Resources for Rural Communities

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.

Thrive Rural Open Field

Thrive Rural Open Field sessions are relaxed virtual gatherings where practitioners and leaders from rural and Native nation communities can meet, share stories, swap lessons, and build community.

Join us to hear practical techniques and get all types of rural resources from seasoned practitioners you can implement in your work. Sign up for our mailing list to make sure you’re invited to our next gathering!

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From Competition to Cooperation: Insights on Rural Wealth Creation

Insights from rural practitioners who are advancing equitable prosperity and economic development in a way that embraces and strengthens the unique assets of rural regions.

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How To Organize a Rural Action Infrastructure

Discussion with rural leaders about working together across interests and regions to take advantage of opportunities.

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Person looking through binoculars is birdwatching near a body of water
Learning to Grow Equitable Outdoor Recreation Economies

Discussion with rural leaders on the opportunity equitable outdoor recreation economies pose to rural areas.

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Five high school students sit around a table in the library
Advancing the Next Generation of Rural and Indigenous Leaders

Insights and tips to identify, establish, and sustain youth leadership in rural and Indigenous communities.

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Young adult being welcomed home with hugs and excitement
Ensuring Rural Communities Welcome Everyone

Resources and best practices to ensure that each and every person is welcomed to the community, feels connected, and is able to exercise and influence power in community decision-making.

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People stand in rural forest. Woman in pink vest has professional camera and records another woman and tree stumps.
Changing the Narrative: Building Trust Through Rural Media

Insights on how we can promote accurate rural narratives and increase local media to build trust and new relationships across geography.

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Bank on street corner in rural town
Four Learnings to Improve Rural Capital and Credit Access

What are some of the major capital and credit trends right now for rural practitioners?

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People walking with children on their shoulders
Naturally Balanced: What does it take to steward the land and grow rural prosperity?

Rural and Native communities have been stewarding the land for generations. Many are using new ways of growing nature and…

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Field with wind turbines
Environmental Justice Practices & Resources for Rural Communities

Practitioner insights and resources on rural environmental justice, including ideas on just and equitable energy transitions.

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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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Natural disaster response workers moving sand bags
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…


Thrive Rural Case Studies

Thrive Rural case studies, What’s Working in Rural, highlights success stories from practitioners on the ground. We break down important topics and provide tips for implementing a practice in your community or organization.

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When Communities Keep Flooding: A Rural Environmental Justice Case Study

This short case study has insights and tips on address the causes and conditions contributing to flooding in rural places, as well as to envision and build thriving futures of equitable rural prosperity.

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Practitioners with name tags sharing to a group off camera
Communicating for Connection: West Virginia Community Development Hub

This short case study has insights and tips on how how rural development practitioners can move beyond neutrality and still communicate effectively with community members from across the political spectrum.

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Group of Black practitioners smiling at camera
Building Power Together: Sustainable Forestry and African-American Land Retention Network

This short case study has insights and tips on how communities that have been historically and systematically excluded can develop authentic and effective leadership that builds power to challenge the status quo.

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Smiling colleagues sitting together in a meeting room.
Translating Federal Opportunities into Local Resources: Ada Jobs Foundation

This short case study has insights and tips on how rural communities with limited staffing and resources can understand, prepare for, and compete for finite federal funds.

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Farmworkers hoeing fields
Broadening Authentic Leadership: Student Action with Farmworkers

This short case study has insights and suggestions for how rural-serving organizations can effectively welcome and truly empower leaders from all backgrounds.


Thrive Rural Action-Learning Exchange

The Thrive Rural Action-Learning Exchange (TRALE) is an integral part of generating insights about what works and what’s needed to propel policy and practice toward producing well-being for more rural people in more communities and regions across the nation, especially in areas of concentrated poverty.

In the TRALE process, Aspen CSG convenes a wide-ranging set of rural practitioners, advocates, policymakers, and others to address an “action gap” that stands in the way of changing systems and/or behavior critical to driving rural progress.

Quickly tapping on-the-ground insights and experiences helps generate breakthrough thinking about what works and what’s needed to push rural policy and practice forward. Each report has resources for rural communities, including a list of recommendations for practitioners.

Outdoor Recreation

Our third TRALE process focuses on five principles to create an equitable outdoor recreation economic strategy. As new rural outdoor recreation economies take root, we can meet this moment by improving how we do outdoor recreation development to better support rural families, businesses, and workers, create more sustainable and equitable economic systems, and improve local health and wellbeing.

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Mapping a New Terrain: Call to Action

As new rural outdoor recreation economies take root, we can meet this moment by improving how we do outdoor recreation development to better support rural families, businesses, and workers, create more sustainable and equitable economic systems, and improve local health and wellbeing.

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Mapping a New Terrain: Executive Summary

Executive Summary document for Mapping a New Terrain: A Call to Action. Get quick takeaways and recommendations for action on equitable outdoor recreation development.


Reimagining Rural Assistance Network

The US flag flying in front of the Capitol building blurred in the background.

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.


resources for 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