Rural Action was formed in 1991 out of a citizen action organization, the Appalachian Ohio Public Interest Campaign (AOPIC). AOPIC members organized and trained grassroots groups to advocate on issues of economic and environmental justice. This work included testifying before Congress regarding laws concerned with protecting water resources from the effects of longwall mining and protecting those whose land was being affected by surface mining.
In 1992, the group redefined itself as a member-based development organization renamed Rural Action. A strategic planning process resulted in the creation of a guiding document to promote a sustainable, just, and inclusive development path for Appalachian Ohio. The Strategy for Rural Renewal has guided Rural Action’s work for almost 14 years. It based Rural Action’s future on the three pillars of sustainable development – economy, equity, and the environment. This began transforming the region’s dialogue from traditional industrial recruitment to sustainable development led from community capacity.
From 1994 until 2009, Rural Action has hosted one of the largest rural development AmeriCorps*VISTA (Volunteer In Service To America) programs in the country. The program engaged more than 360 volunteers to help our communities undertake a range of social enterprises. Since then Rural Action has continued its tradition as a supporter of national service through the Ohio Stream Restore Corps, an AmeriCorps program of 14 members across six watersheds working on reclamation, water quality monitoring, environmental education, trail access, and waste and recycling. Since its founding, Rural Action’s role as a social enterprise incubator has produced initiatives and organizations such as:
- The Ohio Fair Schools Campaign
- ReUse Industries
- The Roots of Appalachia Growers Association (RAGA)
- The Call Before You Cut Campaign (now an Ohio Department of Natural Resources program)
- Four watershed groups securing millions of dollars for contractors and public agencies to reclaim acid-mine drainage affected waters in the region.