Originally developed as a collaboration between Sustainable Huron and Dr. Wayne Caldwell, the Huron County Healthy Rural Lens is a tool that can be used to help policy makers create programs, services and policies that do not adversely affect the well being of the Huron County community. As with any lens, it helps the user gain perspective of their situation. In the case of the Healthy Rural Lens, it will help minimize unintended consequences and maximize positive outcomes. Using the lens for your project is as simple as completing a one-page worksheet, that asks you to consider the target population, transportation needs, the natural environment, energy conservation, the economy and agriculture among many other facets of rural life. By rating each of these facets on a scale from positive-neutral-negative, the user creates a visual representation of how their policy or program will impact our county. In the end, a completed Rural Lens worksheet will give you something like this:
A policy with largely positive impact will have a large circle, or a wide-open lens. Conversely, a policy with negative impact will have a small circle, or closed lens. This helps the decision makers evaluate their policy in the context of rural life, and ultimately helps improve our community.
Gateway recently received funding from the Rural Ontario Institute and Sustainable Huron to evaluate the use of this tool in Huron County. The lens was developed and launched in 2014, and our evaluation of the tool will focus on how well it has been used by policy makers, and spreading awareness of the tool throughout the county. The Huron County Healthy Rural Lens can be easily adapted to other rural communities, or potentially even non-rural communities given the right circumstances. You can read more about the Rural Lens on our project page, and press releases available here, and here.