PULLMAN, Wash. – A seven-state program aimed at reducing poverty by working directly with residents of small, rural communities, including the program led by Washington State University Extension, is the latest recipient of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Partnership Award for Multistate Efforts.
Funded for the past seven years by the Northwest Area Foundation, the Horizons program focuses on helping small, rural communities build the community capacity and leadership infrastructure they need for economic and community development, according to Doreen Hauser-Lindstrom, WSU Extension’s youth and families program director who helped to spearhead the Horizons program in Washington.
“This national award is strong affirmation of the meaningful impacts on our rural communities made possible by the WSU Extension Horizons Program under the outstanding leadership of Doreen Hauser-Lindstrom,” said Randy Baldree, interim associate director for WSU Extension.
Since its inception in 2004, 284 communities across the seven-state region have completed the 18-month program. Tonasket, Omak and Bridgeport constituted the first “class” in Washington State; other Horizons graduates include Northport, TumTum, Rosalia, Sprague, Royal City, Mossy Rock, Rochester, Goldendale and Wishram.
“The strongest factor in Horizons’ success is that it is totally grassroots oriented,” Hauser-Lindstrom said. “It is primarily through the community’s strengths, initiative and drive that the program grows and succeeds.”
Another factor is quality coaching. The Horizons grant program provides each participating community with a quarter-time “coach” to help foster success. “The coach doesn’t provide the answers,” Hauser-Lindstrom explained. “The coach is the one who pushes a community to self-discovery, provides encouragement and support, and who may provide some ideas for doors that could be open, such as linking to other communities and partners.”
Finally, Hauser-Lindstrom said, WSU’s Horizons program “has a strong emphasis on leadership development.”
“Many economic development programs come in with a one-prong approach,’” she said. “We provide leadership training available to all members of the community, and then they decide through additional visioning and tailor-made educational sessions what they are going to do to make their community better.”
Hauser-Lindstrom credited the Northwest Area Foundation for its overall support of the program, but also for fostering just the right combination of coordination and independence among participating states.
“The foundation was really supportive and creative about bringing the land-grant university extension faculty together throughout the grant to continue networking and planning,” she said. “On the flip side, each state was really independent in how we crafted and focused our program.”
Now that NWAF has changed its funding priorities, Hauser-Lindstrom said each of the participating states – including Washington is in the process of finding a new source of funding. “There is a strong desire and a strong demand to continue the work of Horizons,” she said. “We’re trying to reach out and find new partners to help make that happen.”