1. We recognize that local citizens are the experts when it comes to their own communities. The Winthrop Rockefeller Institute’s Uncommon Communities program, founded in 2015, guides diverse teams of community members as they identify and employ their community’s unique strengths. We’ve all seen the stats from rural areas: population decline, poor health outcomes, and high rates of poverty—but what is it that residents love about their community? And, what improvement strategies are already working? In this year-long program, participants are invited to take back the narrative that has been written for rural communities like theirs, share their own stories, and invite their neighbors to build upon all the things that make their community a great place to live.
  1. Uncommon Communities meets people where they are. Make no mistake: instigating change in complex community and economic systems requires hard work and long term commitment. Through Uncommon Communities, participants are supported in identifying and prioritizing solutions to the most critical issues facing their communities. This program employs a comprehensive curriculum that offers access to community and economic development wisdom, tools, and strategies tailored to fit their needs. It combines foundational knowledge with quick boots-on-the-ground collective action, making it ideal for both novices and experienced community leaders alike. Anyone with a desire to positively impact their community is invited to participate.
  1. Our approach is regional. Not only do participants learn by doing, but they also learn with and from their neighbors, forming invaluable relationships and fostering broader collaboration along the way.
  1. Using the Rockefeller Ethic. Speaking of learning together, when Programs staff at the Institute took a step back from Uncommon Communities in 2020 to examine processes, outcomes, and plan for the third cohort of participants, we asked ourselves: What is the value that we bring to Arkansas’s community and economic development space? The answer has to do with our unique mission. At the Institute, we combine diverse opinions with respectful dialogue to solve problems and effect transformational change—the Rockefeller Ethic. Put simply, our greatest potential impact in this space resides in building high-functioning teams that are prepared to take on the complex challenges facing rural communities today—because together, we can do anything.
  1. We aren’t in this alone. Uncommon Communities is particularly successful because, although talented, our Programs Team does not drive it alone. In Arkansas, the Institute’s roots run deep and wide. We recognize that to be successful in the community and economic development space, we must invite our colleagues in nonprofit, governmental, and for-profit organizations to join us in our efforts to develop truly uncommon communities.

We are currently recruiting this year’s cohort from communities in the southwestern region of Arkansas. We’ve recently moved to a rolling admissions process, and we will select teams from up to five communities to participate in the program that kicks off in August 2021. Visit https://rockefellerinstitute.org/applyUC22 to learn about how you can apply. 

Have questions or need assistance with the application process? Contact program officer Amber Jackson!

Molly Thomason

Education & Evaluation Officermthomason@rockefellerinstitute.org(501) 727-6215


  1. 1
    Ann Rogers on May 13, 2021

    Always enjoy your email. you have a lovely place. so glad you are in Arkansas and do things to help our State.

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