past event
US Economy

Rural Development Hubs: Action Infrastructure for Rural Prosperity

Watch live at 10 AM Eastern on May 14

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Our nation – whether exemplified by the media, voters, public officials, investors, or neighbors – is full of questions about rural America. One set of questions we often hear from caring people with assets – foundation leaders, individual investors, and government officials: We’d like to do more for rural America, but we don’t know who to work with. And besides that, what works?”

One answer lies in the efforts of a special breed of rural and regional intermediaries, organizations at the heart of positive economic development and inclusion action in rural places. We call them Rural Development Hubs. Hubs are the main players advancing a fresh approach to “doing economic development differently.” That means they think of their job as identifying and connecting community assets to market demand to build lasting livelihoods. They focus on all the components – the people side, the business side, the local institutions and partnerships, and the range of natural, built, social, cultural and financial resources – that are critical ingredients in the system that either advances or impedes prosperity for all. 

Join us and Aspen Institute President Dan Porterfield on May 14th to hear from four Hub leaders, all members of the Rural Development Innovation Group, as they share what it takes to be a Hub – and why and how they do it. We’ll also discuss policy levers to support Rural Development Hubs and preview some of the topline findings from the Aspen Institute Community Strategies Group’s interviews with more than 40 of these field-leading organizations building better rural outcomes across America.

Our Moderator

Dan Porterfield
President and CEO, The Aspen Institute

Now President and CEO of the Aspen Institute, previously Dan served for seven years as the President of Franklin & Marshall College. He has been recognized as a visionary leader and advocate for expanding educational opportunity and improving the human condition and was named a White House Champion of Change in 2016. Prior to his appointment at Franklin & Marshall College, Dan served as Senior Vice President for Strategic Development and an English professor at his alma mater, Georgetown University, and for four years as a senior public affairs official in the US Department of Health and Human Services. He earned B.A. degrees from Georgetown and Oxford—where he was a Rhodes Scholar—and his Ph.D. from The City University of New York Graduate Center where he was awarded a Mellon Fellowship in the Humanities.

Our Panelists

Kelly Ryan
President and CEO, Incourage Community Foundation

For 20 years, Kelly Ryan has led Incourage in realizing its simple yet bold vision of a community that works well for all people. To advance an inclusive and sustainable economy in its rural central Wisconsin home, Incourage has developed a holistic approach that is values-led and user-centered. As CEO, Kelly is leading Incourage in its commitment to align all forms of capital with organizational values and mission congruence, placing primary value on human potential.

Connie Stewart
CEO, California Center for Rural Policy

Connie Stewart is Executive Director at the California Center for Rural Policy at Humboldt State University, a non-profit research center committed to informing policy, building community, and promoting the health and well-being of rural people and environments. The Center works on a variety of issues including: health care access, cost and quality; broadband deployment, adoption and policy; wealth creation and economic development; food systems and food security; and youth leadership and development.

Ines Polonius
CEO, Communities Unlimited

Ines is the CEO of Communities Unlimited, a CDFI and non-for-profit organization driving community economic development through infrastructure improvements coupled with the growth of small businesses in rural communities in Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee. In 2011, Ines and her team launched Delta BioEnergy, a wealth creation value chain to generate biofuel in the Arkansas Delta.  Working at the intersection of policy and practice, Ines and her team are developing small business financing models for businesses in low-wealth communities

Rob Riley
President, Northern Forest Center

Rob is a recognized nonprofit leader who has successfully led the Center in its transition through the 2008 economic downturn to produce tangible results for Northern Forest communities. Rob is quick to find opportunities for innovative approaches to generating local wealth and conserving working forestland. He keeps constant vigil over delivering on the Center’s mission and careful resource allocation to get the job done. Rob joined the Center in 2007 as director of programs, leading development of new programs emerging from the Center’s Sustainable Economy Initiative.

Katrina Badger
Program Officer, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Katrina Badger is a program officer with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focusing on efforts to create the conditions in communities that allow all residents to reach their best possible health and well-being, with a particular focus on low income people and people of color. At the heart of this work is creating social, economic, and environmental conditions that allow communities and their residents to thrive. She earned her MPH and MSW at Tulane University after completing a Fulbright Fellowship in Thailand and her BA at Howard University.

This event is sponsored by the Aspen Community Strategies Group with the
Rural Development Innovation Group and generous support from the
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Event information
Tue May 14, 2019
10:00am - 11:30am EDT
The Aspen Institute
2300 N Street NW
Washington, DC 20037