RDLN Rural Development Institute
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The four-and-a half week RDLN Rural Development Institute is held every other year during May and June at the University of California at Davis. It has been hosted by the Center for Regional Change and the Community Development Program in the Department of Human Ecology in the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences.

At the RDLN Rural Development Institute, participants use the resources of a mainstream university for "core coursework" for rural community development practitioners.

The Institute coursework includes an introduction to macro and microeconomics; an overview of rural issues, peoples, and social dynamics; and an introduction to practical tools and ways of thinking about the field of rural community development in poor rural areas in the U.S.

At the Institute, there is intensive study and exchange among peers from different regions as well as interaction with university faculty and visiting practitioners. Coursework in the following areas complements the online learning and independent study designed by Leaders in consultation with their Advisors for the rest of the credits. Participants pursuing an academic degree are awarded credit for the Institute. Others earn a certificate.

At the Institute, the Leader's Field Project provides a focus for new learning, which in turn can inform the future direction of the project. Later in the RDLN field project and study program, Leaders have a chance to develop “individualized” learning with their Advisors that may relate more specifically to the interests of the individual Leader and the priorities of his/her community.

Learning Components

A. Overview of Rural America

Introduction to major regions, peoples, problems, and challenges of the rural United States, with an emphasis on groups and places in poverty and special emphasis on communities represented by RDLN Leaders. A look at the interrelationship of history, culture, socioeconomic factors, and choice of strategy for change. Identification of historical and contemporary trends in the rural U.S. Preparation for and reflection on Institute Field Trip. Identification of historical and contemporary trends in the rural U.S

B. Tools for Rural Development

Introduction to skills, concepts and mechanisms useful for rural community development: library research, documents research, computer searches, community research and analysis, accessing data, use of statistics; review of programs, structures and technologies, with special sessions on organization and management (e.g. fundraising, board development), expository writing, internalized oppression, youth programs, and food and health policy.

C. Economics and Economic Development

Introduction to basic economic concepts and methodology. Examination of determinants of economic growth and development. Opportunity to develop analytical skills in regard to problems of economic development in rural areas, including an understanding of alternative institutional systems and structures for the production and distribution of goods and services. Investigation of how alternative institutional structures influence the quality of life in rural areas.

Overview of financial markets, institutions and instruments, including the Federal Reserve system. Introduction to specific applications such as cost/benefit analysis of rural development projects and analysis to tax impact and to such functions as financial intermediation and financial leveraging.

Discussion of specific economic development efforts in some depth through case studies, including examples from communities where RDLN students live and work.

D. Organization and Management

Review of structures of community development organizations; the process of setting institutional goals and objectives; review of alternative strategies for coordinating the accomplishment of goals and objectives; alternative means of budgeting and cash flow analysis; overseeing work flow; matching organizational structure to the type and size of the enterprise.

Resource People

 Isao Fujimoto

Isao Fujimoto, Overview of Rural Issues

PhD in Rural Sociology, Cornell University;Co-Founder, National Center for Appropriate Technology; Editor, Change in Rural America

Maria Varels

Maria Varela, Microenterprise Development

MRP, U Mass Amherst (National Rural Fellows); Co-author, Rural Environmental Planning; taught at the University of New Mexico and Colorado College



Grizelle Apodaca, Organization and Management

President, Eslabón Associates
Chair, Farmworker Justice Fund


Desmond Jolly, U.C. Davis Small Farm Center
Former Member, Small Farm Advisory Committee, USDA


Dr. Margaret Eldred, Writing Workshops

Writer and Artist. Former staff, UC Davis Campus Writing Center

Dr. Satyananda Gabriel Dr. Satyananda Gabriel, Academic Coordinator, RDLN Institute, Economics and Economic Development (1985-present) , (Professor of Economics, Mt. Holyoke College; author, Chinese Capitalism and the Modernist Vision).

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