If we are to build smarter, more prosperous, more inclusive rural communities, then we need to build systems where new leadership emerges and new ideas can flourish. The lifting of local voices is fundamental to building new capacity and meaningful opportunity. There is a deep need to both strengthen the agency and shared purpose of rural leaders and to supplement mainstream national narratives with diverse rural representation.
Since 2007, the Rural Assembly has convened voices from every region and every state in the United States. Participants represent local grassroots organizers, nonprofit and business leaders, government officials, funders, and next generation leaders. They represent a diversity of cultures, geographies, and ethnicities, and they pour their expertise into creative initiatives that build up their hometowns and communities, ranging from climate and energy solutions to creative placemaking initiatives, from economic transitions to restoring our democracy.
Our participants share a passion for achieving healthier, more sustainable, and more just communities, and they are all courageously taking on the challenges and barriers that would stand in the way.
Participants include individuals and organizations at the local, regional, and national level based in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The goal of the Rural Assembly is to make the country stronger by improving the outlook for rural communities. The guiding principle is that an inclusive, prospering, and sustainable rural America improves prospects for us all.
Participants in the Rural Assembly include grassroots service and development groups, state and regional networks, and national associations focused on key rural policy areas such as health, education, community development, and conservation.
The Rural Assembly provides an opportunity for rural leaders and their allies to unite in a common cause, advocating for common-sense policies that improve the outlook and results for rural places, people, cultures, and economies.
The Steering Committee of the Rural Assembly constitutes the leadership of the Assembly and its unincorporated governance.
The composition of the Steering Committee grew out of the 2007 convening of the Rural Assembly, which appointed a working group of organizations to make recommendations about future structure and activities. This group grew into the Steering Committee and has been expanded subsequently.
The following organizations currently serve on the Rural Assembly Steering Committee:
Center for Rural Strategies, Dee Davis, Chairperson
The Steering Committee reaches decisions through a consensus-building process, reflecting the values and ideals expressed in the Rural Compact.
The Center for Rural Strategies serves as the fiscal agent for the Assembly and is responsible for programmatic and fiscal operations. The Center for Rural Strategies engages numerous organizational partners to carry out the work of the Rural Assembly.
How can I participate?
Endorse the Rural Compact, our central organizing document, which states the Rural Assembly’s values and beliefs. And ask other individuals and organizations to consider endorsing the Rural Compact.
Sign up to be a member and participant. By joining the Rural Assembly, you’ll receive periodic updates on rural policy initiatives, funding opportunities, regional and national activities, and other rural news. You’ll also get information about specific actions you can take on behalf of better rural policy.
What is the history of the Rural Assembly?
The Rural Assembly began as part of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Rural People, Rural Policy initiative in 2007. That year, 350 rural leaders convened outside Washington, D.C., and used an interactive decision-making and discussion process to identify key challenges and opportunities for effective rural policy.
A group of leaders emerged from this first convening to take these findings and make recommendations for further action. These groups formed the Rural Assembly Steering Committee. In 2008 the Rural Assembly convened to endorse the Rural Compact and the Policy Opportunity Snapshots, which laid out policy recommendations for each of the four rural principles. In the following year, the Assembly presented these recommendations to the Executive and Legislative branches of the federal government and began laying plans for working to deepen policy makers’ knowledge about rural issues.
Activities have included national and regional gatherings (highlights from the last national gathering can be found here), Congressional hearings on key rural issues like broadband access and rural child poverty, engagement with other national policy advocacy coalitions like the Rural Climate Network, and a series of activities within the National Rural Youth Assembly including young professionals development meetings.