Project Snapshot: Rural Community Living Development

June 22, 2020


The Rural Community Living Development (RCLD) project is a knowledge translation grant funded by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR). RTC:Rural staff have partnered with the Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL) to develop and implement a peer to peer mentor training with and for Centers for Independent Living (CILs) that will prepare CIL staff to work on community development activities in rural areas. The project includes helping communities identify, access and use NIDILRR-funded products and resources that can address the most important community issues for increased independence and participation (such as access to accessible housing or transportation) of people with disabilities in their rural communities.

The Rural Community Living Development project team explains the project and gives a quick progress update.

What will you be doing for the RCLD project?

We will be working with a core group of stakeholders through a participatory curriculum development process to create a new peer-to-peer mentor training that CILs can use to learn how to work in their communities to address priority issues and initiate positive change. Once the training curriculum is finalized, selected CILs in rural communities across the United States will use the training and engage in community development activities by working with their own community stakeholders and partners. We will assist them and provide guidance during this process as well as provide technical assistance in helping them locate appropriate evidence-based solutions and interventions to tackle the priority issues they’ve identified.

The end goal is to develop a sustainable peer mentoring model that CILs can use to continue to learn how and to do community development work in rural areas to maximize services and supports for people with disabilities.

Why is RTC:Rural staff doing this work?

Rural communities often lack services and resources to support the independent living and participation of people with disabilities. However, where and when available, CILs are service-based organizations who serve as key players in the community to best understand and communicate the issues and barriers faced by people with disabilities. Thus, they are well-positioned to take a lead role in community development activities to connect local rural stakeholders to work towards positive change, fill service gaps, and coordinate efforts to benefit community members with disabilities.

What work have you done so far?

We have been working closely with our collaborating partner organization, APRIL, from the onset of the project. We had the opportunity to first share information and engage CIL stakeholders about this project at the 2019 Annual APRIL conference last year where we presented on how community development strategies can address poverty in rural America.  The presentation was well attended and led to valuable stakeholder contacts and relationships.  Additionally, APRIL has helped us share project information as well as recruit CIL project partners.

Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living

Recently, we are excited to have recruited seven partners from CILs across the country to serve on our development team who are integral to creating the peer to peer mentor training curriculum with us over the next several months.  The breadth of experience and knowledge they bring will steer the direction of the training and ensure its relevance and appropriateness for the CIL network. 

The end result will be an interactive program that RCLD mentors can use to assist other CIL staff in rural community engagement. Co-Principal Investigator Dr. Rayna Sage emphasizes the importance of participatory engagement early in the process: “The participatory nature of developing this training is really important and aligns well with Independent Living philosophy. I am so excited to work with our fantastic team from across the nation on deciding what topics to cover and how to best design the training to be easy to use and beneficial.”

Who are you working with?

Currently, in addition to our ongoing collaboration with APRIL, we are working with CILs in the states of Wisconsin, California, Arizona, Ohio, Virginia, and Georgia, all of whom are members of our training curriculum development team.