State Policy

RUPRI State Policy Initiative

The Rural Policy Research Institute (RUPRI) conducted a process facilitating discussions on the need for and the framing of a program of work for the State Rural Policy Initiative. The initiative is an exciting new program that will provide rural policy leaders with powerful, proven tools to enhance rural research, practice and public policy at the state level. The ultimate goal is to create more vibrant rural communities and increased prosperity in our rural regions, our 50 states, and our nation.

RUPRI State Policy Roundtable Video – USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack from RUPRI.

Check out the new innovation tab below!  The innovations team will be searching out and publishing innovative practices and initiatives around the country. Please share these and submit your own!

RUPRI State Policy

Our country’s natural resource treasure is stewarded on the nearly 80% of our land we call rural America, which is also home to 60 million citizens. Since our nation’s founding, this land and its people have provided the food, fuel, and fiber for all our citizens; and our history, heritage, and culture have their roots in these small and rural villages, countrysides, and open landscapes. Today, these rural communities and working landscapes remain foundations of strength and resiliency, providing oft-overlooked contributions to national security, sustainability, and prosperity. And as never before, the health, welfare, and future viability of urban America are directly linked to the wellbeing of rural America.

Just as rural exports led our recovery from the Great Recession, continuing economic growth will be driven by the ever-increasing interdependence of urban and rural economies, resources, investments, and citizens. Given this dynamic, it is essential that rural considerations are taken into greater account at all policy decision-making levels. Assuring a well-governed, adequately resourced, and innovative rural America is more important than it has ever been to the rest of America.

The federal government must maintain a prominent role in assuring policy, program, and funding innovations advance these rural opportunities. But states are by far the most creative current laboratories for rural innovation and rural/urban collaboration. As U.S. federalism continues to devolve, more attention must be paid to policies and programs at the state level, and below.

Since its founding 25 years ago, RUPRI’s mission has remained to facilitate public dialogue and provide objective analysis regarding the impact of public policies on rural people and places. State, county, and local governments, higher education institutions, and community-based organizations will increasingly be the change agents which unite and align these resources and strategies. Therefore, this becomes a major new policy foci for rural futures. The RUPRI State Policy Initiative is designed to underscore and support this work, and this Panel is its cornerstone. This work will be framed upon the assumptions below, which will drive the research and outreach agenda for this initiative.

Program Perspective

  • Building sufficient capacity remains a critical rural challenge. If rural communities and regions are to plan for and implement intentional futures, validating the beneficial interdependence of rural regions surrounding thriving urban growth centers, hard and soft rural infrastructure must be strengthened.
  • This will require inclusive decision-making structures and processes, which promote participation, collaboration, and organizational, institutional, and governmental innovation. Diverse age, gender, ethnicity, income, and geographic constituencies must be included and engaged.
  • Of perhaps greatest importance, Next Generation participation and leadership is essential, and must be consistently supported.
  • The future of rural regions and the communities of which they are comprised will be largely determined by their innovation, entrepreneurship, and asset-based place-making successes. Equity of opportunity for economic, cultural, and social success must all be present and aligned, or future community success will be compromised.
  • State, regional, and county level policy considerations must increasingly include specific attention to land, water, air, and natural resource stewardship, a key future quality of life determinant.
  • As with innovation and stewardship, a cornerstone of “Next Generation Rural Communities” will be a spirit of civic engagement, with active citizen participation in local decision-making, and a more general concern for state and federal policy considerations affecting their rural future. These processes must be acknowledged and encouraged.

Program Outcomes

The State Policy Panel will build a product and dissemination program grounded in these assumptions, which will include:

  • Identifying emerging innovations in state and sub-state policy and program design which support these assumptions, documenting and sharing those most promising;
  • Conducting or coordinating research to assess the impact of these innovations;
  • Building clearinghouse capacity, to drive information exchange and lessen duplication of effort in these approaches;
  • Helping rural regions identify, implement and maximize viable, sustainable options for renewal and development;
  • Connecting practice and research to policy development and execution, to ensure evidence and experience-based successes are taken from the ground to the policy process; and,
  • In all the above, clearly articulating both the unique rural challenges and opportunities which the public, private, and philanthropic sectors face in supporting these

State Policy Panel Members

Wes Curtis, Executive Director, Southern Utah University Regional Services, Utah

Barry L. Denk, Director, The Center for Rural Pennsylvania

Michael W-P Fortunato, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Engaged Scholar, and Director , Center for Rural Studies at Sam Houston State University, Texas

Cheryal Lee Hills, Executive Director Region Five Development Commission, Minnesota

John Molinaro, President and CEO, Appalachian Partnership for Economic Growth (APEG), Ohio

Christy Tomlinson Morton, Executive Director, Center for Rural Virginia

Charles P. “Chuck” Schroeder, Founding Executive Director of the Rural Futures Institute, University of Nebraska

Connie Stewart, Executive Director, California Center for Rural Policy (CCRP)

David Terrell, Panel Chair and Director of Economic Development Policy at Ball State University, Indiana

Norman Walzer, Senior Research Scholar, Center for Governmental Studies at Northern Illinois University

Panel Members Bios and Photos


At RUPRI, we believe that good ideas should be shared, and that policymakers should have access to a thoughtful analysis of novel projects engaging the challenges of rural communities across the country.  The following case studies are real stories about real people making new things happen in rural communities.  This “idea book” shares some of their secret recipes about how citizens and organizations identified a problem, and worked together to create a novel way to solve it.  Each feature highlights the problem each community or region tried to solve, how each initiative was organized and funded, and some of the barriers and triumphs these innovators faced along the way.  There is no one right way to do innovation, so we at RUPRI will be providing you with new features every few weeks  – feel free to draw inspiration from these stories, mix and match approaches, or develop your own.  We hope this resource encourages and empowers you as you make your community or region a more innovative place. 

Invitation to submit ideas: 

Got an innovative community/regional project or program?  We want to feature it!  Just download our Innovation Submission Worksheet form, fill it out, and email it to  We review submissions every quarter.  If your submission qualifies for a feature, we will contact you shortly to schedule a brief interview.

Innovation Summaries: 

Dell’Arte International is an arts-oriented program using physical theater forms to explore contemporary concerns, and to promote an array of goals for the benefit of both students and the surrounding communities.  Students are able to transform community members’ perspectives regarding the arts and often evoke more positive feelings towards theater, all while developing their own talents, passions, and communication skills.

Delle Arte

Read more about Dell’Arte International


Taos County Economic Development Corporation (TCEDC) is a community development center that empowers and equips entrepreneurs to move from the informal economy into the formal economy.  More than just a small business incubator, TCEDC represents the dynamic process of matching real community needs to innovative opportunities.

Taos cover photo option one

Read more about the Taos County Economic Development Corporation

Ogallala Commons is an umbrella organization that matches and oversees an intentional partnership between interns and sponsor businesses situated in the interns’ home communities. Interns are trained to use the Commonwealths framework to understand their communities – noticing ecological, economic and social assets that create sustainable wealth. The internship experience is designed to spark and strengthen community relationships and opportunities.

Ogallala Commons image

Read more about Ogallala Commons

In Vermont, local food producers, processing facilities, wholesale and retail outlets, and other members the food system are connected in a dynamic new way through the Farm to Plate network. As different stakeholders work together around common goals and challenges, the food system as a whole is better positioned to discover and embrace opportunities that emerge from collaboration.

F2P image

Read more about Farm to Plate

CEO class (Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities) engages high school juniors and seniors in a hands-on learning experience embedded in the context of the businesses in their hometown. Financed by the contributions of local investors, the CEO class gives students access to mentoring relationships with business leaders and the opportunity to design and start a real business. The goal of the experience is to equip young entrepreneurs with the ability to see and take advantage of the possibilities for opportunity and success in their home communities.

CEO image

Read more about CEO class (Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities)

Roundup Technology is a student run media business housed in the public high school in Mosquero, New Mexico. Students participating in the program offer community members such services as DVD and CD production, photo duplication and restoration, graphics, photo pins and gifts, and media assistance. In the process, students gain experience operating a small business, develop leadership and entrepreneurial skills, and explore creative and tangible ways to be involved and contribute to their home community.

Roundup tech image

Read more about Roundup Technology

 Regional Work

SOAR Shaping Our Appalachian Region

In early fall of 2013, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear and Kentucky 5th District Congressman Hal Rogers began discussing the possibility of collaborating, across political party lines, to create an initiative to address the challenges facing Eastern Kentucky. They specifically were not interested in yet another of the serial task forces, blue ribbon panels or commissions, which have analyzed and strategized over this region for half a century. Rather, they were considering an event or initiative that might enable the region to reassess its current challenges, and discuss ideas or innovations already underway which could be leveraged or aligned to capture emergent regional development opportunities. But above all else, they hoped to create a neutral venue for the region’s organizations, institutions, businesses, leaders, and citizens to discuss a new beginning, hope, vision, and collaboration.

Click here for link to the videos of first SOAR Summit

SOAR’s Mission: To expand job creation, enhance regional opportunity, innovation, and identity,improve the quality of life, and support all those working to achieve these goals in Appalachian Kentucky.

SOAR’s Vision: An Appalachian Kentucky engaged in a landscape-changing enterprise: Shaped by a shared and envisioned future,Driven by innovation, entrepreneurship, and a commitment to common purpose,With improved education, health, and economic outcomes,and expanding opportunities, for all our region’s citizens.

SOAR’s Values: SOAR is a widely-shared enterprise. Our commitment to build greater prosperity, resilience, and equity in the region is posited upon a belief that support for, and strengthened partnerships among, those already working to achieve these goals is the wisest course.Our trust rests in the region’s greatest assets, upon which this future will be built: its people, places, and heritage, and in these mountains we call home.

Visit SOAR Kentucky Website