Get Ready to Dream

Posted on April 19, 2017

Paula Jensen
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RuralX17 keynote speaker Jason Roberts

Jason Roberts wants you to build a better block in your rural community. And he’s just the guy to tell you how to do it.

As the co-founder of The Better Block Project, a neighborhood revitalization effort that won him the Champions of Change award from the White House in 2012, Jason’s ideas and visions for bringing life back into dying neighborhoods have become a national movement around the globe.

“It all started when some friends and I decided to build our dream neighborhood block in 24-hours using less than $1,000,” he explains. “Simply by adding things like a bike lane, string lights, flowers, outdoor tables, pop-up shops and incorporating local art and music, it became a place people wanted to be.”

From there, The Better Block initiative became an international movement and has been featured in the NY Times, on TED talks and on national public radio.

As the keynote speaker for RuralX17, Jason is excited to talk to rural communities about the opportunities they have to reshape their environments.

“The process for change is so much easier in a rural community,” he explains. “Resources are easier to find, it’s easier to get ordinances cleared out of the way. Rural communities also offer a great supply of mixed skill sets—from welders to woodworkers to gardeners. Once we get the ball rolling, it’s fun to see people dream again.”

As part of RuralX17, Jason will bring examples of what people can do in their rural communities to make their main streets a destination.

“It’s all about incorporating a mix of uses in a space and adding things that make people want to linger,” he says. “I tell people to incorporate romantic things—create a place you would want to take wedding photos, for example.”

Attendees at this year’s RuralX17 will be able to see how some of Jason’s ideas come to life during Tuesday evening’s “Better Block Party,” where organizers will turn the Wheat Grower’s Innovation Center into a small town celebration.

“We can’t wait to bring it all together at the Better Block Party,” says Beth Davis, President of Dakota Resources. “Once people walk in the room, they will see what it takes to transform a big, empty room into a fun, desirable space. I think people will be inspired to do the same with their rural main streets.”

For more information about Jason Roberts and The Better Block project, visit



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