Partners for Rural Transformation

Eliminating Persistent Poverty, Advancing Prosperity and Economic Justice

About the Partners for Rural Transformation

Structural change is accomplished in solidarity and organization. That’s the purpose behind the Partners for Rural Transformation, a national coalition of six CDFIs building power and prosperity in areas of persistent poverty. Oweesta’s work to invest, advocate, and empower local leaders for economic development in Indian Country is amplified as part of the Partners for Rural Transformation. We tap into our unique cultural experiences as pillars of our communities and use our collective voice and resources to recreate systems and practices that exclude people by race and place.

The Partners

What We Do

Poverty in rural America is pervasive. Twenty-one million people living in persistent poverty counties – where the poverty rate has eclipsed 20% for three consecutive decades. Collectively, we reach three quarters of persistent poverty areas in the United States across the Mississippi Delta, Appalachia, Indian Country, the Deep South, US-Mexico Borderlands, and farming regions in the Rural West.

Anchored in our communities, we partner with people and organizations to build inclusive wealth, strengthen local capacity, promote civic engagement, and change the narrative of rural America. More importantly, we look to identify and transform systems and policies that perpetuate economic and health inequity for a reimagined future for rural America and the people who call it home.

Our Collective Impact

We put capital into the hands of people, where it has transformed into…




small business owners


of galloons of fresh, clean water

Policy Briefs and Reports

As Treasury works to implement the second round of the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI), it is an opportunity for small businesses in persistent poverty communities to receive the critical capital infusions they need. In this brief, Partners for Rural Transformation raises the following recommendations to ensure SSBCI funds are accessible to them:

  1. Ensure States’ Accountability to serve Persistent Poverty Counties
  2. Meaningful Engagement of CDFI/MDIs with Track-Records is Key to Meeting SSBCI Goals
  3. Ensure Products Meet the Needs of Underserved Communities
  4. Ensure Transparency and Accountability for States’ Performance

These recommendations are discussed in detail in the policy brief HERE.

Congress and federal agencies can take action to advance social and economic opportunity in our nation’s most distressed communities. To this end, we make the following recommendations to increase resources to persistent poverty areas:

  • Increase and prioritize federal investment in persistent poverty areas
  • Increase capital to CDFIs serving persistent poverty areas
  • Adjust existing federal programs to better reach persistent poverty areas
  • Strengthen the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA)
  • Ensure persistent poverty areas have the resources needed to recover from COVID-19

Each area is discussed in more detail in the policy brief HERE.

Perhaps nowhere else in the United States is the structural exclusion by race and place more self–evident than in persistent poverty America. On its face, persistent poverty is a measure used to describe counties and parishes where the poverty rate has eclipsed 20% for three decades in a row. A closer examination of the population of residents living in the counties, however, paints a picture that is steadfastly rural and marred by racial inequity. Of the 395 persistent poverty counties, eight out of ten are nonmetro and the majority (60%) of people living in persistent poverty counties are people of color.

To this end, we propose the following recommendations to create conditions that advance social and economic opportunity in our nation’s most distressed communities.

Read the full policy paper HERE

In late 2014, a working group formed to focus on partnerships to tackle persistent rural poverty, including the four authors of this paper. Together, the members of the working group represent the hardest-hit rural areas of the country. Unlike most previous initiatives aimed at rural poverty, this paper invites a bottom-up approach in which those living in and working with the affected communities directly identify the remaining challenges and the most effective solutions.

Recommendations from the Practitioners:

  • Change the conversation in persistent-poverty counties by achieving immediate, tangible results. Consider clustering investments for highest impact.
  • Develop community leaders and link these authentic voices to supportive resources and networks.
  • Improve the efficiency and effectiveness of government programs so the intended beneficiaries are able to participate.
  • Promote investment using new models that leverage public resources with philanthropy and private equity.
  • Build and sustain consumer wealth, supported by educational initiatives, incentives, and social and community networks. Create jobs by removing barriers, encouraging entrepreneurial business start-ups and anticipating emerging economic engines while reversing out-migration.
  • Partner locally and regionally to achieve economies of scale sufficient to compete with more densely populated urban markets.
  • Do all of these strategies, coordinated together in communities where clustered activities are most likely to have a measurable impact.

These recommendations are discussed in detail in the policy brief HERE.