Act as a Region

Communities persistently analyze, develop strategies and act together within and across sensible and workable regions to address shared issues, challenges, and opportunities and achieve outcomes at a productive scale.

Competition among neighboring rural communities, whether based on past actions, a zero-sum mentality, high school sports team rivalries, or other factors, rarely make sense when it comes to improving economic prospects for more people. No one rural community can typically meet all of its needs and achieve prosperity or advance equity on its own. 

Intentionally and consistently analyzing, planning, and working together across the regional footprint that shares a challenge or opportunity breaks down barriers, builds trust, and ultimately maximizes the use and strengthening of assets that exist in each community as well as the region. This ensures that both investments and returns can happen at a scale that increases dynamism and meets the equitable prosperity aspirations of the region.


Building Block Evidence

Evidence suggests that regional collaboration across geographies, jurisdictions, and functions can be effective in improving social and economic opportunity.1,2 Some researchers have seen regional collaboration as a response to urban-rural divide narratives3,4 and as an institutional response to the realities of rural-urban interdependence.5,6 Principles for effective regional collaboration include: building and sustaining trusted regionally-focused institutions with deep roots, contextual understanding, and strong analytical capacity; recognizing that everyone, urban and rural alike, contributes to regional well-being; addressing inequities of geography, race and ethnicity, gender, income, and class to improve social and economic opportunity and health for all people and places; connecting the many elements that create and sustain healthy economies and communities into regional ecosystems; and investing for the long-term.7 


See also, 10: Regional Analysis and Action for an overview of regional studies.

  1. Dabson 2019
  2. Dabson & McFarland 2021
  3. Dabson 2007
  4. McFarland 2018
  5. Lichter & Ziliak 2017
  6. Gebre & Gebremedhin 2019
  7. Dabson, Okagaki, Markley, Green, Ferguson, Danis, & Lampkin 2020

Curated ReSources


publication
Private: Rural Development Hubs Report

This report focuses on the role — and aggregates the wisdom — of a specific set of intermediaries that are doing development differently in rural America. We focus on Rural Development Hubs because they are main players advancing an asset-based, wealth-building, approach to rural community and economic development.

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Green landscape with icons and designs over it
Better Results: What does it take to build capacity in rural and Native nations communities?

Organizational capacity and technical assistance need to be carefully and intentionally strengthened in rural and Native nation communities to grow…

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People in boat white water rafting
Rural Outdoor Recreation Economies: Challenges and Opportunities

Tourism and outdoor recreation are driving new opportunities for local communities in many rural places. Analysis of recent news articles and solutions shared with Aspen CSG by rural practitioners provide perspective on how to do economic development differently with rural recreation economies.

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The Calm Before the Storm: Disaster Planning and Rural Resilience

Flooding, tornadoes, drought, wildfire, and other extreme weather events cause major disruption and damage wherever they occur and have potential…

Field Items


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Regional Solutions for Rural and Urban Challenges

LOCUS Impact Investing’s Regional Solutions for Rural and Urban Challenges explores the possibility that regional collaboration and solution-seeking can be an effective way of improving social and economic opportunity and health for all people and places within a region.

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Regional Food Hub Resource Guide

This USDA resource guide is designed to give readers a greater understanding of what regional food hubs are, their impacts, strategies to assist their success and growth, and direction on where to find financial resources to support them.

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Rural Development Policy

One-pager highlighting general policy approach of economic development and recent policy changes.

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Regional Rural Development Centers

The NIFA Regional Rural Development Centers (RRDCs) play a unique role in USDA’s service to rural America. They link the research and educational outreach capacity of the nation’s public universities with communities, local decision-makers, entrepreneurs, families, and farmers and ranchers to help address a wide range of development issues.


We see the framework as a living document, which necessarily must evolve over time, and we seek to expand the collective ownership of the Thrive Rural Framework among rural equity, opportunity, health, and prosperity ecosystem actors. Please share your insights with us about things the framework is missing or ways it should change.

Aspen Institute Community Strategies Group