Rural Support Partners, mission-driven management consultants with a participatory approach to create lasting, equitable change in rural areas. Rural community and economic development.

Thomas Watson

Owner & Managing Director

Thomas Watson is a social entrepreneur with 25+ years of experience in nonprofit and business management, community economic development, network building, and philanthropy. Before founding RSP, Thomas served as the Director of the Grassroots Support Project at the Southern Rural Development Initiative (SRDI) where he worked to deepen the impact and scale of grassroots economic development organizations in the Deep South and Central Appalachia.

Thomas came to SRDI after working as a Senior Program Consultant / National Program Officer focused on grassroots leadership and social enterprise development within The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Making Connection Initiative—a 10-year, $500 million initiative to create better outcomes for kids living in 22 low-income cities across the United States.

As the co-founder and co-director of the Center for Participatory Change, he worked hand-in-hand with grassroots groups across Western North Carolina to create economic opportunities and increase equity for rural and marginalized people. Thomas’ first community organizing job was in Minneapolis, MN where he organized public housing tenants, churches, and unhoused individuals toward a city-wide effort to increase affordable housing, reduce homelessness, and limit gentrification.

During his tenure at RSP, Thomas has served on the Ford Foundation’s Rural Wealth Creation Management Team and participated as a strategy team member for the Kate B. Reynolds Foundation’s Healthy Places NC Initiative—a 10-year, $100 million initiative to improve the health and overall quality of life for people in rural NC. He currently sits on the Community Investment Council of the Richmond Federal Reserve Bank and recently rotated off the Board of Directors for Invest Appalachia.

After growing up in Galax, Virginia, Thomas’ early career included being a factory worker, alternative school teacher, and a banker. He holds a Master of Social Work degree from UNC-Chapel Hill, where he completed internships with Grassroots Leadership and the Highlander Center. He’s also a graduate of Guilford College in Greensboro, NC and Wytheville Community College in Wytheville, VA, where he studied business management and finance.

Thomas is a management consultant who will help you deepen your impact and broaden your scale.

Areas of Expertise

Community Economic Development * Business & Nonprofit Management * Philanthropy * Social Enterprise * Value Chains * Network Development & Evaluation * Theory of Change * Model Development * Participatory Evaluation * Training & Coaching * Facilitation * Measurement Systems * Strategic Planning * Executive Transitions

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Management - Strategy - Collaboration

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

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