Nuturing Thriving Communities

Aug. 1, 2024 1- 3 p.m ET

In a year marked by elections and challenges, it’s essential to shift our focus toward envisioning what it truly means for rural areas to flourish. That’s why this year’s Rural Assembly Everywhere will explore a diverse range of topics, all centered on nourishing ourselves and our rural communities.

Hear from rural leaders, organizers, community workers and artists as we explore what it means to nourish a thriving community. Read more about our panels and speakers below!


New this year: Three post-event workshops to continue the conversation and community!

Rural Assembly Everywhere is for everyone, everywhere, but especially rural advocates and the rural-curious, listeners and leaders, neighbors and admirers.

"The Assembly centered diverse voices and was honest about challenges and optimistic about current and future rural life.”
— 2023 Everywhere attendee

Speakers + Performers

Opening discussion: How to nurture thriving communities

The program will kick off with two dynamic leaders — Lead for America Co-founder Benya Kraus and Wahpetunwan Dakota artist, writer, and midwife Autumn Cavender — in conversation about what it takes to nurture thriving communities. 

Co-founder of Lead For America, Benya Kraus is helping to reinvigorate rural America by supporting the next generation of civic leaders in returning and reinvesting in their hometowns.




Wicanhpi Iyotan Win Autumn Cavender is a Wahpetunwan Dakota artist, writer, and midwife from the Upper Sioux Community. Engaging in maternal health in rural spaces and the revitalization of Indigenous birth practices, Cavender is a frequent educator and presenter on Indigenous land issues, medical imperialism, and cultural reclamation. She lives, works, and plays near her home reservation with her partner, two children, a German Shepherd, and the occasional chicken. 

Democracy Panel: The Press, Economics, and Perceptions Ahead of the Election

Political scientists and authors Kathy Cramer and Hahrie Han will join Center for Rural Strategies President Dee Davis in conversation at Rural Assembly Everywhere for a panel discussion focused on democracy, the press, economics, and perceptions ahead of the election.

Kathy Cramer is the Natalie C. Holton Chair of Letters & Science and Virginia Sapiro Professor of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is known for her innovative approach to the study of public opinion, in which she uses methods such as inviting herself into the conversations of groups of people to listen to the way they understand public affairs. Her award-winning book, The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker, brought to light rural resentment toward cities and its implications for contemporary politics.

Hahrie Han is the Inaugural Director of the SNF Agora Institute, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Professor of Political Science, and Faculty Director of the P3 Research Lab at Johns Hopkins University. She is an award-winning author of four books and numerous articles published in leading scholarly outlets including the American Political Science Review, the American Sociological Review, Nature Human Behavior, PNAS, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), and elsewhere. She has also written for outlets like the New York Times, the Washington Post, and others. She is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, was named a 2022 Social Innovation Thought Leader of the Year by the World Economic Forum’s Schwab Foundation, and delivered the prestigious Tanner Lectures at Harvard University in 2024. Her fifth book, about faith and race in America with a focus on evangelical megachurches, will be published with Knopf in September 2024. 


Local Museums: Agency in Storytelling and Community Voice

Four experienced arts administrators will discuss agency in storytelling and community voice.

Francisco Guajardo, Chief Executive Officer of the Museum of South Texas History in Edinburg, Texas; 
Madeline Matson, Executive Director of the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum in Ilwaco, Washington; and 
Gwendolyn Trice, founder and Executive Director of the Maxville Heritage Interpretive Center (MHIC), a museum located in Joseph, Oregon.
• Stephen Gong, executive director of the Center for Asian American Media

Francisco Guajardo is the Chief Executive Officer of the Museum of South Texas History in Edinburg, Texas. A child of the South Texas and northeastern Mexico borderland, he was raised on both sides of the border, attended public schools in the rural community of Edcouch-Elsa in the Rio Grande Valley, and became an educator. Dr. Guajardo worked in public schools as a teacher and administrator for 12 years and as a professor and administrator in higher education for 18 years.

Madeline Matson has been the Executive Director of the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum in Ilwaco, Washington since 2020, but she started volunteering at the institution when she was five years-old. She is very dedicated the betterment of her rural community and serves on a number of boards and community groups. She’s also the mom of two young kids and spends all her non-work time keeping them busy.


Gwendolyn Trice is the founder and Executive Director of the Maxville Heritage Interpretive Center (MHIC), a museum located in Joseph, Oregon. MHIC’s mission is to gather, preserve, and share the rich history of  African American, Indigenous, and immigrant loggers in the Pacific Northwest. Trice is the daughter of an African American logger. Tracing her father’s life inspired her to create MHIC.


Stephen Gong is the Executive Director of the Center for Asian American Media, supporting films by and about Asian America. His previous positions in museum and media arts administration as well as film archives, history, and preservation. He is the Board Chair of the Center for Rural Strategies and the Chinatown Media and Arts Collaborative, serves on the Advisory Board of the San Francisco Silent Film Society.

“I'm so heartened to find this community of communities”
— 2021 Everywhere attendee

Post-Event Workshops

Extend your Everywhere experience by registering for one or more of three workshops hosted with partners the week following our mainstage programming on Aug. 1. Each workshop requires a separate registration. 

Rural Assembly Everywhere: Rural Urban Divide Training with RUBI (Rural Urban Bridge Initiative)

Aug. 6 | 2 p.m. ET – 3 p.m. ET

Join the Rural Urban Bridge Initiative (RUBI) at this year’s Rural Assembly Everywhere for a training about the origins of the rural-urban divide. At the training, you’ll engage with information and suggestions for how to navigate and lessen the divide. The objective of this workshop is to gain the skills to find mutual understanding and common ground, defuse hostility and contempt in conversations and relationships, and build multi-racial working and middle-class rural solidarity between rural, suburban, and urban dwellers. RUBI’s practical solutions are based on research by our own and other scholars, as well as the personal experiences of rural progressive organizers.

Aug. 7 | 2 pm. ET – 3 p.m. ET

Join this special edition of Beyond the Clock Happy Hour for Rural Assembly Everywhere! Bring a beverage of your choice and get ready for sparkling conversations and lively connections with other rural cultural workers, connectors, and neighbors. In this special edition, attendees will have an opportunity to share, reflect, and dive deeper into themes and ideas that were uplifted during Rural Assembly Everywhere.Beyond the Clock is a monthly online gathering that fosters fellowship, shared learning, and community care for rural connectors and cultural workers. Co-hosted by Department of Public Transformation and Voices for Rural Resilience, with support from the Rural Assembly, Beyond the Clock invites creative rural rockstars from across the country to share in digital happy hours and learning exchanges that connect and inspire. Come and grab a seat at our virtual table!


 Rural Assembly Everywhere: Story Circle on Nurturing Thriving Communities   

Aug. 8 | 2 p.m ET. – 4 p.m. ET

Join facilitator Ben Fink and your neighbors from around the country to share and hear stories that illuminate what it takes for us nurture our communities – and what happens when we do. Space is limited for the story circle and we ask that all participants commit to being present for the duration of the session. If you are unable to attend, please reach out to so that another person can access the space. Finally, please plan to have your camera turned on – we do our best to simulate being in a room together on Zoom for story circles.

Join the conversation

Register to join the community conversation in our event chat. We’ll ask questions each week leading up to the event so that your voice can be heard.

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