Emerging Issues Working Group

National Rural Assembly Steering Committee members are forming work groups to explore several new topics in the coming year, including climate change, philanthropy, and Native American affairs. These work groups, which are in various phases of development, will investigate important rural issues and create materials and activities to help inform and shape policy. 

To learn more about these work groups, contact the National Rural Assembly.

Climate Change

How the nation responds to climate change has huge ramifications for rural communities. Rural economies are more likely to be linked to natural resource development that could be affected by changes in climate. Also, rural America is integral to many of the proposed responses to climate change such as alternative energy production. A key question is whether rural residents will participate in and benefit from a retooling of the American economy to address climate change.  Will rural areas participate as partners and allies as the nation develops new uses for rural resources,  or will profits and other benefits accrue in ways that exclude rural people and further erode rural economies?

National Rural Assembly Steering Committee members that are participating in the climate change working group are Rural Voices for Conservation CoalitionRural Policy Research Institute (RUPRI), Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire, and the League of Rural Voters. These organizations are working with various regional and national networks and other organizations as they create a plan for future work on this issue. 

Rural Development Philanthropy

Numerous participants in the National Rural Assembly have been engaged in efforts to deepen and expand “rural development philanthropy.” This philanthropic practice “is a community led approach that creates locally controlled assets and invests them to strengthen rural places,” according to the Rural Development Philanthropy Collaborative.  
Rural development philanthropy is built on principles of rural charitable giving, asset-based community development, and organized philanthropy. 

This approach to rural philanthropy is affirmed in the National Rural Assembly principle of “Investment in Our Communities.” Furthermore, the National Rural Assembly has endorsed a number of policy recommendations designed to increase and improve philanthropic activity in rural areas. These recommendations include creating seed capital for rural community foundations, better tracking of private foundations’ giving in rural areas, and challenging national foundations to increase their giving to rural projects.

Native American Affairs

Rural Native Americans face special challenges and have unique opportunities when it comes to creating healthier, more vibrant communities. About half the nation’s 4.1 million American Indian and Alaska Natives live in rural areas. There are 562 federally recognized Indian tribes, bands, nations, pueblos, rancherias, communities, and Native villages in the United States. Although there are bright examples of economic progress in Indian country, the Indian country poverty rate remains twice the national rate. Lack of access to capital and inadequate infrastructure contribute to economic difficulties.  Federally recognized tribes are sovereign, meaning they retain all governmental rights except those expressly taken by the federal Congress. As a consequence, Native tribes have unique opportunities in self governance, development, and other key factors in building stronger communities.

The National Rural Assembly Steering Committee has commissioned a policy paper on Native America affairs that will help rural Americans understand Native issues and how rural people might collaborate on mutually beneficial policy solutions. The National Congress of American Indians is leading the work to create this document.