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Rural Issues -- Community Development

As well as pursuing changes in agriculture, rural communities are working to better their own lot. Community development aims to empower local residents, to improve infrastructure such as utilities, housing, community facilities, and to diversify their economic base without undermining their rural assets. This section offers some of the tools and resources needed to assist rural Americans pursue their own course of sustainable development.

Primary Links and Contacts

The University of Oregon's Community Service Center is an interdisciplinary organization that assists Oregon communities by providing planning and technical assistance to help solve local and regional issues, improve the quality of life in rural Oregon, and help make Oregon communities more self-sufficient. Affiliated with Americorps, the CSC's Resource Assistance for Rural Environments (RARE) Program places graduate level students who assist communities and agencies in the development and implementation of plans for achieving a sustainable natural resource base and improving rural economic conditions.

Nebraska's Center for Applied Rural Innovation, or CARI organization, utilizes a team-oriented structure that is designed to model a successful community. It is one of the most community-driven and impact-oriented programs focusing on rural viability in the world. Programs have been developed based on empirical research, best practices and local citizen input.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Discover Rural Development website offers an overview of federal programs.

The Heartland Center for Leadership Development maintains the W.K. Kellog Collection of resources for rural community development.

California Institute for Rural Studies works to promote rural policies that are socially just, environmentally balanced, and economically sustainable. Its projects include Rural Policy and Community Studies, Pesticide Policy, Agricultural Health and Safety, and Labor Law Enforcement. The institute also produces the quarterly Rural California Report.

Working at the grassroots level, the National Association of Resource Conservation and Development Councils offers training, educational programs and networking and technical assistance to provide for the sustainability of local economies and resources through a national network of 348 local RC&D councils.

Created during the height of the Depression in 1934, Texas Rural Communities Inc. is a nonprofit organization that serves rural Texas communities, individuals, groups and support organizations through rural economic development, educational, loan and grant programs. Funding priorities for its grant program include rural leadership, economic development, education, rural grant writing, coalition building and telecommunications.

Regional Centers

For 25 years, four university-based Regional Rural Development Centers have worked with professionals in land-grant and other educational institutions and organizations to assist rural people and their communities find viable development alternatives and opportunities for the future.

Programs and projects of the Western Rural Development Center of Oregon State University include the Community Tourism Assessment Handbook.

Southern Rural Development Center of Mississippi State University publishes "Grant Connections: Rural Development Funding Opportunities," a funding guide for researchers and policymakers.

Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development at Pennsylvania State University maintains the National Tourism Education Clearinghouse, a compilation of resources for tourism educators.

Last updated: January 22, 2004

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