We were part of The Aspen Institute Community Strategies Group 2019 project to explore Rural Development Hubs — organizations at the heart of positive development and inclusive action in rural places. The 12 ways of working that sets hubs apart from other organizations illustrate how we are uniquely positioned to advance Grow Our Own. (We adapted the following list from the report to incorporate into our current strategic plan.)
- Think and work “Region.” Whether based in one community or across state lines, we do our work using a regional mindset and engaging regional action.
- Assemble the region for discovery and dialogue. Rural regions are home to many organizations and political and municipal jurisdictions. We assemble people across politics, class, sector and geographic boundaries.
- We are of our region, know our region and trusted in our region. We live where we act. We offer authentic voice, building understanding and relationships critical to making good decisions and working together across difference.
- Take the long view. We think long-term with an unwavering, multi-generational commitment to the communities where we work. Achieving lasting outcomes spans generations and we know our work has an arc of 20 to 50 years.
- Bridge across issues and silos. We are the antidote to inaction. We represent the capability to link different worlds of many other local, caring single sector players (e.g., hospitals, schools, businesses).
- Actively analyze at the systems level, and intentionally address gaps in the system. Our leaders take a wide view of their geographic, economic, social and cultural responsibilities. We fill in thinking, action and resource gaps when mission, scope or funding streams limit the ability (real or perceived) of other organizations to respond to local priorities.
- Create structures, products and tools for effective solutions. We prompt, facilitate and create structures that bring partners together across service areas, sectors, municipal and political boundaries to provide solutions.
- Collaborate as an essential way of being and doing. Collaboration (and partnership) is standard practice for us. We foster transformational (not transactional) regional collaboration that cuts across economic sectors and urban/rural spaces.
- Translate, span and integrate action between local and national actors. Bridging between macro-scale policies and micro-level community action, we connect local people and projects to national trends, innovations and funding.
- Flex, innovate and become what we need to become to get the job done. We adapt our strategic direction and create new products and services to align with shifts in community needs.
- Take and tolerate risk. Taking risk is fundamental to innovation. We tend to have a high tolerance for calculated risk taking, some level of comfort with failure, and a mindset geared toward invention.
- Hold ourselves accountable to the whole community. We consider ourselves primarily responsible to our region, and to fostering “community” where everyone can participate – in the economy, democracy and decision making.
Source: Aspen Institute Community Strategies Group. (May 2019). “Rural Development Hubs: Strengthening America’s Rural Innovation Structure.”