Recruitment is open for the 2024 Rural Change Makers program

Recruitment is open for the 2024 Rural Change Makers program
May 02, 2024

The 2024 Rural Change Makers program seeks applicants from engaged young leaders aged 18-35 in rural and northern Ontario.

By Andrew Joseph,; Image via Rural Ontario Institute

The Rural Ontario Institute (ROI) has opened its recruitment for the 2024 Rural Change Makers (RCM) program.

The ROI is a non-profit organization committed to developing leaders, informing decision-makers, and connecting communities. It delivers the renowned Advanced Agricultural Leadership Program (AALP), which is entering its 40th year of operation, and the Rural Change Maker program, a youth leadership initiative for young rural, emerging leaders to address local priorities.

The ROI provides data research and analysis on rural trends and demographics. It is currently engaged in a rural housing initiative that will help communities address the housing and homelessness crises being faced by thousands of Canadians.

The 2024 Rural Change program is supported by its regional partners: Opiikapawiin Services LP (OSLP), which represents a collective of 24 First Nations from Northwestern Ontario; Community Futures Huron; Haliburton-Minden Hills community collective, including 20 businesses, leaders, organizations, farmers, and educators; TRENVAL Business Development Corporation; Renfrew County Community Futures Development Corporation; Renfrew County Economic Development; and the Four County Labour Market Planning Board.

The Rural Change Maker program welcomes applications from engaged young leaders aged 18–35 in rural and northern Ontario eager to become the next faces of change and mobilize action around issues important to their communities.

“It will be exciting to see our youth from Wataynikaneyap partner communities advance their skills, knowledge, and gifts through leadership roles and community projects. The path they choose on their shared leadership journey will help build positive outcomes for the future,” stated Laura Calmwind, Training Program Manager of OSLP.

“The Four County Labour Market Planning Board is proud to support the Change Makers Program as a partner for 024–25. It is important in retaining our youth in the region to engage with them and to build meaningful relationships with their communities,” explained Dana Soucie, Executive Director of the Four County Labour Market Planning Board. “The Change Makers program has proven to be very successful with their excellent hands-on, grassroots approach to educating future leaders. We are so excited for this year's applicants!”

Amber Darling of the TRENVAL Business Development Corporation added, “Trenval Community Futures is proud to bring the Rural Change Makers Program to the Bay of Quinte Area. This program is a springboard for young changemakers to ignite their passions, cultivate leadership skills, and amplify their voices as they embrace challenges that will shape communities in the future.”

Commented Paul Nichol, General Manager, CF Huron, “This is a very strong curriculum that takes youth out of the classroom and gives them hands-on experience in community economic development and leadership. The program provides essential tools for rural changemakers to move their ideas forward.”

Applications for the 2024 RCM program opened on May 1, 2024, and will close on July 1, 2024, with the selection process commencing in August 2024, when up to 36 motivated young adults will be selected to join the experience. These leaders will participate in a series of developmental training sessions, come together for experiential gatherings, complete self-assessments, form planning committees for local activities, and lead entrepreneurial or community initiatives.

Noted Patti Tallman, Executive Director of Haliburton County Development Corporation, “Within the priorities of the Haliburton County Development Corporation, we work on the development of initiatives that will increase the number of youth involved in studies in Haliburton County. HCDC will share knowledge, guidance, and collective resources to support youth involved in the Rural Change Maker program alongside our community partners.”

In a joint statement, Cyndy Phillips, Executive Director, Renfrew County Community Futures, and Melissa Marquardt, Manager, County of Renfrew Economic Development Division, said: "Renfrew County Community Futures and the County of Renfrew Economic Development Division are pleased to partner to support the Rural Change Maker Program. Shaping emerging leaders to bring forth community development solutions is critical to the future of not only Renfrew County but to rural communities across Ontario."

Summing up, Melanie Bidiuk, ROI Communications Manager and RCM Program Coordinator, said: “Participants of ROI’s youth leadership programs do incredible things both in their communities and lives, with many past participants taking on leadership roles in local or provincial government, businesses, and local community organizations.

“Rural change makers are the leaders of tomorrow, and this initiative prepares them for those future challenges.”

Support for the Rural Change Makers program has been provided in part by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, the Ontario Mutual Insurance Association, and RBC Future Launch.

For more information on the RCM program and how to apply, visit

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