Thrive Rural: Connecting Rural Development, Health and Opportunity

Rural communities are integral to our nation’s economy, culture, history – and future. One in five Americans lives in a rural place. While many rural places are dynamic and thriving, others are struggling, with economies in stress and declining livelihoods and health outcomes. This is especially true in low-income communities and communities of color. We must do better – and we can.

Deep experience, knowledge and commitment exist to do what it takes to ensure rural places provide the opportunity for all residents to live full, healthy lives. However, efforts are too few, scattered and often miss something: cohesion, alignment and attention to structural drivers of inequity related to race, class, power and place. Progress demands developing a shared understanding of those drivers, as well as more effective means to address them. Realizing change requires intentional learning, communication, coordination and collaboration across the many sectors, disciplines and geographies that are essential to health and prosperity.

To this end, Thrive Rural a new effort of the Aspen Institute Community Strategies Group in partnership with the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation – focuses on creating shared vision and understanding about what it will take to create dynamic, sustainable rural communities where all people can realize their full potential and live healthy lives.

With an intentional emphasis on the intersection of race, class and place, Thrive Rural will:

Elevate What Works and What’s Needed
  • Discover, synthesize, curate and share the best knowledge and evidence of what is working; build a shared understanding of the state of relevant policy, systems and practices – and what is needed to realize improvements in rural community conditions, health and wellbeing.
Ask Questions and Generate New Insights
  • Create systems for iterative learning, asking questions that prompt new ideas and insights and framing new research and analysis that fills gaps and prompts targeted action.
 Bridge Health with Community and Economic Development
  • Connect practitioners, policy makers and academics across sectors and regions to weave a more organized, unified and powerful network dedicated to improving rural community conditions and advancing rural health and prosperity.
Shine Light on Shared Fate
  • Heighten awareness and strengthen understanding of the interdependence of urban and rural America, providing stories of people and places that offer a truer, more balanced account of rural America – its diversity, contribution and value to our nation.

We will work closely with academics, practitioners, and policy makers with deep roots in rural America to integrate local knowledge and experience. Our aim is a more coherent field and a solid base for changes in policy, systems and practice that build stronger rural and regional economies, more inclusive rural communities and healthier rural people.