Big Ideas Forum Participants


Carol Blackmon
Quitman County Development Organization
Post Office Box 31721
Jackson, MS  39206
carolblackmon@att.net    
601-940-6245

Biography:
Carol Blackmon is founder and President  of C B Enterprises & Associates, Inc, a consulting firm that supports nonprofit organizational development, program development, and special project management.

Her professional experience includes serving as a former program officer with Foundation for the Mid-South; Executive Director of the Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus Foundation, Program and Executive Coach with the W. K. Kellogg Foundation’s Mid-South Delta Initiative, Program Manager for the Mid South African American Philanthropy Program, Senior Consultant with the Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative and Managing Consultant for the Deep South Delta Consortium. 

Carol is also a former rural technical assistance coach with YouthBuild USA. 

She is a founding board member of the National Center for Black Philanthropy, Greater Jackson Community Foundation, and Mississippi Housing Partnership.  She is also grants committee chair for Rural Education and Leadership Foundation and a former board member of the Association of Black Foundation Executives.

As a rural advocate, what aspect of your work is most fulfilling right now? Give us an example. 
Successfully engaging in helping to educate, inform, and empower rural Mississippi delta residents on issues related to creating a better quality of life them from the deep south states of Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi convened 2016 policy sessions of 200 in their state capitols. Have gone home and continued advocacy work through hosting community sessions with issues professionals who presented during conference bringing issues education to their local communities.

What guiding principles or truths inform the work you’re doing in or for rural America these days? 
* We simply help people to help themselves through the creation of safe spaces for rural community participants to express themselves and to speak their truths, and to take a stand. We have also created a tool for community outreach and education through launching a non commercial education radio in partnership with the local community college for more than one thousand new non commercial radio residents in the Mississippi Delta.
Our goals are to:
*Develop and promote leadership
*Increase human and financial capital and assets
*Empower individuals, families, and organizations to develop self-help strategies.

Our vision is: Transforming the Mississippi Delta through the development of self-help strategies that will impact the economic and social well being of the region.

Looking ahead, where do you see rural America playing an essential role in national outcomes?
It appears to me that rural America finds itself in a unique space where it has an opportunity to promote rural growth and economic opportunities. This is based on the rural demographic being credited with electing or influencing the election of our new President.


Cornelius Blanding
Federation of Southern Cooperatives
2769 Church Street
East Point, GA  30344
ebonithomas@federation.coop
404-765-0991

Biography:
Cornelius Blanding began his career in development work as an economic development intern for the City of Miami Beach and since then has gained a broad experience base including rural, international and cooperative economic development.

His experiences include business and project development, management and marketing. He has worked as a small business development & management consultant, manager of a multi-million dollar revolving loan fund, domestic and international project director, Director of Field Operations & Special Projects, Deputy Director and is now presently serving as the Executive Director of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund.

Cornelius has also served and continues to serve on various boards and committees, including the National Cooperative Business Association, Agricultural Safety & Health Council of America, Southeast Climate Consortium and the Presbyterian Committee on the Self Development of People.


Xavier Briggs
Ford Foundation
320 E. 43rd Street
New York, NY  10017
x.briggs@fordfoundation.org
12-573-4621

Biography:
Xavier (“Xav”) de Souza Briggs is vice president of the Economic Opportunity and Markets program at the Ford Foundation. He leads the foundation’s work promoting economic fairness, advancing sustainable development, and building just and inclusive cities and oversees regional programming in China, Indonesia, and India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Xav is a former professor of sociology and urban planning at MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning. From 2009 to 2011, Xav served as associate director of the Office of Management and Budget. Earlier in his career, he served as a community planner in the South Bronx, a policy adviser and R&D director at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and on the faculty of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. Xav holds an engineering degree from Stanford University, an MPA from Harvard and a Ph.D. in sociology and education from Columbia University.

As a rural advocate, what aspect of your work is most fulfilling right now? Give us an example. 
Our work to strengthen community-based economic development, for example through rural community development financial institutions we have invested ‘patient capital’ in, is fulfilling. I don’t want to single out just one type of work: Policy advocacy and grassroots organizing is also happening, and we believe in its value, but we are not confident that it is connected and consequential as it might become, especially if rural and urban players worked together in new ways with a broader base of support. We have no illusions that one or a small number of funders can tackle this on their own or that revenue generating strategies will simply eliminate the need for grant support in the near term. More durable and diversified funding is critical over time, however.

What guiding principles or truths inform the work you’re doing in or for rural America these days? 
We are a foundation focused on human dignity and the challenges posed by extreme inequality. We are guided by a belief in the importance of free and creative expression (including the power of culture and cultural narratives and independent media), robust and broad-based participation of communities in the politics and civic life of the nation, and innovative approaches to economic opportunity, especially through inclusive growth. We draw on decades of work in rural communities, and we believe in working with people 'closest to the problem.’ We also believe in bridging divides, and we see this as more crucial than ever as the country navigates major demographic, social, economic and other changes. But key civil rights are, after all, inalienable. They protect us all, whether we are conscious of it or not, and we should stand steadfastly in defense of them. That’s a key principle for us as well.

Looking ahead, where do you see rural America playing an essential role in national outcomes?
On this front, I’m most eager to listen and reflect with others at the meeting. But it is our belief, as a funder and champion of advocates and other allies, that rural America has key roles to play in the economic, cultural and political life of America — if we are to be a strong, resilient and also inclusive nation.


Jack Cecil
The Duke Endowment
PO Box 5355
Asheville, NC  28813  
jcecil@biltmorefarms.com
828-209-2000

Biography:Mr. Cecil has served as President and CEO of Biltmore Farms, LLC, since 1992. Established in 1897, Biltmore Farms has focused its efforts on community building, through developing an extensive portfolio of real estate projects including a regional shopping mall, a mixed-use urban village, master planned communities, corporate offices, hotels, apartments, medical office buildings and over 1,000 homes.

Mr. Cecil serves as a Trustee of The Duke Endowment; Director of SCANA Corporation; Director of Barron Collier Management, LLC; Board of Directors of The Research Triangle Foundation of N.C.; Chair and Member of the National Advisory Board of the Institute for Emerging Issues; Chair, WNC Regional Advisory Board of Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.; Director of Mission Health Partners; and Governor, Urban Land Institute Foundation.

Mr. Cecil received his M.I.M. from The American Graduate School of International Management (Thunderbird) and his B.A. from UNC-Chapel Hill.

He has been happily married to Sarah Mettler Cecil since 1993, and they have four wonderful sons, Thomas, Hugh, John, and Owen.

As a rural advocate, what aspect of your work is most fulfilling right now? Give us an example. 
Improving the opportunities for all Western North Carolinians allowing them to pursue whatever employment choice they desire in order to provide a sustainable income for themselves and their family.

What guiding principles or truths inform the work you’re doing in or for rural America these days? 
Community Development which includes access to quality and affordable healthcare, a world-class K-20 educational system, employment providing a sustainable income to support families, to cultural activities honoring local traditions and stewardship of our natural and built environment.

Looking ahead, where do you see rural America playing an essential role in national outcomes?
Rural America can not be forgotten. The cost to our country is and will be too expensive if appropriate attention is not paid to the development of our human resources.  


Marlene Chavez
Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid    
300 S. Texas Blvd.     
Weslaco, TX  78596    
mchavez@trla.org    
956-756-9503

Biography:
Marlene Guerrero Chavez is the Colonias Policy Analyst/Educator for Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid where she provides policy and legal assistance on legal matters pertaining to real property, wills and estates, employment and environmental justice to residents who live in “colonias”, unincorporated rural subdivisions along the Texas/Mexico border.

Marlene was a Sustain US non-sanction delegate for the 51st Session of the United Nations Commission for Social Development where she help pass a youth resolution and co-wrote the Sustain US (CSocD) oral statement that focused on the quality of education, international migration and unemployment. 

In 2015, she embarked on a 283-mile walk from North Carolina to DC, walking 80 miles for healthcare reform, alongside activists across the nation. She was also a recipient of the Proyecto Azteca Community Advocacy Award. 

Marlene studied Spanish Language and Literature at the Universidad de San Francisco de Quito in Ecuador and graduated from Kalamazoo College where she received a BA in Anthropology/Sociology with a concentration in Media Studies. She currently resides with her husband and 7 year-old boy in Weslaco, TX.

As a rural advocate, what aspect of your work is most fulfilling right now? Give us an example. 
As an advocate, mother and daughter of immigrant parents, I am filled with happiness to see the profound strength and willpower that exists in our communities against the extremist and fascist new administration in place. To see the people, as one, standing together, defending the core values of America, gives me somewhat of a fulfillment, that at least a majority of our country is decent. 

Looking ahead, where do you see rural America playing an essential role in national outcomes?
America is a blend of colors, religions, natural preservation's, cultures, languages, rural or urban. It a nation of opportunity for all and to prosper as one, we need to cut through the racism and hate. It is time to heal, resist and unite to fight the battles that are already coming forth.  


Anna Claussen
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
2105 First Ave South
Minneapolis, MN  55404
aclaussen@iatp.org
612-309-7307

Biography:
Anna Claussen, is the Director of Rural Strategies at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP). Founded in 1986, IATP works locally and globally at the intersection of policy and practice to ensure fair and sustainable food, farm and trade systems. A landscape architect by training, Anna bridges years of practice in design and planning with a life deeply rooted on her family’s active Minnesota farm. Anna works to build bridges between different constituencies with the goal of developing local, state, national and international policies that will promote environmental and human health; ensure socially and ecologically sustainable development; value human rights; increase the capacity of civil society to participate in policy making; and strengthen local and regional economies. As Co-Chair of the Minnesota Green Chemistry Forum, steering committee member of the National Rural Assembly, adjunct faculty at the University of Minnesota, and as a recent alumni of the Minnesota Agriculture and Rural Leadership program, Anna continually strives to broaden her reach in advocating for rural sustainability issues. Anna has a bachelor’s degree in geography and studio arts from Gustavus Adolphus College and a master’s degree in landscape architecture from the College of Design at the University of Minnesota.

As a rural advocate, what aspect of your work is most fulfilling right now? Give us an example. 
Over that last three years I developed and launched in our work at IATP in partnership with the Jefferson Center a series of Rural Climate Dialogues to deliberately elevate the voices of rural Minnesotans to advance more inclusive state climate policy. This process was incredibly successful in depoliticizing climate change, connecting climate policy with rural economic development concerns, empowering rural communities forward to address their concerns, and identifying cross-agency opportunities for improving programs and policies to better enable local governments to mitigate and adapt to climate change. It gives me hope that with the right approach we can not only collectively solve our biggest problems, but we can rebuild our democracy in the process.

What guiding principles or truths inform the work you’re doing in or for rural America these days? 
We are living and working in a time of great division and segregation. Rooted in an increased tendency to cluster with like-minded individuals, this divide is exacerbated by today’s media and information exchange that has isolated us from face-to-face interactions with people who share differing ideologies and viewpoints than our own. I believe this issue is the root challenge of our nation’s problems and a specific hurdle for our rural communities in seeking support to overcome the inequities they face. As daunting as this challenge is, I am hopeful that if we focus on healing our country from the inside-out and building greater understanding of each other across our currently disparate geographies, cultures and identities we will unearth the ability to address the imperative challenges of expunging child poverty, mitigating climate change and building community vitality for all.

Looking ahead, where do you see rural America playing an essential role in national outcomes?
Much of the production from a new climate-resilient economy will occur in rural areas. New markets and economic drivers are emerging for agriculture and rural America that could help build more resiliency. Focused around different ways of producing food, renewable energy, bio-based materials and the valuation of landscape-based environmental services these approaches offer alternatives to existing economic systems, many of which face significant challenges with a changing climate and rural demography. Rural communities are on the frontlines and are creating solutions to the climate crisis and will continue to do so in the years ahead.
In today’s economy people will move to places, and jobs will follow them, not the reverse. Therefore, I see great opportunity for rural communities to align investments with a focus on improving their overall quality of life and thus attracting a broader, more diverse make-up of residents and economies and by the nature of their being help break through the echo chambers in our country. 


Tom Cosgrove
New Voice Strategies
1877 Broadway
Boulder, CO  80302
cosgrovetc@gmail.com
617-529-1170

Biography:
Founder of New Voice Strategies.  An incubator and launchpad of projects designed to heal our divides, restore our compassion and improve our self government.

As a rural advocate, what aspect of your work is most fulfilling right now? Give us an example. 
Engaging progressives in understanding rural American values

What guiding principles or truths inform the work you’re doing in or for rural America these days? 
To listen before acting.   To understand the historic and culture emotions that Trump was able to exploit and progressives could neither see nor understand.

Looking ahead, where do you see rural America playing an essential role in national outcomes?
Rural America will be a political football in the 2018 election.  The challenge is to frame an agenda for rural America that can benefit from this game.


Dee Davis    
Center for Rural Strategies    
46 East Main Street    
Whitesburg, Kentucky 41858    
dee@ruralstrategies.org    
606-632-3244    
 

Biography:
Dee Davis is the founder and president of the Center for Rural Strategies. Dee has helped design and lead national public information campaigns on topics as diverse as commercial television programming and federal banking policy. 
Dee began his media career in 1973 as a trainee at Appalshop, an arts and cultural center devoted to exploring Appalachian life and social issues in Whitesburg, Kentucky. As Appalshop's executive producer, the organization created more than 50 public TV documentaries, established a media training program for Appalachian youth, and launched initiatives that use media as a strategic tool in organization and development. 
Dee is the chair of the National Rural Assembly steering committee; he is a member of the Rural Advisory Committee of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, Fund for Innovative Television, and Feral Arts of Brisbane, Australia. He is also a member of the Institute for Rural Journalism’s national advisory board as well as the advisory board of the Rural Policy Research Institute.  Dee is also the former Chair of the board of directors of Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation.


amalia deloney
Media Democracy Fund
1201 Connecticut Ave NW #300
Washington, DC  20036
amalia@mediademocracyfund.org
612-269-3494

Biography:
amalia deloney is the Senior Program Officer at the Media Democracy Fund. With deep expertise in media and technology policy, and more than 20 years of experience in community organizing and policy advocacy, amalia oversees MDFs grant making strategy, ensuring it addresses priorities in digital equity and protects the public's rights. Born in Guatemala, she worked for many years at the Main Street Project and the Center for Media Justice, before joining the Media Democracy Fund. amalia holds a B.A. and a J.D. with additional study at the University of London’s Institute for Advanced Legal Studies.

As a rural advocate, what aspect of your work is most fulfilling right now? Give us an example. 
I appreciate the organizing that is going on in rural communities to combat hate, and demonstrate that rural communities are not de fact breeding grounds for the right.  I also appreciate the thoughtful work going on to better identify the intersections that exist for policy and advocacy on a wide range of issues from telecom to transportation, climate and immigration.

What guiding principles or truths inform the work you’re doing in or for rural America these days? 
The closer you are to the problem, the closer you are to the solution.  Rural America is diverse and thoughtful with a strong history of self provisioning tactics--they are not a monolith or a de facto breeding ground for reactionary leaders or movements. 

Looking ahead, where do you see rural America playing an essential role in national outcomes?
Conversations regarding local self reliance; what it means to be neighborly; fighting the culture wars that are back; innovating solutions to large issues like climate change, immigration and internet access.


Susan DuPlessis    
South Carolina Arts Commission    
1026 Sumter Street, Ste. 200    
Columbia, SC  29201    
sduplessis@arts.sc.gov    
803-734-8693

Biography:
Susan DuPlessis has spent most of her life in her native South Carolina, and it is this place that defines her.  With her family's long history in the state dating to the early 1700s, she has a deep sense of connection to the people,   history and geography of the state.   As the Program Director for Arts Participation at the South Carolina Arts Commission, she engages with artists, arts organizations, educators, grassroots community leaders and culture bearers across the state. She is particularly proud to co-direct the coastal Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor partnership program for the agency as well as to have developed and now lead the new initiative in South Carolina's rural, six-county Promise Zone called The Art of Community: Rural S.C.   

As a rural advocate, what aspect of your work is most fulfilling right now? Give us an example. 
Making meaningful connections with people in rural communities who are beginning to reimagine their communities and are activated to make positive change. They are not waiting on someone to save them. 
Doing community work from a state level requires the right attitude:  we have not come to your community to tell you what to do. Instead, we have come to hear and learn from you:  what is working, what do you love, why you are here and why you stay. What makes this home for you?   Through the new initiative "The Art of Community: Rural S.C.,"  we are seeing local citizens looking at their communities with new love and pride through a unique and safe exchange that builds over time.   

What guiding principles or truths inform the work you’re doing in or for rural America these days? 
1) Know that you don't know.  As an outsider to a community, establish activities within a frame of "learning" instead of knowing.  This helps set an atmosphere for exploration and sharing.
2) Leave judgment at home.  Meet people where they are instead of where you imagine they should or might be.
3) Common ground.  We are talking about places people call 'home.'  Honor, respect and find the beauty in the stories shared.  
4) Go outside to see inside better.  A field trip creates new perspectives, juxtapositions and bonds. 
5) Trust the people of the place to know what they need.
6) Laugh.  People don't get enough of this.  If you want to sustain your activities, keep a light touch and find humor where possible to create moments to laugh together.   
7) Eat together.  Shared meals, talking about food and recipes, memories of family gatherings create connection and community. 
8)  Sing together.  Or share your music likes with one another.  Create a song list! 
9) Tell stories.  The story of a place is best told by someone of the place; and there are as many stories as people.  
10) Be willing to work differently in order to get different results.   
11) Build together.  Start with hope, examine what's already working, view local resources as assets (people, places and products); and from this foundation, build together a vision for what's possible.   

Looking ahead, where do you see rural America playing an essential role in national outcomes?
In health and healthy food production, in green energy development and production, in connection to our original and evolving culture stories, in being places where ideas can be fostered, developed and piloted, and in being test sites for development of industries born of homegrown products. 


Karen Fasimpaur
Center for Rural Strategies
8627 E Sunrise Road
Portal, AZ  85632
karen@ruralstrategies.org
20-558-0181

Biography:
An enthusiastic builder of online communities, Karen Fasimpaur has worked in technology and education for over 20 years, with a recent focus on non-profit organizations.

After moving to an extremely rural area 10 years ago, Karen grew interested in the policy issues that affect rural communities, particularly immigration and education. Previously, Karen has run an international technology integration company, worked in software development and textbook publishing, and taught elementary and adult education.

Karen built her own off-the-grid home and loves writing, growing food, cooking, and woodworking.

As a rural advocate, what aspect of your work is most fulfilling right now? Give us an example. 
The work that I find most fulfilling right now are local projects that span the political divide and bring people together (which is not easy where I live!). Some of those projects have involved developing local food sources and fostering community learning around crafts and maker projects. I am also involved in border-related work that helps recognize and support the challenges of migrants, and that is very fulfilling. 

What guiding principles or truths inform the work you’re doing in or for rural America these days? 
“There is no us and them; there is only us.” We must find a way to come together and build inclusivity so that we can all prosper. 

Looking ahead, where do you see rural America playing an essential role in national outcomes?
Rural America will be critical in discussions of energy, food, water, climate change, and workforce. 


Oleta Fitzgerald
Children's Defense Fund
P.O. Box 11437
Jackson, MS  39283
ofitzgerald@childrensdefense.org
601-321-1966

Biography:
Oleta Garrett Fitzgerald has devoted her life to the pursuit of justice and equality for all. As Director of the Children's Defense Fund's Southern Regional Office, Oleta has placed special emphasis on education, including early childhood education, children’s healthcare access, and breaking the insidious cradle to prison pipeline pattern, which is all too prevalent in communities of color. Oleta is the Regional Administrator for the Southern Rural Black Women's Initiative for Economic & Social Justice (SRBWI). SRBWI operates in 77 counties across the Black Belts of Alabama, Southwest Georgia and the Mississippi Delta. She is also the principal for an innovative project, the Supporting Partnerships to Assure Ready Kids (SPARK) Initiative, which has operated in more than 12 Mississippi school districts. Oleta’s distinguished public service career began long before she assumed her position at Children’s Defense Fund. In 1993, Oleta became President Clinton’s appointee as White House Liaison and Executive Assistant to Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy. Later, she was named the Department’s Director of Intergovernmental Affairs where, among other things, she worked on tribal governmental issues and coordinated the Administration’s long-term recovery of Midwestern states affected by The Great Flood of 1993.

Ms. Fitzgerald serves on the boards of the Mississippi Children’s Museum, The Center for Education Innovation, Mississippi Low Income Child Care Initiative, Operation Shoestring, and Mississippi Head Start Association;  is a member of the Stennis Institute of Government advisory committee and a member of the Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative Executive Committee and on the advisory boards for Excel by 5, Philander Smith College Justice Project, and Mississippi Building Blocks.  Ms. Fitzgerald received honorary membership to Pi Alpha Alpha, the National Honor Society for Public Affairs & Administration from Mississippi State University in 1999. She contributed to the Covenant with Black America introduced by Tavis Smiley, and numerous news stories by the New York Times, Huffington Post, the BBC, National Public Radio, Commercial Appeal and NBC National and local affiliates as well as other broadcast and print media.

Ms. Fitzgerald is the proud mother of four children, Rashida, Yusef, Layla and Joi. 

As a rural advocate, what aspect of your work is most fulfilling right now? Give us an example. 
Working with over 2,500 Black women and young women in the Black Belt of Alabama and Georgia and the Delta in Mississippi to build agency, pursue solutions to poverty, and increase opportunities for themselves and their children in these rural economically depressed left behind areas.  These women and young women are strengthening their internal capacities and are building assets through creation of food systems and niche sewing businesses. They are engaging public policy and increasing their incomes, testing the viability of alternative economic development strategies for their rural communities where few companies are coming. 

What guiding principles or truths inform the work you’re doing in or for rural America these days? 
These women and young women are resilient, creative, and want to live lives worthy of human dignity. They know more about the issues and what it will take to overcome the challenges they face better than any outside advocacy organization and want to work, want educational opportunities for their children, and want their communities to be healthy and whole.  Not since the civil rights movement have these challenges been more pronounced – yet these women and young women are more determined than ever to stand their ground in the fight for economic and social justice.

Looking ahead, where do you see rural America playing an essential role in national outcomes?
Though there are clear signs that “Making America Great Again” is code for make America white again, as in times past we know that at the same time we resist punitive outcomes - we must also look for any opening for opportunity.  We are watching closely what attention will be paid to these areas that in the whole are conservative bastions undergirding the political change we are witnessing.  If because of this base of support economic opportunities are advanced for these rural areas, we will look for any opening to move forward an agenda for Black women, young women, their families and communities. 


Dan Gerlach
Golden LEAF Foundation
301 North Winstead Avenue
Rocky Mount, NC  27804
dgerlach@goldenleaf.org
252-442-7474

Biography:
Dan has been President of Golden LEAF since October 2008.  Golden LEAF receives a portion of North Carolina's master settlement agreement funds from cigarette manufacturing, and invests the funds to make grants to help transform the economy of North Carolina's rural, tobacco-dependent and economically distressed communities.  The Foundation has an endowment of over $900 million and a grantsmaking budget of $48 million.   Dan previously served as the Governor's Senior Advisor on Fiscal Affairs, as director of the nonprofit NC Budget & Tax Center and as a staffer in the New York State Assembly.  He is active in his church.

As a rural advocate, what aspect of your work is most fulfilling right now? Give us an example. 
Helping young people see their capacity and identify opportunities in rural North Carolina.

What guiding principles or truths inform the work you’re doing in or for rural America these days? 
That rural America has much to offer.  That there can be opportunities and hope there.  That we need to build the capacity to make that happen.

Looking ahead, where do you see rural America playing an essential role in national outcomes?
We cannot leave any part of America behind if we want it to be the America with opportunity for good lives for all.


Jason Gray
North Carolina Rural Center
4021 Carya Drive
Raleigh, NC  27610
jgray@ncruralcenter.org
919-606-6392

Biography:
I am Senior Fellow for Research and Policy for the North Carolina Rural Center. I have worked with rural communities since 1985. For ten years I focused on a range of critical rural water issues. Since 1997 I have done rural community development research and policy development around the flow of federal funding in rural communities, rural-urban connections, and rural economic innovation strategies, some of it as a funder. I've done some good along the way, learned a lot, and look forward to continuing the fight on behalf of rural America. 

As a rural advocate, what aspect of your work is most fulfilling right now? Give us an example. 
Rethinking how to address opportunities and challenges. My work to reframe state medicaid expansion as a critical rural economic development case statement appears to be very useful to advocates here in NC, and that is gratifying. 

What guiding principles or truths inform the work you’re doing in or for rural America these days? 
Three principles: 1) Healthy rural places can put into practice the right relationships between the landscape and people, and between individuals and community. When balanced all thrive. 2) Rural America has never been static - change rules. 21st Century rural will look and feel different than the past. Innovation is about adaptation. "The future is already here, it is just not evenly distributed." 3) We are entitled to our own opinions but not our own set of facts. Data poetry is better than data prose.

Looking ahead, where do you see rural America playing an essential role in national outcomes?
In an information driven-atomized world, rural communities are best suited - maybe the only suited - communities to model what wholeness looks like (see principle 1 above). If we live with integrity in our relationships to the natural world and community we can do this. If we don't there will be hell to pay. 


Cheryl Green    
Coplexity    
902 S Cooper St  
Memphis, TN  38103    
green@coplexityedgroup.com    
901-219-0361    

Biography:
Cheryl Green is Founder and Owner of Coplexity, a consulting firm focused on helping organizations and leaders serve communities better by helping them effectively reach their goals.  She spent 10+ as an educator in the Mississippi Delta.  Along with being a teacher, principal and district leader, she also helped to create the REACH Institute, a non-profit dedicated to helping youth in the delta to access college.      

As a rural advocate, what aspect of your work is most fulfilling right now? Give us an example. 
My most fulfilling work has been helping leaders and organizations to understand how to use the collective wisdom and knowledge that exists on their teams.      

What guiding principles or truths inform the work you’re doing in or for rural America these days? 
I believe solutions exist within communities and the people that live and work there.  It's important to me to help establish conditions needed to include all voices towards crafting a unified approach towards solving problems.  People and context matter to me.      

Looking ahead, where do you see rural America playing an essential role in national outcomes?
Rural America can take a lead role in helping the nation to craft systems, educational and social, that are place-based and truly respond to the people, places and situations in those communities. 


Paul Green
Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative    
412 Roy Campbell Drive    
Hazard, Kentucky  41701
paul.green@hazard.kyschools.us
606-231-8606

Biography:
Paul Green, Ed.D. is working with the Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative and their Race-to-the-Top District award Appalachian Renaissance Initiative (ARI). As part of ARI, Paul created the Appalachian Technology Initiative, a blended instructional model that brings about high-level STEM educational opportunities to all students in a traditionally isolated region. Paul is working to make PreK-12 education an economic driver for a traditionally distressed region in Southeast Kentucky. Prior to taking the position with KVEC, he taught high school history, coached basketball, and served as a principal, and central office administrator.

As a rural advocate, what aspect of your work is most fulfilling right now? Give us an example. 
Working with students and young adults to provide opportunities to stay and be successful in rural America

What guiding principles or truths inform the work you’re doing in or for rural America these days? 
Our youth is truly the future.  Students must be engaged in the work if we are going to create systemic change in rural areas.

Looking ahead, where do you see rural America playing an essential role in national outcomes?
We must find a way to create environments that allow our best and brightest to remain in rural America.  We must find opportunities to end the trend of rural decline.


Francisco Guajardo
B3 Institute at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

Biography
Francisco Guajardo is the executive director of the B3 Institute at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. He is a native of the Texas-Mexico border, has been a public high school teacher, a school administrator, a nonprofit executive, and a spirited advocate for public education. More importantly, he is a committed son, brother, husband, and father. Guajardo holds a B.A. in English, an M.A. in History, and a Ph.D. in Educational Administration from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a founder of the Llano Grande Center for Research and Development, a community-based nonprofit organization nestled inside Edcouch-Elsa High School. He is a founder of the Edinburg Dance Theatre, a local arts organization that offers quality ballet and other dance instruction to children in rural communities along the border. He is a founder of the Community Learning Exchange, a national movement focused on building local leadership for community change. Locally, he has led public efforts to pass bond issues totaling more than $130 million to build new schools, and he led a citizen committee brought together to raise more than $184 million to improve the drainage infrastructure for the most needy areas in the south Texas county of Hidalgo. Guajardo also serves on the board of directors of the Center for Rural Strategies and the Rural School and Community Trust, both national organizations.


Charisma Hibbler
The Duke Endowment
800 East Morehead Street
Charlotte, NC  28202
chibbler@tde.org
704-969-2116

Biography:
Charisma holds an undergraduate degree in International Comparative Studies and a certificate in Nonprofit Management from Duke University in Durham, N.C. She previously worked as the volunteer coordinator in community impact at the YMCA of Greater Charlotte, where she managed the recruiting, training and placement of volunteers for the Y Readers summer and after school programs, and the Y Achievers career and college readiness program. Charisma is the current 2016-2018 fellow at The Duke Endowment and is rotating through the Rural Church program area.

As a rural advocate, what aspect of your work is most fulfilling right now? Give us an example. 
One of the most rewarding aspects is being able to come alongside our rural grantees and support the impactful work that is already being done. 

What guiding principles or truths inform the work you’re doing in or for rural America these days? 
A guiding principle is the realization that assets and resources that already exist in rural America; the work comes in making them more visible and accessible.

Looking ahead, where do you see rural America playing an essential role in national outcomes?
In the future, I see rural America playing a role in workforce development.


Holmes Hummel
Clean Energy Works
contact us

Biography:
Dr. Holmes Hummel founded Clean Energy Works to accelerate investments in the clean energy economy, starting with rural electric cooperatives and expanding to all rural areas. As a champion for inclusive financing, Dr. Hummel won a FiRe Award for high-impact innovation at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance “Future of Energy Summit.” Dr. Hummel also serves on the board of Cornerstone Capital, a leader in impact investment, as well as Cleantech Open, the most accessible accelerator for innovators everywhere. Previously, Dr. Hummel served as the Senior Policy Advisor in the Department of Energy’s Office of Policy & International Affairs from 2009-2013.  Dr. Hummel is from North Carolina, where ten generations of ancestors have called the Piedmont home, and currently travels full time to assist rural communities mobilizing more investment.

As a rural advocate, what aspect of your work is most fulfilling right now? Give us an example. 
90% of the persistent poverty counties in the U.S. are served by rural electric cooperatives, and the introduction of inclusive financing for energy upgrades to housing, schools, and businesses is changing the field.  Roanoke Electric (rural NC)  and leaders in eastern Kentucky are leading the way.

What guiding principles or truths inform the work you’re doing in or for rural America these days?
 
40 million Americans in rural America are monopolized by electric utilities in which they have an ownership stake and a right to vote.  Democratic participation in an infrastructure company presents an extraordinary opportunity for drawing new investment into rural communities, and that capital must be deployed in a way that is inclusive and effective.

Looking ahead, where do you see rural America playing an essential role in national outcomes?
To reach 100% clean energy, the clean energy economy must be open to everyone regardless of income, credit score, or renter status - and rural communities in Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, Arkansas, and even New Hampshire are already leading the way.  


Elena Kaye-Schiess
NeighborWorks America - Rural Initiative    
116 Huntington Avenue 12th Floor    
Boston, MA 02116    
ekaye-schiess@nw.org    
617-585-5041

Biography:
After serving as a VISTA with the NeighborWorks Rural Initiative, Elena spent 2 years in China documenting the stories of rural villagers in remote mountain communities as they decided to move away or remain behind. She rejoined the Rural Initiative in 2015 with a sustained passion and deep commitment to raising the visibility of the unique assets, opportunities, and challenges faced by residents of rural communities. Elena's current work involves programs and issues ranging from rural loan packaging, rural housing preservation, manufactured housing, and areas of persistent poverty.  

As a rural advocate, what aspect of your work is most fulfilling right now? Give us an example. 
The Rural Initiative moved into a new department of Community Initiatives of persistent poverty; we're organizing a conference 'HOPE in the Delta' hosted by HOPE Enterprises in Memphis, TN focusing on solutions to areas of persistent poverty. 

What guiding principles or truths inform the work you’re doing in or for rural America these days? 
Showing compassion for the wounds of those who helped spur the current administration into power, while struggling relentlessly to resist fear and despair, planning thoughtfully for a future increasingly vulnerable to crises and disasters but fighting positively for a transformative future of hope and opportunity .

Looking ahead, where do you see rural America playing an essential role in national outcomes?
climate change, along with social, economic, and democratic resiliency


Whitney Kimball Coe
Center for Rural Strategies    
919 N Central Ave    
Knoxville, TN  37917
whitney@ruralstrategies.org
423-506-1136

Biography:
Whitney Kimball Coe began working with the Center for Rural Strategies as a consultant to the Community Philanthropy Initiative and now serves as Director of National Programs and coordinates the National Rural Assembly, a rural movement made up of activities and partnerships geared toward building better policy and more opportunity across the country. Whitney directs national gatherings of the Assembly, which bring together rural leaders and advocates from every region. Whitney also coordinates Congressional briefings for policy-makers, funders, and their staff on pressing rural issues. Over the years, Whitney has built partnerships with national public-interest organizations and grassroots organizers in ways that have informed public policy and private investment in rural people and places. 

Before joining the Rural Strategies staff, Whitney served as assistant editor of Appalachian Journal, an academic regional journal based in Boone, North Carolina. She has master's degree in Appalachian studies from Appalachian State University in North Carolina and an undergraduate degree from Queens University of Charlotte.

Whitney lives in her hometown of Athens, a small city in East Tennessee, where she serves on the boards of the Friends of the Library, Athens Main Street Project, and the Council Advisory Board to the City of Athens. She also directs and performs in productions of the Athens Community Theatre and teaches fitness classes at the Athens-McMinn YMCA. 

As a rural advocate, what aspect of your work is most fulfilling right now? Give us an example. 
I feel very aware of a re-formation happening across politics, economies, and culture, and I'm grateful that I work for an organization and alongside partners who want to be at the forefront of that re-forming. The Big Ideas Forum was conceived under different circumstances, but the events of the last few months make it feel even more necessary. Amidst the chaos and fear, I see a gap in leadership and vision. We can supply both.

What guiding principles or truths inform the work you’re doing in or for rural America these days? 
To quote my pal, Dylan Kruse (Sustainable Northwest-Oregon): "There is no one size fits all policy, and there is no black and white ideology that represents rural America. We revel in the shades of gray and give marginalized interests and advocates an opportunity to illustrate that on the national stage."

Looking ahead, where do you see rural America playing an essential role in national outcomes?
There is a gap in national leadership and vision. We have the opportunity to present a responsible and inclusive alternative vision. In this moment of uncertainty, we can: Hold this Administration accountable to the "better quality of life" they promised rural constituents; highlight rural leadership and stories of rural innovation; make concrete asks of decision-makers and funders that will empower rural communities and their organizations. 


Jim King
Fahe
319 Oak St.
Berea, KY  40403
jim@fahe.org
859-582-4477

Biography:
Jim King is President of Fahe, is a regional, non-profit, financial intermediary based in Berea, Kentucky that provides collective voice and access to capital for the creation of housing and promotion of community development in Appalachia.  During FY 2016, Fahe made total direct investments of $73 million.  Total capital under management including investments managed and loans serviced for other organizations reached $250 million.  Since 1980 Fahe has invested $609 million generating $1.25 billion in finance.  This investment was channeled through our members and community partners, directly changing the lives of 370,000 people. 

As a rural advocate, what aspect of your work is most fulfilling right now? Give us an example. 
Our ability to reach an increasing number of people with the tools that transform their belief in themselves and their communities.

What guiding principles or truths inform the work you’re doing in or for rural America these days? 
That there is nowhere that is completely hopeless and that local leaders with access to capital and expertise can do the seemingly impossible.

Looking ahead, where do you see rural America playing an essential role in national outcomes?
Pivotal as to what comes next. Do we find common ground as a country, or pursue the course to become more divided.


Jim Kleinschmit
IATP/Kleinschmit Consulting
216 Cecil Street SE
Minneapolis, MN  55414
jim@kleinschmitconsulting.com
612-554-2901

Biography:
Jim grew up milking cows and learning about sustainable agriculture and farm politics on his family’s farm in Northeast Nebraska. After a short stint focused on sustainable rural development work in the Baltic States and Russia, he joined the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) in 1994. During his almost 20 years at IATP, Jim led work on a wide array of issues, including sustainable agricultural systems and markets; biofuels and bioplastics; rural development and organizing; organic, non-GMO and regenerative food systems; and most recently, rural climate change concerns. 
He left IATP's full-time staff in 2015, but continues to serve as a senior advisor on Climate, Energy and Sustainable Systems. Jim now leads Kleinschmit Consulting, which develops sustainable solutions for organizations and businesses, and is a founding partner of Regeneration Farms, a regenerative poultry and perennial crop enterprise in Southern Minnesota. In addition to his on-farm and work-based education, he has an M.A. from the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington-Seattle, and a B.A. from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota.

As a rural advocate, what aspect of your work is most fulfilling right now? Give us an example. 
The work around the Rural Climate Dialogues has been the most fulfilling, as this process reveals the shared values and priorities that exist within rural communities, as well as their willingness and ability to work together to address community-based problems. 

What guiding principles or truths inform the work you’re doing in or for rural America these days? 
Democracy works!  Respectful, democratic and representative community engagement is key to achieving holistic solutions to our economic, social and environmental challenges. Even in today's increasingly polarized and politicized world, given the right mechanism, shared information sources and focus, people are willing to change their positions to achieve community-based solutions.  

Looking ahead, where do you see rural America playing an essential role in national outcomes?
Rural America is critical to many of the current challenges facing our country and world, whether one thinks about climate change, water, food, or energy (renewable or not). Rural America should and can help meet these global challenges, but it needs to be in ways that aren't extractive and exploitive of rural human and natural resources as so often has been the case, but instead strengthens rural livelihoods, communities, economies and environments. To achieve that requires real and diverse rural leadership that proposes and supports the appropriate policies, programs and markets. 


Tim Lampkin
Higher Purpose Co. LLC
P.O. Box 2148
Clarksdale, MS  38614
tim@timlampkin.com
662-902-4831

Biography:
Tim Lampkin is the CEO of Higher Purpose Co. a mission driven enterprise based in Clarksdale, MS designed to enhance the quality of life for people living in high poverty areas by offering innovative learning experiences, implementing community based projects, and providing affordable consulting services focused on social impact. Higher Purpose Co. concentrates on initiatives aligned with entrepreneurship, civic leadership, financial literacy, and community health. He is also the producer of the Dynamic Delta Leaders project in conjunction with the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area and the Center for Rural Strategies. Tim is the Co-Founder of Capway with Mississippi native Sheena Allen. This company provides financial services to unbanked and underbanked populations. Lampkin also serves as the Outreach Coordinator at the Mississippi Humanities Council. He primarily oversees the Racial Equity Fund supported by a $250,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to work with organizations across Mississippi to fostering dialogue about race in their community. 
 
Tim previously worked as a Community Development Officer for Southern Bancorp, a Community Development Financial Institution. He helped secure a million dollars for various community projects in Coahoma County within two years. Prior to his role at SBCP, he worked as a consultant with the DEBTS Program funded by the USDA at Delta State University. He provided technical assistance to entrepreneurs and nonprofits in four counties in the Mississippi Delta. Tim has also worked at the Carnegie Public Library and Mississippi Valley State University implementing several projects related to STEM, community health, diversity, and workforce recovery. He worked two years for a Fortune 500 company in management before recognizing his passion for social change.  

Lampkin has a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Mississippi Valley State University, a Masters of Science in Business Administration from Delta State University, and a Masters of Science in Organizational Performance from Bellevue University. He is currently pursuing a Doctorate of Education in Adult and Lifelong Learning from the University of Arkansas. Tim has served as a Federal Voting Rights Observer for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management since 2008. He is a 2014-2015 graduate of the Delta Leadership Institute Executive Academy. Some of his affiliations include the Social Enterprise Alliance, Community Development Society, National Black MBA Association Inc., Mississippi Public Health Association, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., Christian Community Development Association, Placemaking Leadership Council, and the Next Generation National Advisory Board. He was invited by the Obama Administration to share his insight with national stakeholders at two White House Rural Council convenings. Tim was included on the 2016 32 under 32 list by Magic Johnson’s Playbook, and has been featured by the Daily Yonder, Dakota Fire, and the Huffington Post.


David Lipsetz
Housing Assistance Council
1025 Vermont Avenue, NW, Suite 606
Washington, DC  20005
david@ruralhome.org
202-842-8600 ext 127

Biography:
David Lipsetz is a Senior Fellow at the Housing Assistance Council (HAC) and leading voice for affordable housing and sustainable community development. HAC is a national nonprofit organization that helps local organizations in rural America build affordable homes. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., with offices in California, Georgia, Missouri, and New Mexico, HAC assists public, nonprofit, and private organizations in the development of both owner-occupied and rental housing with programs that focus on local solutions, empowerment of the poor, reduced dependence, and self-help strategies.

David came to HAC after holding several presidentially appointed positions in the Obama Administration. Most recently, he served as the Associate Administrator for Rural Housing and Community Facilities at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA.) His office oversaw policy development and program administration of more than $100 billion in direct lending, mortgage guarantees, grants and technical assistance for community and economic development in rural America. David came to USDA from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), where he served as a Deputy Assistant Secretary and Senior Advisor for Public and Indian Housing; and as an Acting Chief of Staff to the Deputy Secretary. Prior to HUD, David managed policy, large-scale initiatives and organizational development for housing agencies in New York City and Oakland, CA. He also worked for the San Francisco Bay Area’s regional planning authority; and Dresden, Germany’s Institute for Ecological and Regional Development. His career began as a Legislative Assistant for domestic policy issues in the Office of U.S. Congressman John Dingell.

David was born and raised in Ohio. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Michigan State University, and Master’s degrees in Sociology and City and Regional Planning from the Ohio State University. He currently resides in Washington, DC with his wife and kids. (February 2017)

What guiding principles or truths inform the work you’re doing in or for rural America these days? 
Working to maintain and grow a vibrant rural America is not a partisan issue.


Tim Marema
Daily Yonder/Center for Rural Strategies    
PO Box 867    
Norris, TN  37828-0867    
tim@dailyyonder.com    
865-748-5736

Biography:
Tim is editor of the Daily Yonder, a national rural news site, and a founding staff member of the Center for Rural Strategies, which publishes the site. He worked in daily newspapers in Chapel Hill and Durham before returning to his home region of Southern Appalachia. Tim is the former development director of Appalshop, the media arts center in Whitesburg, Ky. He holds a master's degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a B.A. from Berea College. He's married and has a son and a daughter who are in their last semester (he hopes) at the University of Tennessee and Davidson College, respectively.


Justin Maxson
Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation
2920 Reynolda Road
Winston-Salem, NC  27106
jmaxson@mrbf.org
336-748-9222

Biography:
Justin Maxson is the Executive Director of the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, a 60-year old foundation that seeks to move people and places out of poverty in the South. The Foundation supports organizations and networks that work across race, ethnic, economic and political differences to make possible a brighter future for all. For 13 years, he was President of the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development, a 33-year-old multi-strategy community economic development organization serving Central Appalachia based in Berea, Kentucky.  Previous to MACED, he was founding Executive Director of the Progressive Technology Project. He holds a Masters in Anthropology from Boston University and a BA from the University of Kentucky. 


Alan Morgan
National Rural Health Association
1025 Vermont Ave, NW
Washington, DC  20005
morgan@nrharural.org
202-639-0550

Biography:
Recognized as among the top 100 most influential people in healthcare by Modern Healthcare Magazine, Alan Morgan serves as Chief Executive Officer for the National Rural Health Association.  
He has more than 26 years experience in health policy development at the state and federal level, and is one of the nation’s leading experts on rural health policy.
Mr. Morgan served as a co-author for the publication, “Policy & Politics in Nursing and Health Care,” and for the publication, “Rural Populations and Health.”  In addition, his health policy articles have been published in: The American Journal of Clinical Medicine, The Journal of Rural Health, The Journal of Cardiovascular Management, The Journal of Pacing and Clinical Electrophysiology, Cardiac Electrophysiology Review, and in Laboratory Medicine.  
Mr. Morgan served as staff for former US Congressman Dick Nichols and former Kansas Governor Mike Hayden. Additionally, his past experience includes tenures as a healthcare lobbyist for the American Society of Clinical Pathologists, the Heart Rhythm Society, and for VHA Inc.
He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from University of Kansas, and a master's degree in public administration from George Mason University.  


Kim Phinney
YouthBuild USA
223 Huntley Road
Westford, Vermont 05494
kphinney@youthbuild.org    
802-922-2274

Biography:
Kim Phinney is the senior director of the Rural and Native Initiative for YouthBuild USA. Kim joined YouthBuild USA in 2001 to design education and career pathways for rural and Native Opportunity Youth. She now oversees technical assistance and training to the national field of over 70 rural and Native YouthBuild programs and works on a broad range of related rural policy issues.

As a rural advocate, what aspect of your work is most fulfilling right now? Give us an example. 
Collaborating with incredible staff in local communities to support rural and Native young people in recognizing and pursuing their hopes and dreams.

What guiding principles or truths inform the work you’re doing in or for rural America these days? 
In the words of Dee Davis, "be an honest broker."  
Humble, creative, brilliant, endlessly scrappy, resilient, self-determined are all truths that I would use to describe the people and communities that I live and work in.  And these are also the principles that I try to apply to my work every day. 

Looking ahead, where do you see rural America playing an essential role in national outcomes?
In the words of Kathy Moxon, "it doesn't take very many voices united for a politician to understand that there is a fire storm out there. We just don't believe it or use it enough."   


Sarah Pytalski    
National Congress of American Indians
1516 P Street NW
Washington, DC  20005
spytalski@ncai.org
202-210-1487

Biography:
I serve as the Policy Research & Evaluation Manager for the National Congress of American Indians. My current projects reflect how research partnerships, data infrastructure, legal and ethical protections can enhance the health and sovereignty of tribal nations. 

As a rural advocate, what aspect of your work is most fulfilling right now? Give us an example. 
I have greatly enjoyed delving into justice issues impacting rural and Native youth and families and building more broad-based awareness around human trafficking, the school-to-prison pipeline, restorative justice, opioid addiction, among other areas of interest/concern.

What guiding principles or truths inform the work you’re doing in or for rural America these days? 
Everything we do at NCAI is for the benefit of the next generation -- and the seven generations to follow. Everything is focused on strengthening culture, sustainability, fairness, and justice.

Looking ahead, where do you see rural America playing an essential role in national outcomes?
It was very clear that rural voters formed a significant portion of the Trump electorate. Tribes, however, were divided. I believe energy development will be a point of contention and genuinely hope that there can be shared rural and tribal platforms in this area. In a similar vein, climate change is where there is a need for common ground. Both constituents are strong advocates for infrastructural investments (roads, broadband, etc.) and the enhancement of local control, self-governance. It seems that there could be a good opportunity to push for more rural and tribal set-asides, more tax credits for housing, child care, etc. I think there is a great deal of work to be done in coming to consensus on the health care -- repeal, replace, maintain. Tribes have benefited from the ACA, due to the inclusion of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, which Sen. Tester pushed for in a big way. Those are just a few thoughts for now!


Scott Reed
PICO National Network    
4305 University Ave, Ste 530    
San Diego, CA  94610
sreed@piconetwork.org
858-254-0821

Biography:
Scott Reed is the Executive Director of the PICO National Network, comprised of multi-racial and multi-faith organizations working to advance racial and economic justice domestically and internationally.  Scott has been a community organizer since the early 70’s, working with leaders, clergy and staff to build organizations throughout the country that are able to build sustainable power to create and transform the systems that impact the daily lives of working families.

Scott has shepherded PICO into a trans-local organizing network of fifty-two member organizations who are shaping the public debate in 150 cities, 19 states and in Washington, D.C.   As a result, a prophetic narrative that is rooted in the belief that each and every person matters, is challenging policies and resource decisions that undermine equity in health care, transportation, education, violence and mass incarceration, full rights of citizenship, neighborhood health, and access to credit and jobs.

Looking ahead, where do you see rural America playing an essential role in national outcomes? 
There is an opportunity for a better future for America if rural and urban folk can see our common story and our common struggle.  this shared story would allow the 'us' to be dfining our future vs allowing others to pit us against one another


Kristen Richardson-Frick
The Duke Endowment
800 East Morehead Street  
Charlotte, NC  28202    
krichardson-frick@tde.org  
704-927-2250

Biography:
Kristen Richardson-Frick joined The Duke Endowment as a Program Officer in the Rural Church program area in 2012. An ordained elder in the South Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church, for eleven years she served as pastor of United Methodist churches, mostly in rural places in South Carolina. She holds a Master of Divinity degree from Duke University Divinity School, and B.A. and B.S. degrees from Wofford College in Spartanburg, SC.

As a rural advocate, what aspect of your work is most fulfilling right now? Give us an example. 
I rejoice in being able to support innovative projects that bring healthy food to vulnerable populations, academic enrichment to struggling students in isolated areas, and creative solutions to complex community problems. By helping to connecting faith communities to other community stakeholders around common tables of dialogue and action, we see diverse groups of creative individuals, who collectively hold abundant assets and resources, begin to identify and develop community-specific programs, policies, and interventions that have wide-ranging impact. It is an honor to support and engage with such congregations and groups all over rural North Carolina.

What guiding principles or truths inform the work you’re doing in or for rural America these days? 
Honesty, appreciative inquiry, open listening, realistic and respectful dialogue, asset-based community development

Looking ahead, where do you see rural America playing an essential role in national outcomes?
Food security, health promotion, clean energy


Jocelyn Richgels    
Rural Policy Research Institute    
1302 Delafield PL NW    
Washington, DC  20011
jrichgels@rupri.org
202-246-3736

Biography:
I have worked in rural policy for 20 years, both for a Member of Congress and for RUPRI.  I grew up on a family farm in rural southwest Wisconsin and still consider that "'home". 

As a rural advocate, what aspect of your work is most fulfilling right now? Give us an example. 
A renewed understanding that local program design and delivery is most effective. 

What guiding principles or truths inform the work you’re doing in or for rural America these days? 
It is important for our nation's livelihood and sustainability that we have a diversity of places that people call home.  All these places should be valued for their worth to our country. 

Looking ahead, where do you see rural America playing an essential role in national outcomes?
National sustainability. 


Niel Ritchie
Main Street Project
105 East 4th Street, Suite 213
Northfield, MN  55057
nritchie@mainstreetproject.org
612-270-0276

Biography:
Niel Ritchie is CEO of Main Street Project with overall responsibility for organizational development, financial management and institutional relations. He has 30 years of experience in rural advocacy, public policy and non-profit management. He was the Director of the League of Rural Voters, a grassroots organizing and communications organization that focused on public policy issues including economic development, immigration, trade and farm policy, health care and education.

Before working with Main Street Project, Niel spent 14 years with the Minneapolis-based Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy working as national organizer responsible for outreach and networking among U.S. Farm groups and non-farm partners including environment, consumer, business, labor and church groups.

Niel serves on the boards of the Rural Community Assistance Partnership and the Alliance for Aviation Across America and is a member of the steering committee of the National Rural Assembly. He is the author of numerous articles and op/eds on farm, food, trade and rural economic policy.

As a rural advocate, what aspect of your work is most fulfilling right now? Give us an example. 
Most fulfilling is the opportunity to work with young people and new immigrants who are committed to building a more inclusive and sustainable future for themselves and their communities. 

The rural economy has been largely based on natural resource extraction that inevitably results in the exploitation of both human and natural capital.  We're working with new immigrant and young farmers that are committed to  producing healthy food in ways that that protect and enhance the soil and water for future generations.  

What guiding principles or truths inform the work you’re doing in or for rural America these days?  
1. Indigenous wisdom holds the key to our survival. 2. If we don't learn from our mistakes, we are likely to repeat them.

Looking ahead, where do you see rural America playing an essential role in national outcomes?
Rural America was the wellspring of values that our nation was founded upon and could be again. 

The hallmarks of our newly globalized economy are the unchecked concentrations of political, economic and market power in fewer and fewer hands. 

As a matter of survival, we must design and (re)build rural economies in ways that deliver triple bottom line results (economic, ecological and social),  and establish guiding principles including cooperation, fairness (equity), transparency, resilience, and sustainability. 


Betsey Russell
Last Word, LLC
45 Panola Street
Asheville, NC  28801
betseyrussell@gmail.com
828-474-5121

Biography:
Betsey is a writer, communications strategist, speaker and facilitator who specializes in philanthropy. 

As a rural advocate, what aspect of your work is most fulfilling right now? Give us an example. 
My work in racial equity! Also, helping funders break through stereotypical thinking about rural communities and rural capacity. This Forum is the perfect example.  

What guiding principles or truths inform the work you’re doing in or for rural America these days? 
All Americans have value, and all communities deserve the opportunity to prosper. Equity is essential. 

Looking ahead, where do you see rural America playing an essential role in national outcomes?
Climate change, small business economic growth, retirement havens for the wealthy


Angela Shirey
Walton Family Foundation
Post Office Box 2030
Bentonville, AR  72712
ashirey@wffmail.com

Biography:
Angela is an Associate Program Officer at the Walton Family Foundation based in the rural Arkansas and Mississippi Delta. Her work at WFF is focused on creating systemic change in the areas of youth engagement and development, public safety, and target job creation with a special emphasis on tourism. Additionally, she spends time volunteering with a number of organizations  working to address health care matters and social justice issues such as Alzheimer's awareness and support, Africare, and the National Alliance for Mental Illness. 

As a rural advocate, what aspect of your work is most fulfilling right now? Give us an example. 
At the present time, supporting the development of quality after school programs for school age students affords me the most hope for improved academic and social conditions for children. The time spent out of school can shape a child's future in terms of behavioral issues and social functionality. Investing in students, families, and community programs that sharply address these needs is highly rewarding and meaningful. 

What guiding principles or truths inform the work you’re doing in or for rural America these days? 
The belief that the Delta region which is primarily rural can thrive in its own way. While there is an absence of glitz and glamour, people in the Delta possess a unique, genuine quality that is strongly American. Strengthening their resolve is promising...and refreshing. 

Looking ahead, where do you see rural America playing an essential role in national outcomes?
One topic that is taking root is food safety, security, and quality. Given the Delta's primary industry is agriculture, it will play a strong role in this sector.


Adam Strong
National Council of Young Leaders - Opportunity Youth United
401 Lick Branch Armory Rd
Jackson, KY  41339
astrong0013@gmail.com    
859-455-6802

Biography:
Adam Strong is currently a member of the National Council of Young Leaders. As a member he advocates for system changes using their policy recommendations to increase opportunity and decrease poverty in America that he co-created with his fellow council members. After using that approach for roughly four years he along with his fellow council members decided that one way to get the power to make the changes that’s needed is through numbers. They have since focused on movement building and started Opportunity Youth United (OYU) to engage and mobilize young people across the country, connecting the national platform with the local. OYU currently has over a thousand members and 4 active community action teams across the country. His current work in OYU is creating resources for his fellow members and strategizing on how to bring community action teams centered on opportunity youth to rural communities.

As any young advocate he also has a day job where he works as a medical laboratory technologist at a hospital in his rural hometown. He also manages his own website at www.thinkstrong.press where he posts self-development and other resource type content.

As a rural advocate, what aspect of your work is most fulfilling right now? Give us an example. 
The most fulfilling aspect of my work is collaborating with so many people that have such different backgrounds than my own. Learning and growing from other people is the most fulfilling part of the work. 

A more tangible answer is that here recently I’ve been strategizing with my fellow council members and our broader constituency of Opportunity Youth United to create community action teams centered on opportunity youth. It has been extremely energizing in working with everyone on how to bring something like that to fruition in other communities especially rural communities like mine that has different barriers to youth engagement such as geography, population density, and even lack of programming.

What guiding principles or truths inform the work you’re doing in or for rural America these days? 
Love, honesty, inclusion, open-mindedness, integrity, equality, (Step Up, Step Back)

Looking ahead, where do you see rural America playing an essential role in national outcomes?
I believe rural America’s current role in national outcomes is that of a silent backbone. For this to change we have to really be intentional and collaborate with a unified effort behind creating and maintaining our community and regional leadership pipelines. That includes in practice overcoming the rural realities that each of our communities face and also focusing on our inherit strengths, such as our sense of community and family. If we focused on creating and maintaining successful leadership pipelines we would have better outcomes in health, educational obtainment, civic engagement, incarceration rates, workforce development, volunteerism, and practically every other measurable outcome. 


Stephen Sugg
Housing Assistance Council (HAC)
1025 Vermont AVE NW, Suite 606
Washington, DC  20005
stephen@ruralhome.org
202-957-4813 or 202-852-8600 ext. 129

Biography:
Stephen Sugg has spent his career at the intersection of public policy, education, and community development. Currently handling government relations and place-based initiatives at the Housing Assistance Council (HAC), Stephen has worked as a U.S. Senate staffer, a state-level higher education lobbyist, and as a Senior Policy officer at Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC). 
Stephen is a published short story writer. He holds M.S. in rural sociology (University of Missouri) and a doctorate degree in education (College of William & Mary). His academic research interests include rural education, place-based education, and environmental education. Stephen spent five years as an adjunct faculty member at St. Leo University and Tidewater Community College.

As a rural advocate, what aspect of your work is most fulfilling right now? Give us an example. 
I'm energized by some great work that I've researched over the past few years in rural education, linking authentic learning with civic engagement and broader stewardship.  At the local and beyond, folks are realizing the social capital inherent in rural schools, and tapping it.  Interestingly, doing so is actually a throwback to early 20th century rural America, when education was inherently place-based.  Full circle, and it is great. (And when done right, it can bridge long-standing partisan divides)

What guiding principles or truths inform the work you’re doing in or for rural America these days? 
My biggest truth is context.  I'm a rural sociologist by training, and I've devoted much of my career to "rural".  And sure, the election is "interesting", but I'm a bit chagrined by folks asking me to "explain" the everything about rural America and rural voters in a single sound byte. The rural condition wasn't created overnight. 

Understanding "rural" (as diverse as rural is) requires an understanding of farm policy over the years, knowing the structure of rural development programs across agencies, familiarity with migration patterns, and an appreciation of rural-rooted arts and humanities contributions.  Attention to rural from J.D. Vance and others prevalent on television and in the newspapers right now is welcome.   I hope they spark conversations.  But rural solutions won't emerge from a single TED Talk or newfound "expert" on all things rural.  New approaches come from the grassroots--and I've seen much to give me hope.  

Moreover, I encourage folks to read and re-read philosophers and writers with an appreciation for rural.  For me, it is Wendell Berry, Paul Theobald (a rural-rooted educational theorist with timeless ideas), and even Thomas Jefferson (starting with the Thomas Jefferson Hour podcast). I'm an agrarian.
 And then see, touch, and feel rural America.  Go beyond anecdotes from visiting your hometown at Christmastime.  Spend a week in the Delta; go to the Blues Museum in Indianola, MS.  Visit a tribal community. Talk to a farmworker.  Get beyond the quaint rural tourist towns.  Subscribe to your hometown newspaper.

It is vital that rural Americans and rural advocates exist in no more a bubble than what our non-rural peers may (or may not) be in .

PS:  Don't hesitate to learn from non-rural America.  Lots of great ideas there, too!

Looking ahead, where do you see rural America playing an essential role in national outcomes?
I do hope that rural Americans are open to disruptive (e.g. technology) forces which may be necessary to "save" large rural swaths where communities are truly withering away.  Sometimes, I wish a Silicon Valley mindset would take over rural conversations.  Otherwise, we are using approaches (at least federally-sponsored) to rural development that are largely unchanged from the 1970s. 
Such programs can be great (especially if adequately funded...a big "if"), but new approaches ought not necessarily be dependent on federal funding cycles.  


Stephanie Tyree
WV Community Development Hub
1116 Smith Street, Suite 401
Charleston, WV  25301
s.tyree@wvhub.org
304-360-2110

Biography:
A native of Charleston West Virginia, Stephanie is the Executive Director of the WV Community Development Hub. With nearly ten years of experience in policy, community development and community organizing, she has dedicated her career to advancing community-based, systematic solutions for rural, coal-impacted communities in Central Appalachia. Stephanie has an undergraduate degree from the University of Pittsburgh (2003) and a law degree from NYU School of Law (2007), and is a current 2016 BALLE Fellow.

As a rural advocate, what aspect of your work is most fulfilling right now? Give us an example. 
Our work promoting the development of competitive federally-funded economic diversification projects and our relationship with federal partners, particularly at the Appalachian Regional Commission, is some of our most exciting work right now. The other work that is particularly vibrant in this moment is a variety of communications efforts around "Changing the Narrative" about the future of West Virginia and rural Appalachia. 

What guiding principles or truths inform the work you’re doing in or for rural America these days? 
Guiding principles include the belief that expertise and community leadership already exists within our own communities, and that it is our job to uplift and support that leadership; that the future of successful development for rural Appalachia is rooted in small business growth, building vibrant quality of place at a local level, and encouraging infrastructure development that enables remote working.

Looking ahead, where do you see rural America playing an essential role in national outcomes?
Clearly there is a lot of attention right now because of the political impact rural American had on the national election. I think this is our opportunity to uplift a more varied story of what rural America's concerns, priorities and opportunities are beyond the stereotypical story of "Trump's America" that is taking up a lot of space right now in the national media/conversation.


Ali Webb
W.K.Kellogg Foundation
One Michigan Ave East
Battle Creek, MI  49068
ali.webb@wkkf.org
269-969-2296

Biography:
Ali Webb is the director of Michigan programs at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in Battle Creek, Michigan.  She leads the work of the Michigan team in Detroit, Grand Rapids and Battle Creek. Since joining the foundation in 1998, Webb has served in a variety of roles and issue areas including eight years with a focus on rural issues. 
Webb has 32 years of experience with nonprofit and governmental organizations. Previously, she was director of communications for The Nature Conservancy, an international conservation organization. She also served as director of communications for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C. as well as political director of the League of Conservation Voters. She started her career as the press secretary to the Mayor of Los Angeles, Tom Bradley.
She received her bachelor’s degree in journalism at Stanford University, and a master’s degree in public administration from the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Webb got her Ph.D. in mass media from Michigan State University in East Lansing.

As a rural advocate, what aspect of your work is most fulfilling right now? Give us an example. 
I'm looking for ways to connect the interests of rural places to urban areas in Michigan. Without a sense of shared fate between all places in our state, the outlook for our children is uncertain.

What guiding principles or truths inform the work you’re doing in or for rural America these days? 
I am often reminded of Patrick Henry's statement in 1774, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

Looking ahead, where do you see rural America playing an essential role in national outcomes?
Some parts of rural America spoke very loudly in our most recent national election. I'd like to hear the voices of the rest of rural America where diversity, inclusion and kindness live. 
 


Robb Webb
The Duke Endowment
800 East Morehead Street
Charlotte, NC 28202
704-376-0291

Biography:
Webb joined the Endowment in 2006 as a program officer after serving as a management consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers and Healthcare Resource Associates. Webb chairs the Rural Life Committee of the North Carolina Council of Churches and he's vice chair of the Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church's Council on Campus Ministry.


Patrick Woodie
N. C. Rural Center
4021 Carya Drive
Raleigh, NC  27610
pwoodie@ncruralcenter.org
919-250-4314

Biography:
Patrick Woodie serves as the president of the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center. From 2006 to 2013, Patrick served as the center’s Vice President of Rural Programs overseeing the standing programs of the center.  Prior to his work at the Rural Center, Patrick was executive director of New River Community Partners and the Blue Ridge Business Development Center in Sparta, both nonprofits engaged in community and economic development. He helped found New River Community Partners when the New River was designated one of 14 American Heritage Rivers in 1998. He served one term as Alleghany County commissioner and is a former executive director of the Alleghany County Chamber of Commerce. He was a founding member of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area; and in 2005, received the Rural Center’s annual award for Outstanding Rural Leadership. He is a graduate of Wake Forest University and the Wake Forest University School of Law.

As a rural advocate, what aspect of your work is most fulfilling right now? Give us an example. 
I'm encouraged by an emerging sense that our efforts to create a united rural grassroots network in NC have traction and that we are building a coherent rural voice around major issues -- something that has been missing in conversations about rural economic development in our state.

What guiding principles or truths inform the work you’re doing in or for rural America these days? 
1. Economic development is a human enterprise, and we must put people first. 2. Rural economic development requires a comprehensive approach, and one size does not fit all. 3. We should constantly be on the lookout for innovation in our work. 4.  Collaboration is a necessity. 5. Regional approaches and effective leveraging are necessities. 6. We should celebrate diversity in all its aspects.

Looking ahead, where do you see rural America playing an essential role in national outcomes?
Certainly, the area of rural health may be the area with greatest potential, due in large part to the stark differences between the health outcomes of rural and urban people.  It's also an area where we see a great deal of innovation -- from use of technology in compelling new ways to innovative professional recruitment techniques to transitioning from an old model of delivery to a new model of delivery. NC may be especially well positioned to play a role due to the size of the rural population (2nd in the nation) and the greater density of NC's rural population compared to other rural states and the hub and spoke nature of regional economies in NC due to proximity between metro and rural places.  Politically divided state government may also lend itself to being a time of new opportunity.


Curtis Wynn
Roanoke Electric Cooperative & Affiliate Organizations
P.O. Drawer 1326
Ahoskie, NC 27910
cwynn@roanokeelectric.com
252-209-2236

Biography:
Mr. Curtis Wynn serves as a President and Chief Executive Officer at Roanoke Electric Cooperative and is Secretary-Treasurer of the National Rural Electric Cooperatives Association (NRECA). Previously, Wynn served as the President of North Carolina Electric Membership Corporation and as Director of Natural Capital Investment Fund. Wynn is the first African American in the nation to serve as the top executive of an electric cooperative. Under his leadership, many awards have been given to the Roanoke EC, i.e., the 2000 and 2005 NRECA Community Service Network Award making REC one of the most progressive co-ops today. Wynn continues to expand on the cooperative principles: voluntary and open membership, democratic member control, member economic participation, autonomy and independence, education, training and information, and concern for community.


Laura Zabel
Springboard for the Arts    
308 Prince Street #270
St. Paul, MN  55101

201 West Lincoln Ave.
Fergus Falls , MN 56537
laura@springboardforthearts.org
651-292-4381

Biography:
Laura Zabel is the Executive Director of Springboard for the Arts. Springboard is based in both urban and rural Minnesota and operates Creative Exchange, a national platform for sharing free toolkits, resources, and profiles to help artists and citizens collaborate on replicating successful and engaging community projects. 

 An economic and community development agency run by and for artists, Springboard provides programs that help artists make a living and a life, and programs that help communities connect to the creative power of artists. Springboard’s projects include: Community Supported Art (CSA), which is based on the Community Supported Agriculture model and connects artists directly with patrons; the Artists Access to Healthcare program; artist entrepreneurial development; and Irrigate artist-led creative placemaking, a national model for how cities can engage artists to help reframe and address big community challenges.

An expert on the relationship between the arts and community development, Zabel has spoken at leading conferences and events including the Aspen Ideas Festival, the Urban Land Institute, and Americans for the Arts. A 2014 Bush Foundation Fellow, Zabel’s insights on industry trends have also been featured in outlets from The Guardian to The New York Times. Zabel serves on the board of directors of the Center for Performance and Civic Practice and the Metropolitan Consortium of Community Developers.

As a rural advocate, what aspect of your work is most fulfilling right now? Give us an example. 
The opportunity and need for urban-rural exchange and partnership.  Spending time seeing the work happen in communities and neighborhoods, person to person.

What guiding principles or truths inform the work you’re doing in or for rural America these days? 
Artists are assets
Artists exist in every community, and art is inseparable from the communities in which it is made. Our work helps illuminate the social and economic value of art and creativity.
By artists for artists
Everyone who works at Springboard is an artist. We recognize the expertise and experience of artists and incorporate that into creating effective, relevant programs to meet artists’ needs.
The broadest definition of who is an artist
Everyone has creative capacity and there are many different ways to be an artist. We also know that there are many kinds of success for an artist, and we help artists define success for themselves – financial success, recognition, a supportive community, respect, social change, and more.
More is more
We make and share tools designed to benefit as many artists as possible. We believe interconnected communities of artists create an impact in ways that single interventions do not. By freely sharing our work and creating connections among artists and communities, we work to make substantial, system-wide change.
Equity = vibrant communities
Beyond accessibility, our programs address systemic and structural inequities and seek to build equity, agency and power in communities, neighborhoods and systems.
Reciprocal relationships
We seek mutual respect, trust, commitment, and reciprocity with all our partners. We don’t go it alone. We create and customize programs with partners based on mutual goals, and we invite partners to strengthen and change our work.
Cross-sector collaborations that last
We help artists collaborate with existing resources and systems, both because there is abundant potential in those resources, and because we believe they will be strengthened by artists’ contributions. We focus on building bridges and mechanisms that help relationships continue to thrive without us.
Boldness and creativity
Our work is characterized by optimism that change is possible, and belief that the boldness and creativity of artists can address the challenges facing our communities. We also know that in order to engage people, this movement has to be fun.
Real Half & Half
We value hospitality and an attitude of abundance over scarcity. Our goal is always to create an environment, real or virtual, that is welcoming to newcomers and existing partners and friends alike. Hot coffee and real Half & Half out of the carton is something we always have available – a symbol of offering the best of what we have to our guests and our staff.

Looking ahead, where do you see rural America playing an essential role in national outcomes?
cross-sector partnership, place-based entrepreneurship, new/local economy movements