About Us

Since 1985, the Aspen Institute Community Strategies Group (Aspen CSG) has been committed to equitable rural prosperity. We work towards a future where communities and Native nations across the rural United States are healthy places where each and every person belongs, lives with dignity, and thrives. 

Our Expertise

The Aspen Institute Community Strategies Group (Aspen CSG) serves as a connecting hub for equitable rural community and economic development. We design and facilitate action-inducing peer learning among rural practitioners, national and regional organizations, and policymakers. We build networks, foster collaboration, and advance best practices from the field. 

Aspen CSG advances an asset-based and systems-building approach to community and economic development. The foundational part of this work is the Thrive Rural Framework. This resource provides both a shared vision and a line of sight into our current understanding of the local and systems conditions necessary to realize that vision. It is designed to help community leaders, practitioners, policymakers, equity advocates, and other rural equity champions to take stock, target action, and gauge progress toward this vision of the future. It identifies the actions and conditions required at local- and system-levels to get there.

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Our Team

Staff Member
Bonita Robertson-Hardy

Co-Executive Director

Staff Member
Chris Estes

Co-Executive Director

Staff Member
Tyler Bowders

Program Associate

Staff Member
Devin Deaton

Action Learning Manager

Staff Member
Erin Cahill

Associate Director of Communications

The Aspen CSG team

Advisory Groups

Rural Equity Research Advisors

The Rural Equity Research Advisors (RERA) is composed of academic researchers focusing on rural development issues — with a particular focus on issues impacting rural communities of color. This group convenes to identify gaps, understand and promote current research, and advise/author upcoming briefs. The RERA was formed in consultation with researchers Brian Dabson and Marjory Givens, who provide ongoing strategic guidance and support. 

Rural Action Roundtable on Equity

The Rural Action Roundtable on Equity (RARE) serves as Aspen CSG’s equity partner, providing strategic direction, setting priorities, building relationships, and ensuring critical analysis to guide Aspen CSG’s work.

RARE to composed of leading rural practitioners and thought leaders. Their leadership has been instrumental in guiding and grounding the ongoing development and implementation of the Thrive Rural Framework.

Together, Aspen CSG and RARE focus on building and connecting the field of equitable rural development and content using a race, place, and class equity lens to ground and proof our analysis, content, and strategies.


The Theory of Change Working Group for Thrive Rural is a broad array of leading practitioners, academics, and experts from the fields of health, community building, and community and economic development.

Their goal is to structure a detailed “theory of change” to the question: What will it take to create dynamic, sustainable rural communities where all people can realize their full potential and live healthy lives?


The National Advisory Committee (NAC) for the Thrive Rural Framework comprises leading national policymakers, as well as local practitioners and experts in health, community building, and community & economic development.

NAC members provide strategic guidance to the Thrive Rural Framework collaboration.

Aspen Institute Community Strategies Group