As the center works toward its vision of rural North Carolina, it does so within a framework of values and principles that assure its efforts have firm ethical grounding and foster institutional effectiveness. Following is a statement of the Rural Center’s six operating principles.
Putting People First. At the heart of the Rural Center’s work is a belief that economic development is a human enterprise. The center’s commitment is to the individuals and families who live in North Carolina’s 85 rural counties -- especially those who live in poverty or struggle at the edges of poverty.
A Comprehensive Approach. No single strategy can sustain the rural economy for the long-term. That’s why the center takes a holistic approach to economic development that includes: 1) education and training to advance the rural work force; 2) improvements to the physical infrastructure; 3) development of a financial and technical support network for rural businesses; and 4) strengthening the innovative and adaptive capacity of rural leaders, organizations and institutions.
Commitment to Innovation. The Rural Center constantly searches for economic strategies that are both creative and sound -- recognizing that good ideas come from many sources. One source is the center’s own program of research and demonstration, which it conducts in collaboration with educational institutions, nonprofits, and state and local governments. The center also identifies and promotes innovative strategies developed by other organizations, both within and outside the state.
Impact through Collaboration and Resource Leveraging. Bringing about significant, widespread change in rural North Carolina requires the dedication of many organizations. That’s why the Rural Center builds partnerships with government officials, foundation leaders, business and finance leaders, economic development professionals, educators and researchers, members of the faith community, and nonprofit and grassroots leaders. Through collaborative partnerships, the center can leverage resources and effect change that reaches hundreds of communities and thousands of rural people.
Celebration of Diversity. Rural North Carolina draws its strength from the diversity of its people -- diversity of race, gender and ethnic origin; of all age groups, including youth and retirees; of individual talents, skills and interests; and of cultures rooted in the local landscape. Through its board, staff and advisory committees, the center strives to represent this strength in all decision-making processes. It also advocates the same inclusive approach for other local, state and national bodies.
Accountability, Evaluation, and Replication. Believing it should be accountable to the people it serves, the Rural Center conducts extensive evaluations of its pilot projects and programs to determine their effectiveness and their potential for replication in other communities. As part of its evaluations, the center counts specifics -- businesses started, jobs created, loans made, people trained, houses built. It also looks for signs of change that are less quantifiable, but equally important -- creation of an entrepreneurial spirit where none had existed; establishment of partnerships among economic, racial and political factions; and the emergence of leadership to take communities into the future.