For many years, rural education has been a back-burner issue. For decades, education reformers have focused on urban school systems, which are big and highly visible. Meanwhile, even as businesses have departed rural communities, leaving them isolated and impoverished, their educational challenges have drawn scant notice.

What can be done about this? In a new essay for AEI Education’s Place-Based Philanthropy series (full disclosure: I’m director of AEI education), Bellwether Education’s Juliet Squire, who has done a lot of work with funders and rural communities in recent years, sketches a number of ideas on how philanthropy can better help rural communities.

These communities, Squire points out, need resources and support. However, funders inclined to step up are rarely from rural America, and they can too readily breed resentment by coming across as self-impressed, wealthy, cosmopolitan know-it-alls (not that this reaction is unique to rural communities, of course; plenty have raised similar concerns in places like Newark, N.J., and New Orleans).

Hoping to do better, donors are contemplating place-based approaches, in which they focus on one rural community at a time. Squire believes that, done right, this place-based approach has “enormous potential to revitalize rural communities.” Because this approach “requires philanthropies to shift their mindset from that of a benefactor to that of a partner committed to learning and working alongside local leaders,” it helps mitigate the resentment often caused by outside philanthropists, while still providing the rural communities the support they need.

Read the full article about rural philanthropy by Frederick M. Hess on Medium.