Four spaces available for fall 2021, with services valued at $30,000 per community

HARTLAND, Vt. – With support from Siegel Family Endowment, the Center on Rural Innovation (CORI) has announced it will offer fully-funded consulting services this fall for four rural communities committed to building inclusive digital economies that support and serve their significant Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) populations. The two-phase technical assistance program, part of CORI’s Rural Innovation Initiative, is valued at $30,000 per community. 

“Building inclusive ecosystems in rural communities is foundational to our work, but we must go further than that. We need to actively engage majority BIPOC communities that have been historically excluded to ensure they are participants in the digital economy of the future,” said Matt Dunne, CORI’s Founder and Executive Director. “All rural Americans need to know they’re included in our push for digital equity and opportunity, and this program, thanks to the generous support of the Siegel Family Endowment, is a crucial step toward that goal.”

The application window closes on July 9, 2021, and the selection process begins on July 12, 2021. The four communities chosen as part of this cohort will then begin their work with CORI in September. The first phase of the service involves assessing the state of the digital economy in each community. During the second phase, CORI’s experts work with local leaders to design a strategy adapted to the unique strengths, assets, stakeholders and resources of the area.

Preference will be given to communities whose populations are no more than 60% white non-Hispanic. These communities should also be between 5,000-50,000 in population, not suburbs of urban areas, have fiber internet in the downtown area or broadband for at least 75% of the population, and there must be a post-secondary institution in the region.

Through its Rural Innovation Initiative, CORI works with communities to develop and execute on digital economy strategies that support local tech job creation and tech-based entrepreneurship. Since launching the initiative in 2019, CORI has helped communities raise more than $10 million in federal funding and matching dollars. 

CORI and Siegel Family Endowment (SFE) first began working together in 2017, when SFE made a commitment to support CORI’s K-12 curriculum implementation and a technology startup accelerator in Springfield, Vermont. This round of support attracted other funding partners to these projects, and functioned as proof-of-concept for the organization’s then-nascent strategy for strengthening rural communities through digital economic advancement.

The funding relationship between CORI and SFE was renewed in 2019 to advance a pilot program developed in partnership with the Economic Development Administration. This work expanded CORI’s footprint to more than a dozen rural communities across the country, built on the strategies that were developed during the Springfield pilot program, and allowed CORI to create and support the Rural Innovation Network, a growing consortium of small towns engaged in building digital economy ecosystems. Further support from SFE in 2020 has allowed CORI to expand its network and provide more services to this growing community of practice including partnerships with national technology skilling providers, pro bono legal services for startups, and technical assistance to ensure network communities are engaging traditionally underrepresented minorities and women as they build their digital economy ecosystems.


About Siegel Family Endowment

Siegel Family Endowment (SFE) is a foundation with a mission to understand and shape the impact of technology on society. Founded by computer scientist, entrepreneur, and philanthropist David M. Siegel, SFE employs an inquiry driven approach to support organizations and research at the intersections of learning, workforce, and infrastructure, and aims to create a world in which all people have the tools, skills, and context necessary to engage meaningfully with all elements of a rapidly changing society.

About the Center on Rural Innovation

The Center on Rural Innovation (CORI) is a national nonprofit action tank advancing economic prosperity in rural America. Our comprehensive approach to digital economic development and entrepreneurship includes building a nationwide network of local economic change agents, using mapping tools and data analytics to highlight opportunities that exist in small towns, making direct investment in underserved rural entrepreneurs, and closing the digital divide so all Americans can participate in a 21st century digital economy.