About Rural Assembly

Who We Are

Reframing our relationship to rural is essential to changing outcomes for the whole nation. Sixty million of us live in the countryside, and far more grew up there or identify as rural. Rural Americans reflect the full diversity of the country in who we are, what we do, and what we want to achieve. Yet, rural Americans are sicker, poorer, and older than the rest of the country. They experience higher rates of child and family poverty, addiction, and mortality, and they lack access to essential services and obstacles to opportunities to thrive. In many cases they are also dealing with historical traumas, from colonization to generational poverty. 

And yet we know rural America is more than its trauma and more than the convenient stereotypes and stories that dominate public discourse. It is a place of innovation, tight-knit communities, and civic participation. It is fire departments and schools and local organizations making a difference. There is an opportunity right now to draw the connections between rural and its counterparts, to name the roads, fibers, and futures that connect us. To craft a future of us and ours. 

The Rural Assembly exists in this space, tending relationships and changing perceptions in service to healing a divided nation.

Who We Are

Reframing our relationship to rural is essential to changing outcomes for the whole nation. Sixty million of us live in the countryside, and far more grew up there or identify as rural. Rural Americans reflect the full diversity of the country in who we are, what we do, and what we want to achieve. Yet, rural Americans are sicker, poorer, and older than the rest of the country. They experience higher rates of child and family poverty, addiction, and mortality, and they lack access to essential services and obstacles to opportunities to thrive. In many cases they are also dealing with historical traumas, from colonization to generational poverty. 

And yet we know rural America is more than its trauma and more than the convenient stereotypes and stories that dominate public discourse. It is a place of innovation, tight-knit communities, and civic participation. It is fire departments and schools and local organizations making a difference. There is an opportunity right now to draw the connections between rural and its counterparts, to name the roads, fibers, and futures that connect us. To craft a future of us and ours. 

The Rural Assembly exists in this space, tending relationships and changing perceptions in service to healing a divided nation.

How We Work

Assembly activities, campaigns, and events are driven in part by rural leaders in the field, who identify a need and seek support from the Rural Assembly to address it as a national convener, amplifier, and communicator. This looks like roundtables, advocacy, or issue-based working groups of cross-sector folks coming together to name and claim issues and solutions that can then be amplified through the Assembly. 

Other times, we organize diverse voices around a critical moment or framing opportunity that speaks to our foundational principles as champions of equity and inclusion. This can look like partnerships and collaborations, gatherings, interviews, profiles, and other media, sourced by practitioners whose stories and experiences disrupt stereotypes and harmful narratives about rural America.

 

How You Can Participate

Our Team

The Rural Assembly is a coalition of people and organizations across the country dedicated to building more opportunity and better policy for rural communities. Learn more about the team powering this work behind-the-scenes.

Whitney Kimball Coe is the director of National Programs at the Center for Rural Strategies. In that role, she leads the Rural Assembly, a nationwide movement striving to build better policy and more opportunity for rural communities across the country. As an organizer, speaker, moderator, and writer, Whitney has shared her perspectives on community and civic courage with audiences around the world. She has been featured on stage at the Aspen Ideas Festival and the inaugural Obama Foundation Summit, and as a guest on the radio program On Being with Krista Tippett.

Whitney Kimball Coe

Director of National Programs

Tyler Owens (she/her) is from the Gila River Indian Community in Southern Arizona where she was born and raised. Prior to joining the Rural Assembly, Owens worked with the National Congress of American Indians where she took on various roles, such as: Membership Coordinator, Youth Program Associate, and Administrative Assistance. These formative roles in her early career have equipped Owens to service the Rural Assembly and serve communities similar to hers.

Tyler Owens

Program Associate

Tracy Staley (she/her) lives in Dayton, Ohio, by way of Hazard, Ky. She is a marketing specialist for Great Stories LLC, a digital marketing and advertising company in Kentucky. At the Rural Assembly, Staley works on social media, content, email newsletters, and publicity. Staley has two decades of communications work for newspapers, magazines, companies and nonprofits. When she is not working, Staley enjoys reading, writing, and live music.

Tracy Staley

Communication Specialist

Chris Poore (he/him) lives in Lexington, Kentucky. Poore is owner of Great Stories LLC, a digital marketing and advertising company in Kentucky. He helps the Rural Assembly with social media, editing, web design and production. Prior to joining the Rural Assembly, Poore was the adviser for the student newspaper at the University of Kentucky and taught journalism classes. When Poore isn’t working, he enjoys fishing, reading, and very long walks.

Chris Poore

Digital Production

Kim Phinney is a Senior Fellow with the Center for Rural Strategies. Previously she was the Vice President of Program Design for YouthBuild USA. In this position, she collaborated with senior leaders to craft the organization’s strategic direction as well as led the overall design and implementation of TA, training, and organizational learning across education, career pathways, and life skills for rural, Native, and urban programs across the country. Kim joined YouthBuild USA in 2001 to design a national initiative to create and strengthen education and career pathways for rural and Native Opportunity Youth. She served as the senior director of Rural and Native Initiatives, overseeing technical assistance and training to the national field of over 70 rural and Native YouthBuild programs. Across these roles, Kim works on a broad range of policy issues related to rural and Native youth and their communities.

Kim Phinney

Fellow, Center for Rual Strategies

Anna Claussen is a photographer, community place-maker, policy and social strategist. She bridges years of practice in urban design and sustainable agriculture policy with a life deeply rooted on a Minnesota family farm. Anna founded Voices for Rural Resilience, a collective of rural leaders who embrace a portfolio of empathy-building tools to create a reality where rural people are heard, feel moved and take the lead in our collective fight against climate change. She was recently chosen as a 2017-18 Nathan Cummings Foundation Fellow. Prior, Anna was the Director of Rural Strategies at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP). Over the last two decades, Anna has focused on creating resilient communities through the design and vision of alternative land-use plans; by advancing market solutions within the emerging bio-based economy; by sitting in tough spaces, wrestling with problems, and believing in the humanity of all people.

Anna Claussen

Partner, Rural Connectors Program

 

One more Thing...

The Rural Assembly
is a program of the

Sign Up For our newsletters

rural Assembly Newsletter

Advocacy Newsletter