Developing Rural Leaders​

RDI’s flagship program provides a foundation to grow vital communities by training a critical mass of connected leaders.  Program participants learn to identify community needs, work together to identify priorities, and ensure community projects are implemented.

Rural Development Initiatives’ proven Rural Community Leadership program builds collaboration, collective action, and fundamental skills; connecting a critical mass of emerging and existing local leaders.

In rural communities we understand that leadership is not a position, it’s an activity! Anyone has the opportunity to grow the skills to be a leader. RDI’s Rural Community Leadership Program (RCLP) connects rural Pacific Northwest residents to each other and to efforts and organizations in their communities. It does so in ways that encourage involvement, collaboration, and collective action while building fundamental skills – and promoting vitality in rural places. 

Over the past 2 years community involvement has decreased by 66% and demands are at a historic high. RDI firmly believes that local people getting involved in the organizations and groups that make up the tapestry of their community is foundational for rural vitality. The underlying premise is that who comes to the table matters. With a focus on action and connection rather than position the Rural Community Leadership Program engages emerging and existing leaders in activities that honor and strengthen local visions and efforts.

The spark of leadership catches where we live, learn, work, and play.

The Rural Community Leadership program is a cohort-designed program for anyone who wants to make a difference in their community. Participants explore crucial leadership concepts unique to being a community-centered leader in a rural community. Our leadership training is based on the belief that vital rural communities develop from:
  • A broad base of diverse, knowledgeable, skilled, and connected local leaders
  • Effective organizations
  • Productive collaborations among all voices in a community.
Each cohort consists of a mix of 25-35 diverse new/young, emerging, and active leaders. An ideal candidate is someone who is looking to… Make a Difference: Those who have desire to serve their rural community. Expand Skills: Those who are working toward cultivating and expanding their leadership skills to advance within their school or personal lives. Get Connected: Those who would like to get connected to others outside of their present circles The program is packed with experiential learnings, peer bonding, and other leadership growth opportunities. The program includes:
    • Four in-person intensive workshops
    • Two virtual skills trainings and peer mentoring
    • Community engagement and investments
    •  Cohort celebration
    • Ongoing coaching and peer mentoring
Expectations: There is no cost to you but we ask that you commit to the program activities to complete the program successfully. Each session is highly interactive and covers multiple leadership objectives. RDI works with regional and local philanthropic partners to ensure this program is available at no cost for participants. The value of this program – over 32 hours of development, food, coaching, materials, and classes – retails for over $2,500 per participant.

“The moment you educate someone… a spark of understanding flashes in their eye. They become invested and responsible. They realize that they have the power to do something to help our community. And if we are lucky, that spark is just the beginning to bigger and greater things.”

~ Rural Community Leadership Program Participant

Why participate in this program?

Participants will walk away with a better understanding of themselves, their unique leadership skills, and the tools needed to be effective leaders in their communities and organizations. Objectives include:
  1. Leadership in Community: gain a deeper understanding of yours and others leadership styles and identify your strengths and weaknesses.
  2. Community Centered Interests: explore your community’s interests and build upon current efforts.
  3. Appreciating & Working with Differences: build your capacity to work with people in your community who have a different perspective.
  4. Moving to Action: strengthen your ability to host effective meetings, build consensus, and move teams to action towards community vitality.
  5. Navigating Conflict: learn to navigate difficult situations and conversations to create the best possible outcomes for all parties involved.
  6. Community-Led Initiatives: practice authenticity, vulnerability, and equity; and effectively strengthen your community.

“Every day I feel more empowered about our project as well as future projects just by implementing what we have applied and getting back to our questions of “who is not in the room”?”

RDI Program Participant

“In this course I learned so much, I became convinced that a person can grow a concept into a team effort to help their community!”

~ Rural Community Leadership Program Participant


The leadership program results in: 
  • 7 years of increased and diversified local engagement
  • 92% increased collaboration, communication, and connection between people & organizations
  • 85% increased investment in local priorities and projects
  • Increased capacity for succession and leadership transfer to new and existing leaders

This leadership program is for:

  • people who want to be involved and make a difference.
  • people who are interested in taking a larger role
  • people who want to strengthen their teams
  • people who want to see more coordination in community efforts
  • people who want to feel more connected to their community.


Milton-Freewater Community Leadership Program

Now in it’s 20th year, RDI is partnering with Sherwood Trust to offer Community Leadership training in Milton-Freewater Oregon in 2024.  Registration is now open! 

Ahora en su vigésimo año, RDI se asocia con Sherwood Trust para ofrecer capacitación de liderazgo comunitario en Milton-Freewater, Oregon durante el 2024. ¡La inscripción ya está abierta!

Othello Community Leadership Program

RDI is excited to be offering leadership training for Othello WA, as part of the USDA Rural Placemaking Innovation Challenge. Applications are now closed. 

Please let us know if you are interested in participating in a future cohort of this program or would like more information by using this form

Sweet Home Community Leadership Program

RDI is excited to be offering leadership training for Sweet Home community members! Applications are now closed. 

Please let us know if you are interested in participating in a future cohort of this program or would like more information by using this form

Clallam County Leadership Program

RDI is excited to be offering leadership training for North Olympic Peninsula community members! The Clallam County Leadership Program serves regions including the homeland territories of the Hoh, Makah, Quileute, Chimacum, Jamestown S’Klallam, and Lower Elwha Klallam peoples, and the cities of Port Angeles, Sequim, and Forks.

The second cohort of Clallam County Community Leadership program started in September. Please let us know if you are interested in participating in a future cohort of this program or would like more information by using this form


If you are interested in learning more about the program and how to bring it to your community, click the button below and we will be in touch!


Christine Gilmore

Director of Community Leadership Programs cgilmore (at)

Heidi Khokhar

Executive Director
hkhokhar (at)

Hannah Lewis

Impact and Networks Manager
hlewis (at)