Preparing leaders to bring about positive change

Leadership & Engagement

The Rural Center undertakes a number of efforts to ensure that rural communities are equipped with skilled, committed and informed leaders.



Our leadership development program is committed to building a base of strong, capable leaders to help improve the economy and quality of life of rural North Carolina. More than 900 North Carolinians have participated thus far, primarily through the program’s signature Rural Economic Development Institute. Advanced training programs help institute graduates and other leaders further hone their skills.


The New Generation Initiative provides rural communities with $3.6 million in resources to engage rural youth and young adults in the life of their communities, while fostering the next generation of rural business owners, skilled workers and economic and community leaders. The initiative includes programs encouraging entrepreneurship development, on-the-job training, leadership development and community service.


The Rural Partners Series seeks to ensure that a broad spectrum of North Carolina leaders is prepared to understand, embrace and advocate for critical rural policy change. Our premiere event, the Rural Partners Forum, brings more than 500 rural leaders to Raleigh once a year to focus on emerging issues and opportunities. Other briefings, workshops, roundtable discussions and conferences are held in Raleigh and around the state throughout the year.