Rural Community Development

Rural Community Building Program

This work has a website all its own! Check it out at: https://coicruralcommunity.org/ 

Rural community and economic development is at the core of COIC’s mission. In the process of developing our 2017 Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS), we found that rural communities were lagging behind urban centers in economic development, and that some population groups were lagging behind in all communities, including women and BIPOC community members. In response, COIC started an ongoing conversation with our community partners to determine how we might help them bridge these gaps.

In 2017, COIC was awarded a Meyer Memorial Trust capacity-building grant to support community and economic development projects in four rural communities of Central Oregon, with the following goals:

  1. Work with rural community leaders to identify needed, tangible community and economic development projects. 
  2. Guide and test new community outreach and engagement strategies, to ensure that projects are accountable to community priorities, successful implementation is more likely, and trust is improved between rural community members and local leaders.
  3. Include focused outreach and engagement efforts to populations that currently have less access to decision-making processes, including: Low-income, youth, BIPOC, LGBTQ+, disabled, and veterans.
  4. Increase local capacity to coordinate, build, and deliver on community goals for the future.

To achieve these goals, COIC formed a regional steering team to guide the project and a local team in each community. The steering team included COIC, Oregon’s Kitchen Table, Let’s Talk Diversity Coalition, and the Ford Family Foundation. Together, this team provided support, technical advising, and extra staff capacity to the local community building teams.


Following our initial work with Meyer Memorial Trust, COIC and the Ford Institute for Community Building (FICB) continued on in partnership to further expand this program. With FICB’s guidance and financial support, COIC has expanded our work to include new local teams throughout the region and added new workshops and trainings, peer-to-peer networking opportunities, and one-on-one coaching for our growing regional network of rural community builders. Today, our work is informed by FICB’s Community Building Approach and utilizes community assessment and project evaluation tools co-developed with FICB and other community builders throughout the state of Oregon. 

COIC looks forward to continuing to grow our regional network of rural community builders! We offer free and low-cost project support and training to organizations and volunteer groups in rural communities, including:

  • Project & meeting facilitation/coordination 
  • Resource development & grant writing
  • Data collection
  • Community outreach training & techniques
  • Strategic planning, land-use planning & site planning for new community infrastructure
  • Financial literacy, budgeting & business planning
  • Community needs assessments & feasibility studies
  • Collaboration and collective impact frameworks

Every community builder group that receives technical assistance support is also introduced to FICB’s Rural Community Building Evaluation Tools. These tools can help your team understand your current strengths and identify the best pathways forward to help your community thrive! 

To learn more, contact Program Administrator, Janel Ruehl, at jruehl@coic.org, or visit https://coicruralcommunity.org/ 



Growing Rural Oregon (GRO)

COIC is also excited to be partnering with Ford Family Foundation’s Community and Economic Development Department on Growing Rural Oregon (GRO), a framework to develop vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystems in rural Oregon.

Learn more HERE! 


General resources for businesses and employees: Central Oregon SOS - Support for Employees and Employers

SBA programs:


OSU Innovation Lab

Oregon State University Cascades Innovation Co-Lab

Opportunity Knocks- A fantastic 

Opportunity Knocks



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