Asheville data-visualization project receives Rural Digital Advocacy grant

An Asheville program is one of six to receive funding from the Rural Digital Advocacy Grants Program, sponsored by the Rural Policy Action Partnership (“a collaboration of rural advocates and public policy institutions including the Center for Rural Strategies, Network Impact, the Institute for Emerging Issues, and MDC.)


The Rural Digital Advocacy Grants Program selection committee announced today that it has awarded a total of $60,000 in funding to six projects to employ digital tools to advance rural advocacy and policy change.

The grants selection committee carefully reviewed more than two dozen applications, ultimately awarding funding to those that best represented innovative, collaborative projects that seek to improve the lives of people living in rural communities through policy change.

In addition to the panel process, one project was selected in a public vote to secure funding. More than 1,600 votes were cast in the on-line poll. The winning project was the Rural Arts and Culture Map (described below).

The following projects will receive funding under this program:

Mapping Our Issues: Data Visualization Made Easy for Rural Activists Asheville, North Carolina: This project will use data visualization tools to map the availability of broadband Internet access across Western North Carolina to support an advocacy efforts related to rural broadband.

The Rural Southwest Digital Community Center Taos, New Mexico: The Southwest Rural Policy Network (SWRPN) will build a Rural Southwest Digital Community Center, a story and resource-sharing hub that will streamline policy and outreach efforts among nonprofits and community organizations across the region.

Wi-Fi Locater Mobile Application Springfield, Illinois: Partnership for a Connected Illinois will develop a mobile application to help those in rural areas of Illinois locate businesses with public Wi-Fi. The mobile application will be used as an advocacy tool to identify gaps in coverage, encourage businesses to create more public Wi-Fi hot spots, and, highlight the need for rural broadband access.

#HeatLocal Portland, Oregon: The #HeatLocal project is a national social media campaign targeting business owners, decision-makers, and rural leaders to promote the benefits of using local and renewable resources to meet rural heating needs.

Land Monitor: Keep the Ground in a Farm Washington, DC: This project will develop a crowd-sourced mapping platform that would allow small farmers and others to document land and resource “grabs,” in which outside investors purchase farmland or fishing rights.

The Rural Arts and Culture Map Broomfield, Colorado: This project will create an interactive map-based website presenting new perspectives from rural America using shared video, audio, photography, and text.

This grant program is part of an initiative to build a national network of rural advocates who share knowledge, strategically focus resources, and access a wider group of stakeholders in order to shape public policy to improve rural America.

The Rural Digital Advocacy Grants Program is sponsored by the Rural Policy Action Partnership (RPAP) a collaboration of rural advocates and public policy institutions including the Center for Rural Strategies, Network Impact, the Institute for Emerging Issues, and MDC. RPAP received support from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation to carry out a strategic and integrated policy initiative on behalf of vulnerable children and their families and communities in rural America. For more information, visit

About Margaret Williams
Editor Margaret Williams first wrote for Xpress in 1994. An Alabama native, she has lived in Western North Carolina since 1987 and completed her Masters of Liberal Arts & Sciences from UNC-Asheville in 2016. Follow me @mvwilliams

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