Theory of Change | Core Beliefs | Methodology
The Southern Rural Development Initiative provides practical
tools for rural community leaders, organizations, and related
national sectors to create just and economically sustainable
communities across the rural South.
A nation that values and invests in rural communities.
The Southeast as a region where rural communities
-- with legacies of injustice, abuse and indifference
-- have the vision, will and resources to be just, inclusive
Rural places that young people choose
to call home.
Theory of Change:
SRDI believes that change happens when the following four strategies
are effectively intertwined at the local level:
Community economic development
is economic development
that is initiated and controlled by the people that
live in the community. CED builds on a community’s
assets – human, natural, organizational, cultural, historic
and simultaneously focuses on three bottom lines – economic
benefit, equity and inter-generational sustainability.
Community organizing seeks to build
power with and for the traditionally power-less and
builds peoples’ capacity to analyze, strategies, mobilize
Policy advocacy means
using research, communications and coalition-building
to change the decisions and policies of the public sector.
Community-based philanthropy is philanthropy
that believes that all people in a community can both
contribute to the development of endowment assets and
be involved in philanthropic decision-making.
Grassroots philanthropy addresses the underlying causes
of inequality, not just its symptoms.
Beliefs that Guide our Work:
Strong grassroots organizations employing multiple strategies
are essential to building just and sustainable communities
in the rural South. Such organizations must be
able to envision and help construct just and healthy rural
communities. They must also be legitimate players
in and shapers of community development processes.
Building grassroots organizations in resource-starved
communities takes time, commitment and money.
Organizations need core money for their core work, beyond
funding for specific projects. A continuing flow
of philanthropic and public resources is essential.
State/regional intermediaries are key to making local organizations
sustainable – providing technical, financial and organizational
of low expectation are a prevalent and debilitating
feature of many rural communities in the South.
Generating optimism about a rural community’s future
is an essential step.
New relationships – crossing race, class and age
– at the community level are essential for change.
This requires new leadership models. We must
build models for effective organizations that work for
the average rural community and are not dependent on
extraordinary leadership to succeed.
Capital and the organizational capacity to
effectively utilize capital must be built simultaneously–breaking
down the “chicken-and-egg” dilemma. CED organizations
must also get to scale to effectively compete with industries
of last resort. And ‘scale’ must be redefined
in ongoing discussion about what constitutes a healthy
Unleashing capital from public,
private and philanthropic sources from outside the
community to support innovation and leverage resources
from within must happen. Wealth building
is a key strategy for defeating poverty for the long-term.
This is what SRDI does and how we do it:
Recall our history. The South has a history of oppression and exploitation
as well as one of struggle, triumph and change.
We make sure the important lessons aren’t lost and the untapped
assets and unmet needs aren’t forgotten.
Conduct action research. Good data can be a powerful
tool. We elevate the data that come from individual
communities and conduct and disseminate research that illuminates
the pervasive disparity in resources. We also help community
members understand and use this data to articulate a new vision
and capture new opportunities.
Ask hard questions. SRDI continually challenges
injustice and inequity or to support those who take principled
positions. We ask hard questions of ourselves,
our partners and those in positions of power
Generate new ideas. We bring innovative approaches
and ideas to the community and promote the places and organizations
that are experimenting with promising practices and strategies.
Foster collaboration. We facilitate respectful collaborations
across race, class, age and sector lines; particularly between
those with power and those denied it.
Cultivate new leaders. We encourage and support
the development of a wide spectrum of community leaders —
including young people — and connect them with their
peers across the region.
Use the arts. Cultural expression is a powerful
tool for social change. We seek to incorporate the region’s
culture and creativity into all aspects of our work.
Hold to the highest standards of accountability.
We measure our success by the extent to which the collaborative
work of staff, board, partners and stakeholders has increased
the sustainability, equity and justice of the communities
on the ground.
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