Memorandum to Sponsoring Organizations

The purpose of the Rural Development Leadership Network is to support the combined development 1) of low-income minority communities in rural areas and 2) of individuals in these places. The Network is a community of people working to build their own communities and strengthen their own skills and credentials. RDLN sponsors of community development projects proposed by potential applicants and through the arrangement of study opportunities for participants. The involvement of people from varied rural regions - - blacks from the rural South, Hispanics from the Southwest, Native Americans from the Indian reservations and poor whites from Appalachia and the Ozarks, and those in pockets of poverty throughout the country- plus representatives of Sponsoring Organizations and university faculties, creates a fertile network leading to new alliances and strategies for rural community development in the future.

The program format includes the RDLN Field Project, RDLN study, and the RDLN Rural Development Institute, which are described below:

1. RDLN Field Project

Upon applying to the RDLN program, candidates are asked to describe a community development project that will be the focus of their RDLN experience. The project is intended to be of value to a particular community or communities and to constitute a practical learning experience for the participant. Depending upon the needs and past experience of the applicant and those of the community he or she represents, these projects vary in nature and in scope. They may include the following kinds of activities:

a. planning,

b. action - i.e., hands-on development efforts such as the launching of a new business enterprise, community facility, or delivery system,

c. policy development - particularly from a community-based point of view; may involve organizing and community education,

d. research - again particularly from a community-based point of view,

e. resource development,

f. internship experience.

The project is intended to be carried out in consultation and cooperation with a Sponsoring Organization as umbrella. A Field Resource Advisor is named, and this person serves, in varying cases, as technical back-up, critic, coordinator of field exposure and resources, and/or supervisor of daily work. There is flexibility in the setting of the Project; it is usually in the participant's home community, but may be elsewhere; depending upon what provides a better learning experience for the participant and a better opportunity for resource acquisition for the community.

Projects are selected which promise to be useful for the long-range development of the community, useful as a learning experience for the participant, feasible in terms of community and organizational support, and fitting to the potential participant's ability and background. Those projects which promise to serve as models or other communities receive priority.

2. RDLN Study

In order to support the successful implementation of the RDLN Field Project in the short term and to support the effectiveness of the participant as a rural community development worker in the long term, RDLN provides several options for study. These include, for example, a rural development course leading to an RDLN certificate, an external arrangement for completing a B.A. degree, and an external master's degree program enabling the person to remain in the home community. During the current pilot program, most participants are expected to take part in an external master's degree program arranged through Antioch International. A learner-centered approach is to be encouraged in all cases, giving the participant an opportunity to take part in the designing of his of her educational program. A study Resource Advisor is designated for each participant. In the process of arranging these opportunities, RDLN hopes to build a network of universities and faculty members that will be turning their attention toward rural concerns.

RDLN is developing a new course of study in rural community development that is intended to be accepted by both academicians and rural development practitioners. Both practitioners and academics are involved as instructors.

3. Rural Development Institute

All RDLN participants gather for a 4-5 week RDLN Rural Development Institute that enables those from different regions to exchange experiences and strategies and to examine the commonalities of their rural communities. Reports on RDLN Field Projects are made, and the specifics of the challenges faced by different communities are discussed. Workshops and courses are held in appropriate areas, as part of the academic program. There is an opportunity to visit local efforts to overcome rural poverty.

Among the subjects in the curriculum are economic development, business development, an overview of U.S. rural areas, rural governance, organization and management, research methods, and resource development. Participants also pursue specialized learning on their own.

Role of Sponsoring Organization

The role of the RDLN Sponsoring Organization is as follows:

1. To reflect and channel community involvement in the participants' RDLN Field Project,

2. To provide an appropriate learning environment/starting point for the participant,

3. To identify a Field Resource Advisor who will provide back-up and guidance for the RDLN Field Project,

4. To provide a suitable working environment for the participant in terms of basics like office space, telephone and office supplies,

5. To contribute financially to RDLN.


As noted, Sponsoring Organizations are expected to contribute financially to RDLN. The minimum amount is $7,500 toward RDLN's overhead and academic expenses. The amount for the master's degree program is currently $15,000. An additional $18,000 contribution will enable us to provide an educational grant for the RDLN Leader for eighteen months. The Sponsoring Organization to pay this amount to the participant directly through salary or stipend. The participant may also waive the payment. RDLN is willing to work with an organization or Leader to help attract resources, if necessary.

Sponsoring Organizations are expected to pay the participant's local travel to the extent that such travel is consistent with organizational goals. Details are to be agreed upon between the Sponsoring Organization and the participant.

It is requested that the Sponsoring Organization cover benefits for the participant, if possible.

Again, RDLN is willing to work with the Sponsoring Organization and the applicant to help make participation possible.

Print the form at the end. This form has to be completed and returned to RDLN to register your interest in becoming a Sponsoring Organization.

If you would like to discuss this matter further, call Starry Krueger at (212) 777-9137.

Although in any given year, there may not be an appropriate person or project for your organization, we welcome your participation and look forward to your involvement in the Rural Development Leadership Network.

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