Aspen Institute Community Strategies Group Launches the Thrive Rural Framework, a New Tool to Take Stock, Target Action, and Gauge Progress on Rural Prosperity

March 17, 2022

New tool weaves community innovations and tested approaches for working together on critical issues to achieve equitable rural prosperity.

Contact: Erin Cahill
Associate Director of Communications
The Aspen Institute Community Strategies Group 

Washington DC, March 17, 2022 – The Aspen Institute Community Strategies Group, in partnership with the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is launching the Thrive Rural Framework. It will help policymakers, media, funders, and communities to advance rural prosperity. The framework envisions a future where communities and Native nations across the rural United States are healthy places where each and every person belongs, lives with dignity, and thrives.

Rural communities and Native nations are integral to our entire nation’s economy, culture, and future. One in five people in this country live in rural places, and one in four of those rural residents are people of color. Rural locales are the primary home for the manufacturing, energy, agriculture, and forestry sectors that drive much of the wealth generation at the foundation of our economy.

“The Thrive Rural Framework focuses on what needs to be true in communities and in larger systems to produce life essentials like quality housing and good jobs. To achieve a thriving community, we need shared thinking and goals and the readiness and organizational structures to learn and act together. That’s the guidance that the framework provides,” said Bonita Robertson-Hardy, Co-Executive Director of the Aspen Institute Community Strategies Group. “The framework is grounded in the relationships and connections that underlie rural development: people, governments, and systems all working together to achieve greater rural prosperity for all.”

Critically, the framework confronts and seeks to address the reality that people in rural communities and Native nations face unique types of systemic discrimination due to race, place, and class. The Foundational Element of the framework requires identifying and dismantling historical and ongoing discriminatory practices that disadvantage rural people and places based on the location or size of the community; racial, immigrant, or cultural identity; and wealth or income level. 

“The framework is an important contribution among efforts to increase racial equity, prosperity, and health in low-wealth and BIPOC rural communities,” said Katrina Badger, Program Officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “It has the potential to spark new and different conversations and actions across sectors, silos, and regions; surface new insight and learning; and hopefully advance a more connected and cohesive approach to building thriving communities across the nation.”

The Thrive Rural Framework was developed collaboratively from the ground up with the Thrive Rural Theory of Change Working Group and input from the Thrive Rural National Advisory Committee. The members of these groups brought perspectives from the diversity of our country’s rural places, economies, populations, and culture to the fruitful investigation, conversation, and collaboration that enabled this framework’s development. The Thrive Rural Framework calls for an asset-based approach and working across both the local-level and system-level of change to clarify and address the underlying factors that must be true to create prosperous rural communities. 

“The Thrive Rural Framework is a tool that can help us acknowledge and take action to undo the underlying systems and structures of harm that have been pervasive and persistent,” said Marjory Givens, Associate Director of UWPHI. “With evidence-informed change strategies aligned with this framework, backed by political will and equitable investments, we can work together to chart a new course towards thriving rural communities and Tribal Nations.”

CSG invites everyone invested in the prosperity and wellbeing of rural communities and Native nations — from local leaders and organizations to philanthropists and policymakers — to use the framework as the starting point of a shared approach or as a way to engage on vital issues.


The Aspen Institute Community Strategies Group (CSG) convenes, equips, and inspires local leaders as they build more prosperous regions and advance those living on the economic margins — with our primary focus on rural America since our founding in 1985. Committed to increasing equity and opportunity, CSG advances an asset-based and systems-building approach to improve economic, social, and health outcomes through community and economic development. 

The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the most important challenges facing the United States and the world. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, and an international network of partners. For more information, please visit

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