Community Building Approach

Rural residents taking the lead to build their community's future

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Why a community building approach?

There is tremendous capacity in the rural people and places in our area to make great things happen. And we hear time and again from people who want more, different or better opportunities for their children, families and communities. A Community Building Approach builds on the powerful leadership development and capacity building work the Ford Institute accomplished from 2003 to 2016. The programs engaged more than 6,000 rural community builders from 88 rural hubs throughout rural Oregon and Siskiyou County, Calif. 

We believe real and lasting change wells up from within communities and that communities are best positioned to know their own needs. We also believe rural residents can and must create and lead the change they want to see for positive, meaningful and enduring change to occur.

What is a community building approach?

While rural residents and communities need to create and lead the change they want to see, none have to go it alone. Community Building supports communities through the effort. At its core, the Community Building Approach is a mindset rooted in humility, hope and seeking to bring out the best in all. The Community Building Approach is inclusive, comprehensive and is created and led by locals and local organizations. The activities around the Community Building Approach will look different in different communities, but the underlying approach will remain constant. It will be centered in the following four principles

  1. Go to where the people are
  2. Start with what you know, build on what you have
  3. Be profoundly inclusive
  4. Keep the community at the center of the work

(Click on the diagram to enlarge.)

And it will engage the following six practices. 

  1. Listen to Learn
  2. Engage to Mobilize
  3. Skill Up, Branch Out
  4. Plan Together
  5. Create Change
  6. Celebrate and Reflect

It offers support around Community-Building Actions and around nurturing relationships, supporting roles and offering resources.

What are the goals of a Community building approach?

  • Deepen CONNECTIONS: Rural residents and communities foster diverse, trusting, and productive relationships.
  • Build CAPACITY: Rural residents and communities recognize, own, and act on the power they have to shape the future.
  • Support resident-led CHANGE: Rural residents and communities create and lead the change they want to see.
  • Foster a COMMUNITY BUILDING CULTURE: Rural residents and communities have a culture that celebrates an inclusive, creative, collaborative and action-oriented approach to community change-making and no problem seems impossible.

How to take the next step

The Ford Institute is committed to supporting rural residents as they build their community's future. However, the initiative must come from energized community members and local groups. You can start anytime and anyplace by looking at the Community Building Approach and practices.  

Determine where you are and where to go next, then share that information with us so we can figure out how to best move forward together. You may email us at:

Ways to learn more and connect:

  1. Subscribe to our Community Builders eXchange e-newsletter where rural community builders learn and stay connected to what the Institute and other communities are doing.
  2. Join the Rural Community Builders NW Facebook group for individuals that are passionate for rural people and rural places in Oregon and Siskiyou County, California.
  3. Join a Working Team to help us co-shape the future of Ford Institute.  Learn more about the role of the working team, or apply to be part of a future Working Team.
  4. Email the Institute ( with your questions or share information with us about a piece of work or change in your community, so we can figure out how to best move forward together.



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These graphics help explain the Community Building Approach.