Our History

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, as well as consumer issues like fair rate utility line extension.

In 1992, the group went through a strategic planning process and decided to become a new organization based on a vision of what is possible. Continuing as a membership based organization, and renamed Rural Action, the strategic planning process resulted in the creation of a guiding document to promote a sustainable, just, and inclusive development path for Appalachian Ohio. The first Strategy for Rural Renewal guided its work for 14 years, and began transforming the region’s dialogue from traditional industrial recruitment to sustainable development led from community capacity. Subsequent Strategies, building on the first one and always based on the three pillars of sustainable development – economy, equity, and the environment – have helped Rural Action stay focused and vibrant.  

Rural Action accomplishes a lot in part because of its longstanding partnership with the Corporation for National and Community Service. From 1994 until 2009, Rural Action 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 that supported communities and members in a range of community organizing and projects. In 2009, starting with a planning grant, Rural Action continued its tradition as a partner with national service through Ohio Stream Restore Corps, an AmeriCorps program of 26 members across six watersheds and 18 counties working on reclamation, environmental education, trails, and waste recycling, landowner education, and ecotourism.

Since its founding, Rural Action’s role as a social enterprise incubator has produced many initiatives such as: