Then: Together for Hope was formed in 2001 as a 20-year commitment to the 20 poorest counties in the United States. All of these counties were rural. This was the origins of CBF’s Rural Poverty Initiative, which later became Together for Hope. From our inception, we have adamantly followed the practice of Assets Based Community Development because we are convinced that key to alleviating poverty in these rural areas already exists with the people who are there. It is in these long term partnerships with local leaders that Together for Hope has been forged as a force for the common good in rural America.
Now: Together for Hope has 18 partners across the rural landscape of the US. From Arizona to Appalachia and from the Dakotas to the Delta, we have worked alongside communities in the areas of education, health & nutrition, housing & environment, and social enterprise. After meeting together in 2016, the lead team of Together for Hope reframed our self-understanding in order to reflect our current identity and core beliefs. We moved from the vocabulary of “rural poverty initiative” to “rural development coalition” in order to be more precise about who we are and live more fully into our ABCD convictions. In other words, reframing “poverty” as “development” we focus on the positive movement that we have always fostered. We also recognized that we are no long an initiative. After sixteen years, we are a coalition of widely diverse organizations that exist in a complex network. Some of our partners are CBF field personnel, while other coalitions organizations are their own 501c(3), and still others are hybrid organizations that are housed under CBF State and Regional Organizations. We realized that our complex network of various organizations was a true coalition that focuses on rural development.
Next: As we move forward with new descriptive and more accurate vocabulary, we will continue to focus on our original domains of education, health & nutrition, housing & environment, and social enterprise, but we want to expand our scale. Today, however, there are different counties among the 20 poorest counties in America. As we shift scale, we will focus on the 301 counties of persistent rural poverty that has been identified by the USDA. There are already incredible organizations in these counties doing good work—and many of them follow an Assets Based Community Development Approach. We will forge new partnership with these organizations and helps others move more toward an assets approach in order to expand the Together for Hope coalition. As we expand, we will be able to leverage our growing coalition to make a collective impact in rural America. We will also begin to focus on important metrics that help us evaluate our efficacy on the local level so that we can deliver evidence-based outcomes at the local level.