New Initiative Will Tackle Disparities in Rural Communities

Four organizations— the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Save the Children, StriveTogether, and Partners for Education at Berea College—have launched a new initiative aimed at bettering the lives of children in rural America.

Called the Rural Accelerator Initiative, the program is designed to provide educational resources to children in pastoral communities that might not otherwise have access to these opportunities. Through a combination of strategic investments, local partnerships, leadership development, and peer learning, the Rural Accelerator Initiative will ensure that these children receive a quality education and graduate from high school either ready for a career or prepared for college.

“We know we can achieve more by working together than apart and have proof from nearly 70 communities across the country that the collective impact of organizations working across sectors can influence outcomes for every child,” said Jennifer Blatz, president and CEO of StriveTogether. “We are excited to bring our proven approach to this initiative and are proud to be part of a landmark effort to accelerate results for youth and families in rural America.”

Over the course of three years, the program will invest a total of $1.2 million in the following focus areas: Perry County, Ky.; Whitley County, Ky.; and Cocke County, Tenn.

“We have the opportunity to harness the expertise of national leaders in education as well as the local communities where we work, to drive progress toward positive outcomes for children in rural America,” said Betsy Zorio, vice president of U.S. programs and advocacy for Save the Children. “We are grateful to our partners for their support, skills, and knowledge and look forward to working together to empower communities to create a successful cradle-to-career pathway for every child in rural America. It’s our ambition to take these learnings and scale to support the nearly two and half million children growing up in poverty in rural communities.”


USAID and UC Davis Launch Rural Poverty Research Program

The University of California, Davis, has introduced a new research program aimed at eradicating rural poverty in developing countries. The program, called Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Markets, Risk and Resilience (MRR), is being funded by a five-year grant of up to $30 million from USAID.

“USAID’s investment in this new Feed the Future Innovation Lab will expand our ability to work with communities and countries that face the greatest risks in today’s dynamic world,” said Gregory Collins, USAID Resilience Coordinator and deputy assistant administrator in the USAID Bureau for Food Security. “By drawing on the innovation and research expertise at UC Davis, this lab will accelerate opportunities for people in vulnerable, crisis-prone areas of the world and enable many more families to escape the grip of hunger and poverty for good.”

The program will focus on the root causes of poverty, with an emphasis on the risks posed by disasters such as droughts, floods, and wars.

“As global development efforts continue to improve, we still see humanitarian disasters that strip rural families and communities of hard-won gains,” said Michael Carter, professor of agricultural and resource economics at UC Davis and director of the MRR Innovation Lab. “We will provide needed evidence on how to accelerate those gains and to ensure they stick.”

The objective is to develop resilience within these communities so that families are equipped with the skills and resources needed in order to persevere in times of hardship. Researchers are also hoping that the information gleaned from this study can be applied to U.S. farms and reduce the cost of foreign aid.

“We have an opportunity right now to build toward a new Green Revolution,” said Carter. “Our new Innovation Lab will join a global community of researchers, governments and private sector partners all working diligently to find better ways to promote prosperity and resilience for all families.”