Linking Arms with New Friends: Rural Assembly Partners with Rethinking Rural

We are excited to announce our partnership with Rethinking Rural, a national network of millennials dedicated to creating resiliently vibrant communities. Based out of northwest Washington, Rethinking Rural was started in 2017 and in 2018 they held their first symposium of rural millennials to discuss the challenges and successes they face in their own communities and build the next generation of rural community leaders.

Madeline Moore, Denise Pranger, and Malloree Weinheimer (left to right) lead Rethinking Rural, a national network of millennials dedicated to creating resiliently vibrant communities. (Photo from Madeline Moore).

Madeline Moore, Denise Pranger, and Malloree Weinheimer (left to right) lead Rethinking Rural, a national network of millennials dedicated to creating resiliently vibrant communities. (Photo from Madeline Moore).

The partnership between the Rural Assembly and Rethinking Rural came out of the desire to leverage our mutual networks and resources to support young rural leaders across the country.

“Access to an established national platform and trusted 501c3 will help our devoted network of rural millennials grow and engage on a larger scale,” says Madeline Moore, one of the three founders of Rethinking Rural.

“With three symposiums planned over the next three years, one in Nauvoo, Alabama and one focused on Indian Country, held in the Pacific Northwest, Rethinking Rural is poised to become an integral voice of the future of rural communities on a national scale. This new partnership will be key to the success and growth of our organization and we couldn't be more proud of it."

Participants from the inaugural Rethinking Rural Symposium in Fort Townsend, Washington come together for a picture. (Photo from Madeline Moore).

Participants from the inaugural Rethinking Rural Symposium in Fort Townsend, Washington come together for a picture. (Photo from Madeline Moore).

The focus of Rethinking Rural on empowering millennial leaders and amplifying their voices is especially in line with the Rural Assembly’s emphasis over the next two years on women, youth, and people of color.

“The Rural Assembly is committed to celebrating and amplifying the voices of young people who are choosing to build their lives in small towns and rural communities,” says Whitney Kimball Coe, Coordinator of the Assembly.

”Rethinking Rural is a natural partner who shares our passion for supporting rural leaders. We look forward to linking arms with their network of engaged, devoted rural millennials.”

Whitney Kimball Coe, Coordinator of the Rural Assembly, exploring the Sangria De Cristo mountains in New Mexico with Madeline Moore of Rethinking Rural during January’s Rural Voices for Conservation Annual Meeting. (Photo by Whitney Kimball Coe).

Whitney Kimball Coe, Coordinator of the Rural Assembly, exploring the Sangria De Cristo mountains in New Mexico with Madeline Moore of Rethinking Rural during January’s Rural Voices for Conservation Annual Meeting. (Photo by Whitney Kimball Coe).

Stay tuned for more information on coming symposiums of Rethinking Rural and our collaboration moving forward! For questions reach out to Mary Sketch at mary@ruralstrategies.org.


Mary Sketch: First Day on the Job

This blog post is from Mary Sketch, the Rural Assembly’s new Program Associate.


I spent my first few hours on the job as the new Program Associate for the Center for Rural Strategies hiking up a slope in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of New Mexico.

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Struggling to catch my breath 8,000 feet above sea level, I kept pace with twenty other rural leaders from around the country, who an hour earlier were more or less complete strangers. As we worked to keep our balance across icy patches of trail, we marveled at the splendor of the landscape and exchanged words and ideas on what it takes to create stronger, more sustainable rural communities.

This hike marked both the start of my time with the Center for Rural Strategies and the beginning of the 15th annual Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition (RVCC) annual meeting.

Having the opportunity to spend my first 72 hours on the job with nearly 100 place-based practitioners working to create models of rural sustainability was beyond inspirational and the ideal way to kick start my work in building national rural leadership.

My background is at the intersection of communities and natural resource conservation. My desire to connect people to the places they live and to develop stronger communities through this intersection drew me to this field of work. From working on community-scale forest restoration in California to collaborative resource management in Montana to sustainable rangeland conservation in Oregon, I am passionate about how resilience in our landscapes and resilience in our communities can go hand in hand.

The RVCC Annual Meeting reinforced lessons about why we stay committed to the future of rural places. It reminded me that conservation work has something to teach us about the collaborative nature of rural leadership and about the importance of embedding yourself in a place.

Mary Sketch, Rural Assembly Program Associate

Mary Sketch, Rural Assembly Program Associate

Above all, this gathering reinforced the need to continue the work of shaping the rural narrative in ways that bring rural experiences to the forefront of the national dialogue.

I’m looking forward to all that lies ahead, in my work with the Center for Rural Strategies and the Rural Assembly and through collaboration with other organizations such as RVCC.

Here’s to a 2019 full of “keeping it rural!”


Let's Connect: Conversations About Improving Internet Access in North Carolina

The Community Broadband initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance is teaming up with NC Hearts Gigabit and the North Carolina League of Municipalities for Let's Connect, a series of discussions about the need to improve Internet access in the state of North Carolina.

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These meetings will feature presentations from community leaders, local elected officials, and policy experts, as well as time for attendees to share their own stories and network with others interested in improving local connectivity. The purpose of these discussions is to raise awareness, amplify local stories, and inspire hope that change is possible in North Carolina. 

The meetings will take place on Jan 28-30, 2019. More information is below. For more details and to RSVP, please visit the event pages here.

Please help spread the word!

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Rural Assembly Receives Grant from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

The Center for Rural Strategies is pleased to announce that it has received a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to build rural leadership and to connect local and national groups in ways that improve well-being in rural America.

The two-year, $900,000 grant will support the work of the Rural Assembly, a network of rural leaders and advocates working across the country to build a more inclusive nation.

Over the next two years, the Assembly will launch a national response to address long-standing issues of inequity and historical trauma in rural communities. The project will nurture local leadership and create narratives that build hope and show how rural communities are overcoming challenges. In particular, the Assembly will focus on amplifying the voices of rural women, youth, and people of color. 

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“We are thrilled to work with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to support rural leaders who are on the front lines of creating healthier communities," said Whitney Kimball Coe, coordinator of the Rural Assembly. “This grant gives us time and resources to expand the reach of the Assembly, to hone our approach and bring in new partners, make new connections, and nurture the rural spirit.”

The grant will support two national gatherings in the next two years—a Rural Women’s Summit and a Rural Youth Assembly—as well as the creation of an at-large cohort of rural “connectors” who represent the diversity of the rural experience.

The Rural Assembly has worked for the last decade to build a national network of leaders and advocates who represent the rich diversity of the rural experience; to create opportunities for them to work together, with funders, policy makers, and national public-interest groups; and to amplify rural challenges and rural strengths in ways that will yield more inclusive narratives, policies, and outcomes.

For more than 45 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve health and health care. We are working alongside others to build a national Culture of Health that provides everyone in America a fair and just opportunity for health and well-being. For more information, visit www.rwjf.org. Follow the Foundation on Twitter or on Facebook.


Support The Daily Yonder on this National Rural Health Day!

This blog post is from Whitney Kimball Coe, Coordinator of the National Rural Assembly.


The Daily Yonder doesn’t shy away from drama. I love that.

As a community theater nerd, it was gratifying to me that the Daily Yonder was on hand at the 2018 National Rural Assembly in Durham, North Carolina, to capture some of the most newsworthy and dramatic moments, like David Toland waving an empty pickle jar from the main stage.

Toland, CEO of Thrive Allen County in Kansas, waved the large glass jar, “otherwise known as a rural healthcare financing system,” to illustrate that rural folks throw nickels in a pickle jar “to pay for healthcare when one of our neighbors gets cancer, has a farm accident, or is in a car wreck.” 

The fragile laughter in the room confirmed the drama of the moment. The donation jar shows that we try hard to take care of each other in small towns and rural communities. But that pickle jar also reminds us that we’ve got a long way to go to create a healthcare system that is fair and accessible for all of us.

On this National Rural Health Day, we shine a spotlight on the 60 million people who live in small towns, rural and frontier communities across the country. And we remember their efforts to work together for a stronger, healthier future. 

For more than 10 years, the Rural Assembly has relied upon the Daily Yonder to tell the story true about rural health and everything else, too. From pickle jars to politics to national polls on rural health and well-being.

Combining drama, data, and diverse voices to shape a portrait of modern life in rural America, the Daily Yonder is making us smarter, more compassionate, and better advocates for our neighbors and our nation.

I hope you'll join me in giving to the Daily Yonder pickle jar this year. 

Whitney Kimball Coe, Coordinator of the National Rural Assembly