Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Assets Based Community Development with Rural Action

By Anastasia Karpoukhina

Second year IDS students Thuy Ho and Anastasia Karpoukhina 
at the Kids Environmental Camp Camouflage Tutorial.

This summer I had an opportunity to complete an internship with Rural Action, a locally based non-profit organization located in Athens County, Ohio. What started out as a building block for a future partnership between my International Development Studies Master’s Program at Ohio University and Rural Action turned into something more, for me personally. As a future development practitioner, I came to a realization that my current idea of need-based development was not the right fit for me.

Sunday Creek Environmental Kids Camp - looking for animal tracks, bugs, and salamanders.

I became aware of this ideological shift during the summer with Rural Action through various interactions, activities, and learning opportunities I had with the all of the staff and partners of the organization that nudged me in the direction of bottom-up development with communities. Yet, there was one particular instance and place, Chesterhill Produce Auction (CPA), which served as my biggest push towards rethinking my future development approaches. The auction is a food hub run by Rural Action that attracts thousands of buyers within a single year and serves as sales outlet for numerous growers in the Appalachian Ohio region. The local organization in the form of Rural Action works with the communities in the form of growers and buyers from around the region to capitalize on local resources and wealth, build and link the value supply chain, and work towards the revitalization of the area. For me, the produce auction, being an effective and genuine example of development with communities, served as the final step that caused an imperceptible shift in my development approach.

Untreated acid mine drainage discharge.

By means of staff interviews and interactions, my internship project morphed from a simple evaluation of asset-based development of Rural Action into a concept to create an actual position for community development. Rural Action has been a leader and innovator when it comes to asset-based community development (ABCD) within specific and chosen sectors that contribute to the economic revival of the Appalachian Ohio. I realized that what the organization was
missing was not an evaluation of their work per se, but additional assistance in the form of a community developer who can support the communities of place in the counties that Rural Action serves and works in.  

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