Kathryn Coulter, Project Manager

Kathryn has been with RSP since June 2013, focusing primarily on coordinating the Appalachia Funders Network’s efforts to engage national philanthropic organizations in regional efforts that support economic diversification in Central Appalachia. Other projects include facilitating a participatory evaluation of the Appalachian Transition Fellowship Program and supporting the development of RSP’s field building efforts.

Kathryn grew up outside of Chicago and was driven to understand a more rural perspective after a semester abroad in Mali, West Africa. After earning a B.A. in both International Studies and French, she was drawn to Appalachia during a year working with a watershed restoration organization in the Anthracite coal mining region of Pennsylvania through AmeriCorps VISTA. She then earned her M.A. in Geography from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where her thesis explored the factors helping and hurting the ability of small-scale farmers in Burkina Faso to produce organic and Fair Trade cotton. She used her knowledge of community-based rural development domestically leading a team of VISTA members to promote local community development and environmental stewardship across Appalachia. Rural Support Partners has become the place where she combines her graduate research in West African rural livelihoods and the cotton value chain with her experience working closely with rural communities in Central Appalachia.

Andrew Crosson, Director of Regional Initiatives

Andrew has been at Rural Support Partners since June of 2012. As Director of Regional Initiatives at RSP, Andrew works with leaders, organizations, and networks to support regional strategies that advance Appalachia’s transition towards a just and sustainable economy for all. A native of Appalachia, his path to sustainable economic development work began in a small farming community in the mountains of rural Western North Carolina. His occupations over the years have included everything from carpentry, fence-building and saw-milling to working at his family’s local food retail business in Fairview, NC. He completed undergraduate studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he earned Bachelor’s Degrees in History and Political Science with Honors, a minor in Environmental Studies, and was a founding member of campus groups devoted to local food systems and community gardens. Andrew’s international experience includes a semester of study abroad in Spain, a summer of independent field research in South America, and two years teaching English in Spain, as well as travel in over 25 countries and 5 continents. He completed a Master’s degree in Sociology at the University of Granada in Spain, where his thesis research focused on the role of agriculture in rural development and sustainability. Andrew is on the board of directors of Just Economics of Western North Carolina, a non-profit supporting living wage employment, policy advocacy for equitable housing and transportation, and grassroots leadership development. He serves on the advisory board of The Lord’s Acre, a non-profit community garden for the hungry. Andrew is also one of the 2016-2017 BALLE Local Economy Fellows.

Amy Jones, Senior Project ManagerPhoto of Amy Jones

Amy joined RSP in November 2017, building upon a career spanning the strategy consulting and international development sectors.

Prior to RSP, she led the Strategy department at FHI 360, where she oversaw the functions of strategic analysis and planning, resource allocation and corporate performance management. In an earlier position with Grameen Foundation, she managed corporate-wide initiatives to drive greater operational performance, position the organization for growth in strategic markets and establish and track key performance indicators. In both roles, she also worked closely with Business Unit and department directors on business planning, thinking creatively about business models to reach underserved market segments and identifying strategically-aligned partners.

In her first post-grad school position, she spent over four years with the Strategy and Organization practice at Booz Allen Hamilton, where she helped clients with strategic planning, core business process improvement, performance evaluation, strategic communications and change management efforts.

Amy has an MBA and a Masters in Public Policy.

Thomas M. Watson, Executive Director

Thomas M. Watson is a social entrepreneur with 20+ years of experience in nonprofit and business management, community-based economic development, and organizational capacity building. Currently, he is the owner/director of Rural Support Partners – a social enterprise working across the Southeast to strengthen anchor organizations, develop collective impact networks, and help move rural sustainable economic development efforts to scale. Prior to founding Rural Support Partners, Thomas was the director of the Grassroots Support Project at the Southern Rural Development Initiative (SRDI). At SRDI, Thomas worked to strengthen grassroots economic development organizations across the Southeast through the provision of hands-on organizational and leadership development support, development of regional networks, and the implementation of grassroots trainings. Thomas came to SRDI after working as a Senior Program Consultant with the Annie E. Casey Foundation in Baltimore, MD where he managed national funding initiatives focused on grassroots leadership and social enterprise development. He also co-founded the Center for Participatory Change in Asheville, NC and served as Co-Executive Director for five years. CPC supports grassroots groups in Western North Carolina through organizing, capacity building, network building, and a small grants program.

Thomas grew up in rural Appalachia and worked in manufacturing factories, as a teacher in an alternative school, and a banker before receiving his Master of Social Work degree from UNC-Chapel Hill – where he completed internships with Grassroots Leadership and the Highlander Center. He also has a BS in Business Management from Guilford College in Greensboro, NC.