Community leadership development in rural communities is foundational to their efforts to create vital places, as without skilled leaders, rural towns can find it difficult to reach consensus about local priorities and agree on how to move forward. In partnership with the Ford Institute for Community Building, RDI trained in more than 300 communities and rural remote locations in Oregon and Siskiyou County, California, and subsequently in rural Washington communities through the Rural Community Leadership Program.
Several participants have noticed the vast impact the program has had on their community building skills. Rural Community Leadership program graduate Somer Lynn Meade explained, “Participating in the RDI Leadership program was a transformative experience for me. I enjoyed the curriculum and the exercises, but more than anything, I enjoyed building a community within our community. It’s been incredible getting to know everyone in our cohort and building on each other’s strengths. I’m so appreciative for the opportunities participating in this program have afforded me and my family!”
An independent study also found that 82% of program participants said the program increased the number of community leaders in their town, while 85% reported classes helped them create a better future for their community.
Building on the program’s success, following the pandemic and the RuraLead initiative, RDI has had the opportunity to consider new models of supporting rural places as they work to build and sustain community leadership. The RDI team is excited to pilot new approaches that are adaptable to community needs, provide more “train the trainer” programming to sustain skill-building locally, and offer a menu of virtual and in-person options.