Aspen CSG in Action

We approach all of our work with a humble and curious mindset, eager to learn and collaborate.

Conferences & Convenings

Aspen CSG’s Co-Executive Directors, Bonita Robertson-Hardy and Chris Estes, frequently present keynotes and breakout sessions at events across the country. We share proven practices and stories from the field on topics such as regionalism, rethinking measurement, capacity building, outdoor recreation economies, disaster planning and recovery, and more.

Our discussions are grounded in peer learning and the vision of “doing development differently.”

We use the Thrive Rural Framework, WealthWorks, and Rural Development Hubs to support these conversations.

Check out Chris’ Radically Rural keynote for an idea of how we show up (his part starts ~57:13).

Please reach out if you’re interested in Aspen CSG presenting at your conference or convening!


Minnesota Initiative Foundations Place-Based Work

Aspen CSG advises the Minnesota Initiative Foundations (MIF) on their welcoming and belonging work to determine how the six regional foundations can learn from each other and build knowledge together across the regions.  

Through Aspen CSG-facilitated peer learning sessions, the MIFs explore how to implement their equitable rural prosperity priorities using the Thrive Rural Framework. They use the framework to take stock, target action, and measure progress towards the projects each foundation has targeted. This includes lifting up any barriers and identifying “gaps” at the local and systems levels.

Aspen CSG will use the learnings from this work to further inform our place-based approach and update the Thrive Rural Framework.


The Hurst Community Initiative (HCI)

An initiative of Aspen CSG led by Evan Zislis, the Hurst Community Initiative (HCI) seeks to promote dialogue, increase understanding, and facilitate opportunities for meaningful collaboration among the communities of the Roaring Fork and Colorado River Valleys in Colorado.

HCI focuses on local economic vitality, housing stability, social-emotional wellness, and disaster preparation and response.

Learn more on its microsite.


Reimagining Rural Assistance Network (RRAN)

The Reimagining Rural Assistance Network (RRAN) is a focused, nimble, diverse coalition of rural development advocates, experts, and practitioners that came together in March 2021 in response to the significant expansion of federal funding. The group is composed of organizations such as Appalachian Community Capital, Aspen Institute Community Strategies Group, California Center for Rural Policy, Communities Unlimited, Inc., The Brookings Institution, Housing Assistance Council, Region 5 Development Commission, Rural Community Assistance Corporation, and RuralOrganizing.com Education Fund. 

This work led to the creation of Aspen CSG’s Federal Resources page, which provides timely updates on federal resources and stakeholder input opportunities.

While RRAN works to support the Rural Partnership Program (as part of a smaller, negotiated Build Back Better or part of the 2023 Farm Bill), RRAN is also engaged in the potential reauthorization of the Economic Development Administration (EDA).

How to help this effort? Add your capacity building story to Reimaging Rural Assistance Network (RRAN)’s story bank. The collaboration is working to better define and distinguish capacity building and what it means in rural communities.


Rural Opportunity and Development (ROAD) Sessions

The ROAD Sessions highlight and unpack resources for rural communities that promote access to inclusive economic opportunity and long-term resilience. ROAD Sessions feature stories of on-the-ground practitioners with experience, wisdom, and savvy to share. The series reflects and emphasizes the full diversity of rural America, spotlights rural America’s assets and challenges, and lifts voices and lived experience from a wide range of rural communities and economies. Each Session includes an added opportunity for peer exchange.

Overall, the ROAD Sessions aim to infuse practitioner stories and lessons into a rural network of narratives, policymaking, and practice across the country and to strengthen the network of organizations serving rural communities and regions. 

The ROAD Sessions are virtual exchanges co-designed as part of Thrive Rural – an effort of the Aspen Institute Community Strategies Group with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation – and in collaboration with the Housing Assistance Council, the Rural Community Assistance Partnership, Rural LISC, the International Economic Development Council, and the Federal Reserve Board.


Aspen Institute Community Strategies Group