We envision a future where all rural citizens use their civic power and engagement to foster and sustain vibrant and successful communities.
New Rural Project (NRP) is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization that engages young and marginalized residents in rural communities to amplify their voices through increased civic and electoral engagement.
NRP works to eliminate barriers to engagement by listening to rural stakeholders and working together to develop community-driven solutions.
NRP is focused on seven North Carolina counties that are some of the most economically distressed in the state, with higher-than-average unemployment rates and declining populations. NRP believes that the key to improving these communities is engaging the citizens to fully participate in the civic and electoral process so that their voices are heard at all levels of government.
THE NRP APPROACH
NRP convenes and leads various types of virtual and in-person “Conversations’’ in our focus counties. These conversations include bipartisan community leaders, nonprofit leaders, faith leaders, sorority/fraternity leaders, etc. The conversations provide invaluable feedback and ideas that inform our work and impact the communities we serve.
NRP works with experienced research firms with expertise in rural areas that use methodology that takes into account that broadband access is a known issue for rural counties. Listening activities include individual direct interviews, small focus group sessions and polling of frequent and infrequent high-value voters of color.
NRP engages directly with people in each community to gain a better understanding of their priorities and support their biggest needs. Based on our listening, we know that education, healthcare, public safety, and voting rights are critical issues that need to be addressed.
NRP exists to connect the dots between voting and its impact on people’s lives. That means working to educate voters about the elected officials and appointed county/city/state board members responsible for impacting the things rural voters like and don’t like, the issues they care about and their power to change them. In turn, NRP is developing innovative and fun educational programs for civic engagement at the local, state and federal levels in creative and non-traditional locations like barbershops, beauty salons, local parks, etc.
Civic engagement is also about connecting people to a community and filling gaps in service delivery where others may fall short.
We know equity in access to health care is one critical issue in our rural communities, so in our early days, we engaged with rural partners on COVID-19 vaccination events throughout our focus counties.
An estimated 60,000 registered voters of color across the seven rural North Carolina counties served by NRP did not turn out for the 2020 election, while NC Chief Justice of the Supreme Court race was decided by 401 votes out of about five million votes cast. NRP was created to inspire hope and to ensure rural voters who feel hopeless, helpless, voiceless and invisible feel seen, heard and empowered.
Understanding the hurdles to voting and the priorities of rural citizens is critical to developing tangible, barrier-breaking solutions that get results.
One-on-one conversations with large numbers of infrequent and non-voters in these rural communities are critical. Using volunteer and paid canvassers to talk directly to rural residents, we identify the barriers to electoral participation along with key issues and concerns. We also phonebank, textbank and use other means to engage in conversations with voters to Get Out The Vote for local, state and federal elections.