as a Vermont State Senator for 11 years; as founder of Google’s Community Affairs Division and more.

Mark Peterson, Professor of Community and Economic Development with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said the lessons Dunne will share from his experiences in economic and community development will provide valuable insight for local community development leaders.

“Many of our Arkansas communities and counties are losing population, so we looking forward to hearing Matt describe fresh approaches that will enable them to become vibrant and sustainable for the long term,” Peterson said. 

The conference is scheduled for June 26 at the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension headquarters in Little Rock, with a pre-conference workshop scheduled for June 25.  The pre-conference workshop will be a hands-on workshop to assist a pilot community – the Arkansas Regional Coalition of the Ouachitas — to become fully connected in the emerging 21st century economy.  More information on these events will soon be available at

To learn about community development in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit Follow us on Twitter at @UAEX_edu


About the Division of Agriculture

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system.  

The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.   

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

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Media Contact: Ryan McGeeney
Communication Services
U of A System Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
(501) 671-2120