Thrive Rural Framework

Imagine 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.


About the Framework

This resource provides both a shared vision and a line of sight into our current understanding of the community 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.

Many others have helped shape and are contributing to progress toward this shared vision — check out some of their work.

How to Use This Framework

The framework can be embedded in local, regional, state, or national planning and strategy processes and used to anchor conversations about priorities. We encourage you to use it in the way that works best for you — embed it in your processes to advance rural prosperity goals.

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.

Graphic of Thrive Rural Framework components.
The Thrive Rural Framework

Thrive Rural Framework

The Foundational Element

The Foundational Element of the framework requires identifying and dismantling historical and ongoing discriminatory practices that disadvantage rural people and places. Much historic and existing exclusion has negatively affected rural people and rural areas based on:

Place EquiTY

location or size of community

Race EquiTY

racial, immigrant, or cultural identity

Class EquiTY

wealth or income level

Local-level Building Blocks

The Local-level building blocks include conditions on the ground in rural places and regions that individual rural communities or regions can act on by themselves.

Systems-level Building Blocks

The Systems-level building blocks include driving forces and conditions that are in larger systems outside the direct control of individual
rural communities or regions.

Welcome All to the Community

Each person in the community is welcomed, feels connected, and is able to exercise and influence power in decision-making.

Advance Personal Well-Being

Each person in the community has the skills, resources, and social supports they need to pursue and live a healthy, safe, and fulfilling life.

Strengthen Local Ownership and Influence

Businesses, institutions, organizations, and resources critical to the community and its future are owned locally and/or directed and advised by the full range of community members who have a stake in their durability and success.

Rural Voice and Power
Rural Voice in Design and Action

A robust, representative, diverse and powerful network of Native nation and rural leaders, practitioners, and doers consistently engage in advising and influencing narrative, policy design, and action agendas across sectors and levels of government.

Aligned Rural Fields and Actors

Rural community, economic, health, social, and professional development field intermediaries, practitioners, and influentials all share the definition of equitable development success and align their strategies to achieve those outcomes.

Accurate Rural Narrative

Public media and dialogue consistently relate an accurate understanding of the history, conditions, lived experience, and economic, demographic, cultural, and geographic diversity of rural communities and Native nations.

Build from Current Assets

Local economic development approaches concentrate first on identifying and building on the area’s existing people, place, business, and organizational assets to increase both well-being and equity outcomes.

Balance Development Goals

Local action to create a more dynamic, durable economy also seeks to strengthen the natural environment and build infrastructure – and vice-versa – connecting efforts to steadily improve the resilience of the economy, the ecosystem, the people, and the planet.

Design for Everyone to Thrive

Local leaders intentionally design community and economic development efforts to improve outcomes for people disadvantaged due to historic or ongoing economic, racial, age, gender, or cultural discrimination.

Equitable Aims and Design
Balanced Development Outcomes

Policymakers and investors in rural and Native people, places, and enterprises define and measure development success as decreasing economic and racial inequality and reducing poverty while building local wealth, sustainability, and resilience.

Cohesive Rural Policy Lens

Federal and state governments cohesively develop, tailor, and align the design, implementation, regulations, and incentives in policy and laws to ensure rural access and provide a predictable stream of public resources that can be used flexibly, as locally determined, for rural benefit.

Valued Rural Stewardship

Public and private purchasers, users, and beneficiaries fairly compensate rural actors for the natural resource and ecosystem value that rural people, businesses, and organizations produce to sustain natural resources and, thus, America’s future prosperity.

Rural Stakeholder Equity

Governments, businesses, and institutions operated by individuals and owners outside rural communities establish balanced relationships that produce mutual and fair value for the rural community, Native nation, business, and worker stakeholders.

Prepare Action-Able Leadership

Communities have and prepare leaders with the will, skills, relationships, diversity, knowledge, and power needed to fully engage the community and the region to establish, align, and achieve priorities that increase both well-being and equity outcomes.

Organize an Action Infrastructure

Communities have the local and regional institutions, policies, systems, data, information, media, and resources needed to establish, align and achieve priorities that increase both well-being and equity.

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.

Build Momentum

Communities and regions, no matter their starting points, produce and celebrate the small wins and steady progress that fuel hope and persistence.

Resources for Productive Action
Ready Rural Capital Access and Flow

Public, private, and philanthropic financial capital and durable funding streams are reliably available, easily accessible and affordable, and consistently and strategically invested in rural people, places, organizations, and economies.

Rural Data for Analysis and Change

Federal and state governments collect and provide a wide range of readily available critical data on rural place, economy and population conditions, and outcomes at the sub-county level – down to census tracts.

Regional Analysis and Action

Public and private policy, investment, and incentives encourage and stimulate collaborative regional action and the capacity of regional efforts to address shared cross-community economic, social, and health challenges and opportunities.

The Ultimate Outcome

Rural communities and Native nations become healthy places where each and every person belongs, lives with dignity, and thrives.

The University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute was a valued collaborator and research partner on the underlying research of the Thrive Rural Framework.