Our regional work is focused on supporting Central Appalachia to realize its full potential as a region of resilient communities and broadly shared prosperity. We partner with place-based anchor organizations and networks who are working to advance a more just and sustainable economic transition of central Appalachia.

Through much of Appalachia’s history, a complex set of economic, social, environmental, and political factors have prevented the region from reaching its full economic potential.  These factors include a lack of economic diversity, out-of-state ownership of industry, lack of investment in the region, undervaluing of education, outmigration, political disengagement, negative narratives about the region, undervaluing of natural assets, and lack of local control. The region continues to struggle with some of the highest rates of poverty, unemployment, and chronic health problems in the nation, despite our abundant natural resources, strong cultural heritage, and entrepreneurial spirit. Yet the region is changing rapidly, and our work is part of a broad and growing movement for economic transition.

We envision a sustainable and entrepreneurial regional economy that builds on local assets to promote opportunity and equity for all, while sustaining the environmental and cultural assets of our region. Our work in Central Appalachia is geared towards supporting system-level change across sectors, industries, and geographies. We work with anchor organizations, networks, and resource providers to grow organizational capacity, create shared vision, align strategies, facilitate peer learning, foster collaboration, influence policy, leverage resources, and understand impacts. We help implement new approaches to community economic development and work to turn promising community-based sectors into economic drivers.  By strengthening our region’s community economic development capacity, supporting system leadership, and aligning resources, we believe that the collective work towards Appalachia’s economic transition can add up to much more than the sum of its parts.

Strategies

Our work aims to help the Central Appalachian region strengthen the capacity, connections, and infrastructure necessary to drive large scale regional change. This includes the community economic development leaders, anchor organizations, businesses, resources providers, innovative economic models, peer networks, and thriving sectors necessary to realize a transition to a more just, sustainable, and resilient regional economy.

To advance this regional agenda, we focus on the following strategies:

  1. Deepen the effectiveness and impact of anchor organizations and system leaders,social enterprise businesses, and value chains so that they are organizationally strong and strategically aligned. We provide anchor organizations with hands-on, long-term organizational development support including strategic planning, board development, participatory evaluation. We coach and advise regional leaders to help them strengthen their vision, capacity, and focus. These organizations have deeper impacts in local communities, can better engage in regional-scale activities and collaborations, and more effectively sustain their efforts over the long haul.
  2. Catalyze networks and collaborationsso that organizations can partner effectively to advance regional-scale strategies and support peer learning. As a backbone support organization, we help support collective impact by providing network management and coordination, resulting in effective and sustainable networks that help regional efforts add up to more than the sum of their parts. These resilient networks serve as the social infrastructure for Appalachia’s economic transition.
  3. Organize financial resources for change, so that resources and resource-providers are well-organized, deeply connected to the work on the ground, responsive to practitioner needs, and aligned in their investment strategies. We facilitate relationship building, peer learning and analysis around specific sectors or opportunities, and collaborative planning. The alignment of these resource providers helps maximize individual impacts, catalyze larger-scale projects, and leverage additional investment into the region.
  4. Operationalize emerging models for change, such as social enterprises, value chains, and new ownership models, so that our region’s strategies are at the forefront of the sustainable economic development field.  We facilitate action-oriented initiatives with partners who are figuring out how new economic models can target economic leverage points and accelerate promising sectors. We provide research capacity and conduct “think-do” tanks to workshop approaches, connecting regional efforts to cutting edge approaches from around the country.  We aim to help the region’s businesses, value chains, and social enterprises be innovative and collaborative, utilizing the power of the marketplace to build resilient economies that benefit Appalachian communities.

 

We define community economic development as a strategy that builds on rural people’s experiences and existing natural, cultural, and structural resources for the purpose of generating income, building power among marginalized populations, protecting the environment, and promoting social and economic justice within rural communities.