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Since 2016, Rural Counts has been a leading advocacy voice for rural North Carolina at the state level. Rural Counts has a distinct focus on advancing public policy on behalf of rural North Carolinians. Our efforts to build thriving rural communities, hinges on the inclusivity of the diverse perspectives and experience of our rural people. Rural Counts strives to engage grassroots and grasstops leaders to inform our local, state and federal advocacy efforts. We believe that to be the best advocate for our state’s rural people and places, we must promote sound public policy; our positions are informed by leading-edge, unbiased research and data, and by the wisdom and expertise of the people who call rural North Carolina home.

Rural Counts Theory of Change 

The mission of the Rural Counts advocacy program is to research, develop, and advocate for innovative nonpartisan policy solutions to rural North Carolina’s biggest economic development challenges towards improving the outcomes of our state’s rural communities and residents.  Rural Counts provides a platform for rural advocates to be heard, connect across differences, and engage with their elected leaders at the local, state and federal levels to affect public policy change. We conduct our work using the following tactics:

  • Convening and Connecting
    • Advancing the rural narrative
    • Uniting rural voices
  • Engaging and Equipping
    • Providing information and resources
    • Training and empowering advocates
  • Educating and Advocating
    • Developing sound policies
    • Connecting with policymakers and elected officials

Rural Counts operates under the following approaches:  

  • Public Information Resource: serving as a timely, trusted go-to source for data and research, information, resources and connections. 
  • Rural Counts Advocacy Network: coordinating advocacy opportunities, community mobilization, training and information services, and capacity building for our advocacy network.
  • Policymaker Education and Engagement: developing and maintaining strong, trusted working relationships with legislative, executive, and judicial staff and leadership at the state and federal levels; inform and advise policymakers on preferred courses of legislative and regulatory advocacy and action.

The Rural Center is committed to working with rural champions from all over the state to make significant statewide progress toward our
10 Rural Counts strategies for rural economic development. We hope you will take some time to learn more about all 10 strategies and how they impact rural communities. 

Explore our Advocacy in Action feed on this page to see what we are doing right now to tackle them at the state and federal levels. 

Use the Advocacy Toolkit to get the basics about how to engage with your elected officials, view videos and other training materials, and dig deep into our theory of change. Most importantly, plan how you can take your own action to improve rural communities in our state.


2023 Advocacy Priorities


Meet the Team

Miles Kirksey, Advocacy Engagement Manager

Miles Kirksey, Advocacy Engagement Manager,
Miles works to support and develop the Rural Counts advocacy network through recruitment and direct engagement opportunities. He guides Rural Counts community mobilization and capacity building efforts with individual and organizational partners to expand the program’s reach and impact across rural North Carolina.

Torie Keeton, Director of Policy and Government Affairs

Torie Keeton, Policy and Government Affairs Manager, 
Torie works with a diverse network of state and federal policymakers, local leaders, and rural champions to research, develop, and advocate for innovative nonpartisan policy solutions to rural North Carolina’s biggest economic development challenges.

Hannah Williamson, Program Coordinator

Hannah Williamson, Program Coordinator,– 
Hannah provides administrative support for the team as well as event planning, research, and coordination for the Rural Counts program. 

INTERNSHIP OPPORTUNITY: Interested in interning with the Rural Counts Advocacy Team? Our internship is open to advanced or graduate-level students to work directly under the supervision of the Sr. Director of Policy & Advocacy and as part of the staff team. Submit a cover letter, resume, writing sample, and references to: Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis, so please submit your materials early


Thank You Sponsors