Update on Community Programs

from Anne Kubisch, President, The Ford Family Foundation

August 12, 2015: As you may have heard, The Ford Family Foundation is expanding our community vitality programs in rural Oregon and Siskiyou County, Calif. 

In 2003, the Foundation launched the Ford Institute Leadership Program in close partnership with Rural Development Initiatives (RDI). Our goal was to provide leadership training to more than 5,000 rural community residents in 80 hubs in our region. It seemed incredibly ambitious, but 12 years later, we have exceeded that goal. More than 6,000 people in 88 rural hubs have benefited from the training. 

Community-Based efforts 
Now, we have another goal: to support our region's talented leaders as they create and lead the change they want in their communities. We will focus more of our resources on supporting community-based efforts that promote rural community vitality and the wellbeing of children, youth, adults and families. It's a natural transition from investing primarily in individual "leadership development" to investing in broader "community development." We will provide the final Leadership Program classes in Spring 2016. 

An even stronger commitment 
We intend to invest more of our staff time, funding and other resources in work we are calling Community-Based Change. This new approach puts communities at the center by starting with where communities are and building on their assets. It focuses on action-driven work while honoring the pace of the community and including all community segments. More importantly, it focuses on creating the change the community wants, learning and adapting as the work progresses, and celebrating successes. You can view a graphic about Community-Based Change here.

What will all of this actually look like in rural communities? We don't have every answer yet because we are taking our lead from rural community leaders and our key organizational partners: RDI, the Nonprofit Association of Oregon, Community Systems, and Oregon State University. 

We are looking forward to the expansion of the Community-Based Change work. Of course, we can't work in every rural community in our region, but we might make grant funds available, or we might help a community connect with technical expertise to help take action on a local priority. We intend to continue our responsive grant-making for programmatic, capital and technical assistance support in rural communities. We are also creating a new grant-making program to support economic vitality and employment in rural communities. We expect it to be in full swing in 2016. And, of course, we maintain scholarship programs to help individuals succeed in postsecondary education. 

Positive change 
We aim to make the full complement of The Ford Family Foundation's resources available to rural communities in Oregon and Siskiyou County to carry out the Foundation's mission of "successful citizens and vital rural communities." We want to build on the investment that has been made in training 6,000 leaders. We want to help rural communities take action and make positive change in their communities. 

Anne C. Kubisch 
President, The Ford Family Foundation

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