Rural areas are places of underappreciated diversity, cultural vitality, and economic innovation and resiliency. But persistent poverty is holding back about one in seven rural counties. With a goal to transform the fortunes and futures of rural and Native communities, the Partners for Rural Transformation (PRT) centers community needs and hopes in its work.
Covering broad and diverse areas—including parts of Appalachia, the Mississippi Delta, the Deep South, the Rio Grande Valley, Native American communities, and the rural West—the six partner organizations that make up PRT bring crucial capital and capacity to small communities and towns where persistent poverty was created by design through slavery, genocide, displacement, and resource extraction.
This report details how the six partners are working individually and collectively to make progress toward and meet their shared goals, despite challenges, and lays out a framework for measuring future shared impacts and an agenda for action to build on their successes.
Assessing Goals, Activities, and Capacities
PRT’s vision is to eliminate persistent poverty in rural areas by creating persistent opportunity through increases in both investments and advocacy and mobilization. Each partner brings unique strengths, capacities, and organizational reputations to PRT’s shared work and goals.
Working across multiple program areas—commercial and community facilities, healthy communities and environmental resilience, housing and infrastructure, small business, and leadership development—the partners lend money (as community development financial institutions), build capacity, and provide direct services to boost individual, family, and community wealth.
Formed in 2014, PRT has experienced multiple successes. It has
- influenced national policy and investments, expanding federal investments in areas experiencing persistent poverty and commenting collectively on important legislative amendments;
- raised and leveraged capital, attracting long-term philanthropic investments and making joint investments and sharing risks in one another’s service regions and clients;
- increased the national visibility of rural communities and persistent poverty by expanding its brand and communications strategies to reach key national and regional stakeholders and gain allies to elevate the need for more rural-conscious policies; and
- strengthened individual partner capacity, adding new policy departments and staff and enhancing peer-to-peer learning across organization leaders and staff.
PRT promotes economic mobility in rural areas experiencing persistent poverty by expanding material wealth, enabling choices, and fostering a sense of agency.
Representing the rich racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity of rural and Native communities, the partners take aim at racial injustice and tackle the root causes of health inequities to support high-quality homes, business and job growth, critical health infrastructure and services, access to healthy food, and more. And they do all of this despite facing challenges that are common to nonprofit organizations and those that are specific to their work.
Framing Shared Impacts
No single group can address the complex and interwoven challenges facing people and places historically excluded from opportunity. Progress, rather, depends on partnerships among organizations. A shared impact framework can help set collective goals, maintain accountability, monitor progress, shift directions, and communicate results.
The shared impact framework for PRT outlines two paths. One focuses on increasing investment by engaging funders, expanding public funding, and adapting unused or underused capital resources to increase the flow of capital and create equitable, thriving economies. The second path focuses on advocacy and mobilization by lifting up local voices, developing leadership, educating policymakers, and researching reforms. Outputs of these paths, intermediate and long-term outcomes, and recommendations for implementation are detailed in this report.
PRT is an authentic, energizing partnership shifting the narrative nationally on persistent poverty in rural areas and deploying capital and other supports to transform communities into areas of persistent opportunity. If the partners are to accomplish their objectives, this effort will need to grow. While PRT’s trajectory is solidly on target, the report suggests avenues for growth that could help strengthen the impacts of this partnership’s work.