New School of Participatory Change

Our Mission

Equip participatory changemakers and organizations to create conditions for equitable, self-sustaining change.

Our vision

We envision thriving, equitable, and life-affirming futures. Futures in which participatory practice is integrated into all parts of society. Where we live in hand-in-hand partnership and collaboration, collectively working to cultivate pathways to equitable abundance and well-being for all. Where we collectively dismantle and replace current pathways of systemic oppression and degradation that undermine the beauty and well-being of people, places, and the planet. Futures in which exclusion, oppression, and injustice are systematically eliminated. 

Radically imagined futures where lived experience, wisdom, and well-being for all people, places, and the planet are valued. Futures in which we acknowledge the histories of colonialism and discrimination that have held minority communities down. Co-created futures in which we use those histories to inform our full embrace of the wisdom of BIPOC folks; of LGBTQIA+ folx; and of women. Futures in which we participate in collective leadership anchored by diverse persons and collective strength that allow us to experience shared joy, energy, abundance, and health. 

Futures where communities are governed with participatory democracy, cared for and cultivated by participatory leaders, and celebrated for their diversity, partnerships, and beauty. Futures where folks engage in meaningful, thriving livelihoods in which they share their gifts and geniuses to create holistic and communal wealth. Futures in which people can stay in the places they love as a result of participatory, democratic, and just communities. Where ongoing spaces for participatory practitioners to learn, share, and support one another to sustain the community’s well-being are joyfully cultivated. 

what we do

The New School equips leaders, organizations, networks, and businesses to navigate the evolving conditions affecting our communities. We provide changemakers the tools and practices necessary to interrupt the multiple oppressions that affect communities and ultimately make equitable, self-sustaining change. We help you navigate complexity, serve your community, interrupt oppression, and make change by supporting leaders and organizations to create conditions for: 

  • empowered participation,
  • collective leadership,
  • shared power,
  • and lasting change movements and infrastructure,

which enable folks to co-create accessible and just communities valued for their beauty, health, and well-being. 

Through the New School’s Community of Practice (CoP), which will launch later this year, we will host ongoing space for participatory changemakers to learn, share, and support one another. We offer experience for organizations and networks, too, that guide you to move toward being participatory in your structures, work, and vision, ultimately resulting in a deeper, more equitable, self-sustaining impact.

our team

Atlas Charles, director of the new school of participatory change

Atlas Charles

Atlas (they/them), a dedicated participatory changemaker, combines their rich expertise in education and social change with their lived experiences as a trans, queer, and neurodivergent Appalachian to uniquely inform their work as the Director of the New School. Atlas skillfully creates brave spaces that promote inclusivity and open dialogue among participants. Integrating storytelling, experiential learning, and discussion through the New School's offerings, they foster reflection and self-awareness among participants and equip them with the tools and confidence to become authentic, inclusive, regenerative changemakers who create the conditions for equitable change in their own communities. This community-based teaching approach cultives a thriving community of peers within the New School's cohort experiences, providing participants with ongoing peer-support beyond their course. Unleash your potential as a changemaker with Atlas' guidance.

Click here to learn more about Atlas.
Thomas Watson

Thomas Watson

Instructor, Thought Partner
Thomas (he/him), the owner and director of RSP, brings a wealth of expertise to the New School. With a deep understanding of rural communities and a passion for participatory approaches, Thomas is committed to empowering leaders and fostering sustainable change. His extensive experience in community engagement and capacity building makes him an invaluable resource for those seeking to create inclusive and thriving communities. As a respected thought leader, he has led numerous successful initiatives, empowering leaders and cultivating sustainable change. Thomas' unique blend of expertise in community engagement, capacity building, and systems thinking enables him to guide individuals and organizations towards transformative impact. Join us and learn from Thomas as he guides you on the path to cultivating collaborative and meaningful change.

Click here to learn more about Thomas.
Alexa Hinrichs, manager of the new school of participatory change

Alexa Hinrichs

Alexa (she/her) is a Fellow with RSP and the manager of the New School. Alexa oversees the daily management of the school and provides general assistance for other RSP projects. She previously was an intern with RSP focusing on work with the Central Appalachian Network. This work led to her capstone paper titled "Expanding Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Acceptance at Farmers Markets in Central Appalachia as a Means of Economic Development."

Prior to joining RSP, Alexa worked in the mental health field in direct care and administrative roles. She discovered her interest in nonprofit and social enterprise leadership and management after noticing and experiencing the struggles that these organizations often face. She hopes to draw from her clinical and administrative experience to help individuals and organizations function at their full potential and make a greater impact on those they serve.

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Sign up for RSP and The New School's newsletter to receive updates from RSP, course and programming announcements from The New School, and tools and resources gathered and developed by our team with 50 years of combined experience in nonprofit and social-enterprise management, philanthropy, network development, and community development finance.

The New School of Participatory Change is an extension of Rural Support Partners

Rural Support Partners equips changemakers, organizations, and networks to cultivate lasting, equitable, participatory change in rural areas.

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