NC1171: Individual, family, and community factors associated with resilience in diverse, rural, low-income families

(Multistate Research Project)

Status: Approved Pending Start Date

NC1171: Individual, family, and community factors associated with resilience in diverse, rural, low-income families

Duration: 10/01/2024 to 09/30/2029

Administrative Advisor(s):

NIFA Reps:

Non-Technical Summary

Building and strengthening rural sustainable systems is critical for diverse, rural, low-income families’ functioning and resilience. Promoting health and well-being in rural communities is complex, as there are many factors impacting daily life and sustainability, a balance among three interconnected systems: environment, economic, and social. When faced with a challenge, a family system will reorganize and change behaviors to achieve optimal family functioning. To fully understand the sustainability of optimal family functioning, we must investigate how family systems interact with other sustainable systems. Interactions among sustainable systems can help identify effective locally relevant interventions that promote equitable health and well-being in rural America. For Objective 1, we will examine variations in family system functioning and resilience across the US, using survey data that we are collecting from diverse rural, low-income families. For Objective 2, we will capitalize on existing national datasets to investigate the implications of the three sustainability systems for variations in family functioning and resilience. Sustainability in rural communities requires a collective effort among various stakeholders. Therefore, Objective 3 involves translating research to practice and its dissemination. We will invite rural community stakeholders to join an advisory council (AC) to collaborate in identifying strengths and opportunities for resilient rural systems. The AC will deepen our understanding and ability to translate research into meaningful outreach. To further build capacity in rural families and communities to become resilient and sustainable systems, we will follow systematic program planning to improve a research-based professional development program for rural, family-serving professionals. 

Statement of Issues and Justification

The Great Recession, the global pandemic, and the increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters have demonstrated the urgent need to build effective sustainable systems in the U.S. for human rights and resilience (United Nations, 2023), especially in rural communities (Pati et al., 2023). Injustice for the most vulnerable will persist, without a multilevel systems approach toward understanding and addressing inequalities and inequities. Individuals and families in rural communities face significant vulnerabilities to their health and wellbeing (Dyk et al., 2018); thus, building and strengthening rural sustainable systems is critical.

Akin to resilience, sustainable systems are characterized by their ability to adapt and to continue to meet current needs (Fiksel, 2003). Sustainability is achieved by a balance between three interconnected systems: environment, economic, and social (Purvis et al., 2019; USDA, n.d.). Despite a decade of population decline due to low birth rates, an aging population, and outmigration, rural areas have witnessed growth since 2020 (Davis et al., 2023). In 2022, there were approximately 46 million residents in rural, non-metro counties (Kassel, 2023). This population growth necessitates concomitant improvements in these three sustainable systems to meet the current needs of rural community residents.

Rural communities, crucial for the United States’ success, contribute significantly to the agricultural and recreational land, as well as natural resources (Ajilore & Willingham, 2019). Known for their strong civic responsibility and self-efficacy (Jablonski & Scally, 2021), rural communities have proven to be resilient. Rural communities are not a monolith, however. Some rural communities have greater access to amenities and assets, whereas others experience extreme poverty and limited access to resources (Pati et al., 2023). Despite declines in poverty in some rural US counties, many communities still grapple with enduring challenges, including long distances to resources, housing insecurity, limited employment opportunities, and healthcare disparities (Davis et al., 2023; Pati et al., 2023). Additionally, rural areas face disparities in access to broadband connectivity, quality education, child care, and healthy foods (Burton et al., 2021; Henning-Smith & Kozhimannil, 2016). These challenges are especially prominent for racial and ethnic minoritized groups including Indigenous and Latinx families living in rural communities (Davis et al., 2023). Therefore, the sustainability of rural communities is understood best by examining a wide variety of rural populations.

To advance equitable health and well-being in rural communities, the abilities of existing systems to meet the evolving needs of rural residents need to be evaluated by engaging community stakeholders. Research from our Rural Families Speak projects documents that rural, low-income families are resilient (e.g., Cancel-Tirado et al., 2018). In alignment with the United Nation’s (2023) and USDA’s (2022) sustainability goals, we will build on our research to understand how rural sustainable systems can promote individual, family, and community resilience. Promoting health and well-being in rural communities is complex, as there are many unique and varied factors impacting daily life (Bronfenbrenner & Morris, 2006; King et al., 2014). These factors are intertwined with sustainable systems. There are “three pillars” of sustainability—environmental, economic, and social sustainable systems—which must be examined thoroughly (Purvis et al., 2019). These pillars are interconnected in ways that can reinforce or detract from one another (Guptill & the SARE Quality-of-Life Working Group, 2021).

First, environmental sustainability is the ability to restore and preserve the natural environment. Climate change, pollution, overexploitation of natural resources, and natural disasters influence environmental sustainability (Purvis et al., 2019). Water, land, air, and raw materials are essential in meeting human needs. Rural areas make up 97% of the US and are major contributors of natural resources (Ajilore & Willingham, 2019). “Nature is the key asset of most rural communities” (Hibbard & Lurie, 2012, p. 830). Natural disasters can have devastating impacts on rural communities, compared to their urban counterparts (Cutter et al., 2016). Many rural communities have risen to the challenge of natural disasters and the global pandemic, demonstrating community disaster resilience, “the ability of a community to survive and thrive in the face of uncertainty” (Cox & Hamlen, 2015, p. 220). Natural resources and agriculture are intertwined with the rural economy (Brinkley & Visser, 2022; Hibbard & Lurie, 2012).

Second, economic sustainability is the ability to meet economic needs (e.g., income, financial security, economic policies). Rural economic development is critical to address the high incidence of poverty in rural areas (Economic Research Service, 2014). Rural economies are dependent on goods production, including farming, ranching, forestry, fishing, mining and energy extraction, and manufacturing. Economic sustainability is influenced by many factors including the management of community resources, capacity of local businesses, federal and state policies to address poverty, and access to education and health care (Purvis et al., 2019). Indeed, using the economic well-being continuum (EBC), Mammen et al. (2015) identified eight critical factors for the economic situations of rural, low-income families who participated in past NC1171 efforts: child care, employability, food security, health security, housing security, reliance on assistance programs (e.g., Earned Income Tax Credit), their human capital (e.g., skills), and transportation.

Rural transportation systems impact the economy, but there are significant challenges of infrastructure and safety in rural communities. However, during the pandemic, telemedicine, became a key tool to address limited access to healthcare services (Pati et al., 2023). During the pandemic, food systems in rural communities experienced added stresses to already high rates of food insecurity with reduced access and availability (Kent et al., 2022). Examining rural communities that were able to resiliently navigate this systemic pandemic stressor provides examples of how sustainability can be achieved (Pati et al., 2023). In terms of rural food system innovation, rural communities saw increases in gardening and online nutrition education (Kent et al., 2022). Preliminary findings of the latest iteration of this long-standing project pinpoint the importance of the built capacity and sustainability of food systems in rural communities. It is not enough for a community to be resilient through one disaster; it must be sustainable if it is to uphold the well-being of their members in the face of future disasters. Thus, as we described in one of our publications, rural low-income families’ quest for economic security requires more than a paycheck (Mammen et al., 2018).

Third, social sustainability has been called “the missing pillar” of sustainability (Bostrom, 2012). According to the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Quality-of-Life Working Group (Guptill et al., 2021), “social sustainability is the extent to which social relationships promote equity, justice, and a high quality of life.” Simply, social sustainability involves social relationships at multiple levels—from society at large, local communities, and social relationships (Guptill et al., 2021). Whereas economic capital is a driver of resilience in metro areas, non-metro communities are often supported by community capital or attachment to place (Cutter et al., 2016). Recognizing and promoting social sustainability is imperative for nurturing these community ties, promoting equity, and enhancing the overall well-being of diverse rural, low-income families and their communities.

An often-overlooked type of social sustainability is the family system; yet, arguably one’s family is the most powerful influence on human development, health, and well-being. As such, the primary system of interest of this proposal—and a contribution to the literature on sustainability and resilience—is the family system. According to family systems theory (Cox & Paley, 1997), a family system is a unit of interdependent individuals related by birth, marriage, adoption, or choice, as well as subsystems (e.g., parent-child dyad). A family is a type of sustainable system in that it seeks to achieve and maintain stability and balance. When faced with a challenge, a family will reorganize and change behaviors to achieve homeostasis and optimal family functioning. Family functioning is the capacity of a family system to meet the needs of its family members, involving how families communicate, manage their daily routines and responsibilities, fulfill their roles, communicate, connect emotionally, and adapt to stress (Cox & Paley, 1997; Skinner et al., 2000). To fully understand the sustainability—or stability—of a family system, we must investigate how the family system interacts with other sustainable systems. 

These three pillars impact human health and well-being (i.e., human capital: health, education, skills, knowledge, access to services). Factors that foster this include maternal health, nutrition, early childhood care, and preventive care. The Cooperative Extension Framework on Health Equity and Wellbeing highlights the importance of going beyond the determinants of health to consider systemic influences of norms, policies, and practice as well as structural inequities that may impact wellbeing (Burton et al., 2021). Researchers and practitioners can gain insight about what promoted resilience in these communities to make recommendations to build sustainable environmental systems in rural areas across the US. Interactions among these three pillars of sustainability can help identify effective locally relevant interventions that build on strengths and opportunities to promote equitable health and well-being in rural America.

Technical Feasibility

This multi-state collaboration is uniquely positioned to contribute to the body of knowledge regarding the resilience of low- income families in rural America. Fiksel (2003) proffered that “the essence of sustainability is resilience” (p. 5532). Therefore, examining rural sustainable systems is a logical extension from our recent efforts to understand multilevel factors impacting individual, family, and community resilience. Building upon previous NC1171 approaches to understanding multi-level factors (individual, family, and community) that contribute to rural family wellbeing we will be working on further contextualizing family and community data collected in the 2019-2024 project. We will continue to employ ecological systems (Bronfenbrenner & Morris, 2006), resilience (Masten, 2018), and community capitals framework (Flora & Flora, 2013) theoretical lenses to identify challenges to adaptation faced by families in rural communities.

For our most recent multi-state effort, Rural Families Speak about Resilience (RFSR), we collected data about experiences of stress and resilience from interviews with 14 community key informants (CKIs) from family- and food-serving organizations in rural communities in 13 states and survey data from low-income mothers across the rural US (goal = 1171). The proposed project will further analyze and build upon these findings to understand factors contributing to family and community systems resilience in times of community stress. In addition, due to the geographic, social, and economic diversity of rural communities, we propose to integrate data collected in our 2019-2024 cycle with larger secondary data sources to understand the sustainable nature of resilience more deeply for families and communities in rural areas.

This multi-state research team has been collaborating since 1998 (NC223, NC1011, NC1171) and has a history of using its complementary strengths to develop research questions, design studies, and conduct quantitative and qualitative analyses to produce innovative, multidisciplinary studies. The team has spanned distance and time by using technologies to communicate via regular video conference calls and annual on-site meetings, as well as by sharing data files via Box. Our team updates our governance document annually and uses a tracking tool to facilitate collaboration among team members in developing presentations, policy briefs, manuscripts, and other products.

Our reach has a broad impact on research, advising, teaching, and outreach. Over the 25 years of our project, the work of this team has produced approximately 120 peer-reviewed publications, an edited peer-reviewed book entitled Rural families and work: Context and problems, and multiple peer-reviewed special issue journals, such as a Family Science Review special issue on rural families showcased our research across twenty years. Further, we have more than 175 peer-reviewed international and national conference presentations. Students affiliated with the project have produced 12 theses and dissertations, with several more progress. Furthermore, several team members began their work with the project as graduate students and now are junior, mid-career faculty. In addition to these scholarly outputs, the team has provided numerous outreach consultations and educational presentations to rural communities. In 2021, we began a quarterly professional development webinar series, Relying on Rural Resilience that features a brief research-based presentation followed by discussions about translational strategies between researchers and practitioners. More than 200 family-serving professionals attended. All registrants receive a brief video presentation and handout highlighting the strategies they brainstormed to further integrate family into rural outreach. This information is also shared on the Rural Families Speak webpage for use by other professionals and educators. We secured approximately $700,000 for multi-state and $420,000 for individual states to support research and outreach pertaining to NC1171.

Advantages of Working in a Multistate Effort

This project builds upon a longstanding multi-state, multidisciplinary effort consisting of family scientists, family economists, nutritional scientists, social workers, extension specialists, psychologists, and sociologists. The study of many states representing different geographic regions allows for a comparison of different contextual factors, such as access to community resources, and a range of adverse events. Each state is also characterized by a different population profile. Race/ethnicity, culture, and acculturation are all important to understand factors related to family resiliency. This diversity allows researchers, Extension personnel, other educators, and community stakeholders to further understand relevant issues, develop research agendas, and create products (e.g., curricula, programs, policy briefs) that recognize the unique context and diverse needs of rural America. A multistate collaboration also allows the team to address a range of current challenges to and resources for resiliency in low-income rural families. The current project encompasses 17 states: AZ, CA, FL, HI, IA, IN, KS, KY, MI, KS, MT, NC, NE, OK, OR, TN, WA. Each state is currently processing documentation for its participation in the proposed project.

This multi-state collaboration is uniquely positioned to contribute to the body of knowledge regarding the resilience of low- income families in rural America. Rather than taking a deficit approach, we take a strengths-based approach to understand ways to sustain or build upon existing individual, family, and community strengths (Saleebey, 1996). Practitioners increasingly utilize strengths-based approaches with their clients, but research on the mechanisms or processes by which individuals and families develop these strengths is still limited (Orthner et al., 2004). Furthermore, to inform policy and practice, there is a critical need to understand “which system or systems to target, at what levels, and when” to bolster and capitalize on these strengths (Masten & Monn, 2015, p. 16). An advantage of a multistate effort is to understand the variability in systems, mechanisms, and strengths across diverse rural communities.

Related, Current and Previous Work

Our previous work produced by RFS (NC223, NC1011) and RFSH and RFSR (NC1171) projects documented risk and protective factors of poor, rural families. Collectively, the work focused on rural, low-income families has spanned three projects. The first project (NC223) aimed to capture and represent voices and experiences of these families in the research, which was relatively void of a perspective centered on low-income, rural family contexts. In the past 2.5 decades, the project has evolved to explore community and family level factors associated with outcomes in rural, low-income families, with a focus on processes that support: family well-being (NC1011), mental and physical health of rural low-income parents and children (NC1171-original), and processes supporting family resilience (NC1171-current).  The findings generated across these projects have contributed broadly to shedding light on the strengths and barriers to health and well-being of rural, low-income families, which remains an understudied group. As such, the findings generated through these efforts contribute valuable information that helps to inform policy and program efforts.

In the last 5 years, the team has produced two retrospective reviews to showcase the lessons learned from the two decades of work on Rural Families Speak across the projects. The first appeared as a Special Issue of Family Science Review with five individual papers focused on the aspects of everyday experiences that emerged from the work. The second appeared as a Special Issue of Forum for Family and Consumer Issues focused on the application of the information learned from across the projects to professionals and programming targeting rural, low-income families. Highlighted across these two issues are findings related to the impact mental and physical health of family members has on the family system, the importance of nuclear and intergenerational family relationships for family health and well-being, and the impact of economic and food security on individual health and family well-being.

Team members have also leveraged these findings to inform recommendations for COVID responses (Sano & Mammen, 2022), SNAP work requirements (Bird et al., 2021), and the role of extension in supporting rural family well-being (Sano et al., in press). In addition, the team has built an ongoing webinar series for extension professionals and family programming partners to showcase research findings that inform community-level efforts to build and support the resilience capacity of rural, low-income families.

Review of CRIS and Other Multistate Projects

Before describing the need for additional research on the implications of sustainable systems for family functioning among rural, low-income families and individual, family, and community resilience, we note related existing multi-state projects. Based on our review of CRIS, there are a few ostensibly related projects but none that duplicate our proposal. We identified the following multistate projects:

NC1030: Sustainable and Resilient Systems: Transformative Response to Disruptions by Families, Businesses, and Communities

NC1100: A Systems Perspective to Community Resilience: Rural healthcare at the intersection of households and businesses

NC2172: Household financial and health decision-making under economic uncertainties

NE2249: Sustainable and Inclusive Rural Economic Development to Enhance Housing, Health, Entrepreneurship, and Equity

W5001: Rural Population Change and Adaptation in the Context of Health, Economic, and Environmental Shocks and Stressors

Although the overarching theme across the aforementioned proposals centers around the well-being of rural populations and communities, none of the outlined initiatives adopts a family systems approach. In a family systems approach, a family is perceived as a dynamic social system wherein members interact with and exert influence on each other. Furthermore, the family system is recognized to exist within multiple contextual layers, encompassing community dynamics, cultural influences, historical factors, and policy frameworks. For instance, NC1030 investigates family firms and policy, NC1100 concentrates on labor force considerations, employee retention, and small businesses, NC2172 employs a behavioral economics framework to comprehend household decision-making, NE2249 addresses rural economic development, and W5001 aims to comprehend population change and demographic shifts in rural areas. In contrast, our proposed project adopts a more micro-level, human development, and family science approach, specifically delving into the study of family sustainability and resilience in the context of rural poverty. Therefore, our proposed project is innovative and addresses a crucial gap in the understanding of dynamic functioning of rural families. It provides a unique perspective aimed at enhancing the well-being of individuals, families, and communities in rural areas.


  1. Examine Rural, Low-Income Family Systems Functioning and Resilience
    Comments: For Objective 1, we will examine variations family system functioning of diverse rural, low-income families across the US and multilevel factors and processes associated with individual, family, and community resilience in rural areas.
  2. Investigate the Implications of Rural Sustainability for Family Systems Functioning and Resilience
    Comments: For Objective 2, we will investigate the implications of the three pillars of sustainability (environment, economic, and social sustainable systems), separately and system-to-system interactions—for variations in family system functioning and individual, family, and community resilience.
  3. Strengthen Rural Sustainable Systems, Family Functioning, and Resilience
    Comments: Objective 3 involves translating research to practice and its dissemination. We propose to collaborate with rural family-serving professionals to identify strategies to strengthen rural sustainability systems, family functioning, and multilevel resilience.


Project objectives will explore depth and breadth of understanding sustainability and resilience in times of stress for rural low-income individuals, family systems, and the communities that serve them through the following methods described below.

Objective 1: Examine Rural, Low-Income Family Systems Functioning and Resilience

Our initial proposal for the current research initiative (NC1171, spanning from 2019 to 2024)   outlined the administration of surveys to approximately 300 mothers residing in rural counties in participating states. The primary aim was to understand determinants of resilience across individual, family, and community levels. However, the endeavor faced significant challenges due to the global Covid-19 pandemic, resulting in a significant delay in the original data collection plan. We had to be nimble and revise our approach to align with the transformed landscape of the post-pandemic era. In response, we conducted a comprehensive re-evaluation of the project and made the necessary adjustments to sampling, data collection procedures, and survey questions (e.g., COVID-19 experiences).

Presently, in the RFSR project's fifth year (the 2023-2024 project year), we are actively engaged in data collection from rural low-income female caregivers across the US via Qualtrics surveys. We have a contract with Qualtrics for 1,171 complete surveys. In Fall 2023, we executed a pilot test with 50 participants and subsequently revised our survey. The survey encompasses a variety of indicators of individual, family, and community resilience, including adverse or stressful experiences in the past year or ever (e.g., job loss), financial well-being, food security, family relationships, access to community resources and connection, social support, family relationships, and female caregivers’ mental and physical health. We anticipate the release of the family dataset by Summer/Fall 2024. Until the data are available, we are creating syntax for data management (e.g., variable transformation, scale creation, handling missing data) and a measures book.

Project members are forming specialized working groups based on their individual research interests and expertise to conduct targeted analyses on specific research domains. We are identifying specific research questions and the most appropriate statistical analyses, such as latent profiles of family functioning. The process model of family functioning will inform our analyses of individual, dyadic (parent-child), and the whole family system (Skinner et al., 2000). Families are constantly adapting to normative developmental and life course changes as well as stressors and crises. According to this framework, seven essential components of family functioning are role performance, communication, affective expression, involvement, values and norms, and control. Measuring resilience necessitates understanding recovery from adversity and stressors. We will categorize stressors as individual (e.g., health), family (e.g., financial insecurity) and community (e.g., community connection and economic development) to identify key contributors of family functioning and resilience.

Although the precise number of working groups and the specific areas of focus will be contingent upon preliminary results derived from the family data, we anticipate their formation to align with various factors associated with family functioning and their interactions. Both graduate and undergraduate students are encouraged to employ the data for their research papers, theses, and dissertations. Additionally, family data will be integrated with the context of the community, as described under Objective 2, to understand the contextual nuances and interactions between family and community environments.

Objective 2: Investigate the Implications of Rural Sustainability for Family Systems Functioning and Resilience

Ongoing research findings from our current multistate effort will be situated within the larger national context in which to understand family functioning and resilience in rural, low-income families. Specifically, to deepen our understanding of the rural sustainability for family systems functioning and resilience we will capitalize on two types of data sources. First, we will continue to examine community-level data from the current multistate effort (RFSR; 2019-2024), which is composed of existing community key informant (CKI) interviews and community profiles. To the extent possible, we will identify themes according to the three pillars of sustainability: environment, economic, and social, as well as system-to-system interactions, as they relate to individual, family, and community resilience.

Second, will capitalize on existing publicly available national dataset to investigate the implications of rural systems and their interactions. These data will provide a broader context in which to situation the community and family data collected in our 2019-2024 cycle. Project members committed to Object 2 will form a workgroup to identify existing national datasets from the list of data sources provided by the NIDA (2022) that allow for the analysis of rural sustainable systems, family functioning, and resilience. In addition, we will create a dataset of emergency preparedness data from national agencies (e.g., FEMA, NOAA, CDC). 

We will measure success of sustainability in US rural communities, which is the extent to which environmental, economic, and social systems meet current needs of rural, low-income female caregivers, their families, and communities. Metrics of environmental sustainability include management of natural resources and engaging communities on environmental issues. Metrics of economic sustainability include economic equality, poverty rates, and employment rates. Finally, metrics for social sustainability include the quality of human services in improving mental and physical health and non-discriminatory and inclusive practices for people of diverse backgrounds (e.g., racial-ethnic identity, culture). We will disseminate the findings from Objectives 1 and 2 to a diverse audience through conference presentations, colloquia, academic journals, scholarly books, policy and program briefs.

Objective 3: Strengthen Rural Sustainable Systems, Family Systems Functioning, and Resilience

To meet Objective 3, the findings from Objectives 1 and 2 will be translated into programs and community outreach activities via two primary procedures: (a) conduct community-engaged research by convening an advisory committee of community stakeholders and (b) translate research to practice for rural family-serving professionals.

Advisory Committee

Our Executive Board will invite rural community stakeholders to join an advisory council (AC) to collaborate in identifying strengths and opportunities for resilient rural systems. Although our work has long considered the needs of rural communities and families, the AC will deepen our understanding and ability to translate research into meaningful outreach. Complex challenges require community partnership and intentional considerations of the AC composition to ensure future research and outreach decisions can have maximum impact and sustainability (Wallerstein et al., 2020).

Rural is often considered more homogenous than its urban counterparts, but there are still many unique perspectives present (Pati et al., 2023). The AC will aim to include perspectives and lived experiences of individuals and families across multiple ethnic-racial, cultural, and age cohort backgrounds in the US. We have historically oversampled populations at high risk for health disparities in rural communities (Greder & Reina, 2019; Mendez et al., 2016); we will continue our approach to uplift the experiences of under-represented and marginalized people in rural areas. The AC will consider "levers” for improving sustainability described in the UN’s 2023 Global Sustainable Development report, including governmental policies, economy and finance, science and technology (e.g., broadband access), and capacity-building.

AC members would initially meet quarterly for the first year and then at least annually thereafter. An Executive Board member will schedule, host, and facilitate virtual meetings with the AC. Meetings would include proposed research or outreach options, ideas for consideration, discussion or brainstorming, and opportunities to vote on shared decisions. We would work to secure resources to fairly compensate all advisory council members for their time and expertise. In addition, the shared mission and goals may help build new collaborative relationships including not only interdisciplinary perspectives, but also cross-systems perspectives (Holt & Aveling, 2023). This process would further expand our value of shared governance by more holistically engaging rural community stakeholders to inform research and outreach.

Translating Research to Practice for Family-Serving Professionals

To further build capacity in rural families and communities towards resilient and sustainable systems, we will follow systematic program planning to improve a research-based professional development program for rural, family-serving professionals. Through each planning and evaluation process, we will consult with the AC for input and review.

For the past two years, we have offered a quarterly webinar series called Relying on Rural Resilience (RRR). The target audience for this series is both current and future rural professionals, such as Extension Agents, child and family support specialists, mental or physical health professionals, educational program staff, and university students. The goal of the webinar series is to increase awareness and to build the capacity of attendees by collaborating in translating research into practice. The series features a topic relevant to rural families research, aligning with expertise from our multi-state team as well as considering timeliness of topic. For example, “Effective Health Messaging in Rural Communities” came as COVID-19 vaccination outreach was expanding, and “Building Health and Resilience by Teaching Mindful Eating/Feeding to Rural Parents of Young Children” occurred after the holidays as more programs were supporting emerging health goals.

We have begun a pilot evaluation of this program; interest and participant feedback indicate we have the opportunity to expand and improve rural sustainability and resilience through co-learning with attendees. To further refine professional development programming and its impacts on improving sustainable systems and resilience in rural communities, we will continue to evaluate the webinar series according to attendees’ satisfaction, knowledge or perspective change, potential and realized outcomes in their efforts with families, and recommendations for improvement. We will continually evaluate the outcomes and impacts of iterations of the webinar series. We will explore qualitative analysis of webinar artifacts including discussion summaries and video research presentations. From these findings we will develop best practices for sustainable resilience within rural families and their supporting systems. These translational practices will be disseminated to both research and practice audiences, as well as developed into teaching materials that can support professionals in a university or community classroom.

We will understand the professional needs, interests, and opportunities for supporting rural family serving professionals with our NC1171 research. We will recruit from our Extension networks and state agency connections, additionally, we will invite all multi-state partners reach out to a convenience sample of relevant rural family-serving professionals. Through a survey with quantitative and brief qualitative questions, we will investigate research-based content or skill development needs relative to sustainable rural systems as well as best practices for engagement, education, and collaboration. These insights will inform revision of the RRR webinar series marketing, structure, or content to be more effective in translational support for rural family serving professionals.

Measurement of Progress and Results


  • Qualitative community and quantitative family survey datasets collected during NC1171 (2019-24)
  • A combined dataset of emergency preparedness data from national agencies
  • Scholarly products including, but not limited to research presentations and conferences, community presentations for stakeholders, peer-reviewed journal articles, research and policy briefs, white papers, Extension publications, webinar series, and grant proposals to enhance or extend our work.
  • Data collected from the Advisory Council of community-stakeholders regarding factors associated with sustainability and resilience of rural individuals, families, and communities.
  • Resources with best practices and translational research-to-practice strategies for rural family-serving professional audience.
  • Evaluations of current and future outreach and dissemination strategies created for and with rural family-serving professionals, including the Relying on Rural Resilience webinars, handouts, and lesson plans.

Outcomes or Projected Impacts

  • Improved knowledge of rural, low-income family functioning and individual, family, and community resilience.
  • Improved understanding of the impact of rural environmental, economic, and social sustainability on family system functioning and individual, family, and community resilience. Further highlight strengths and opportunities rural communities might plan to undertake in support of rural family well-being.
  • Development of undergraduate, Master’s, and doctoral trained researchers in multi-method data collection, analysis, and dissemination focused on rural, low-income families.
  • New and strengthened partnerships with county and state stakeholders and organizations to improve sustainable systems and promote family functioning and resilience of rural families and communities.
  • Informed extension educators and community partners via presentations, publications, and locally based curricula, to mobilize rural community capacity in a strengths-based manner.
  • Improved policy considering the multi-level systems associated with the health, well-being, and resilience of rural low-income families.


(0):See attached appendix.

Projected Participation

View Appendix E: Participation

Outreach Plan

Sustainability in rural communities requires a collective effort among various stakeholders. Outreach products will be integrated throughout the project objectives and methods integral parts of the land-grant mission to research, teaching, and service. A detailed description of our outreach plan can be found under Objective 3’s procedure. Dissemination will include both academic and professional audiences. The AC will have the opportunity to regularly provide input to all scholarship plans. Potential scholarship includes peer-reviewed journal articles, state, regional, national and international conference presentations, policy and information briefs, digital resources and professional development materials. Professional development will be specifically provided through the continuation and/or revision of the RRR series engaging unique voices in collaborative, translational research into practice. The revised RRR series will develop a protocol for delivery as well as develop a plan for sustainable revision that others can learn from. Additionally, outcomes will include collaboratively developing best translational practices that will be shared with both rural researchers and family serving professionals. A website will be regularly maintained to share information about the project with interested stakeholders.

This project will continue to engage scholars at all levels interested in working with rural families in professional development. Several scholars involved in the current project began their involvement as graduate students working on previous connected projects (i.e., NC 223, NC1011, NC1171). Multiple current researchers in the project have advanced through academic ranks supported by mentorship and collaboration with multi-state members and rural family findings. Mentorship outreach with students and junior faculty will continue, for example team members will engage students in disseminating project findings as well as providing peer-review for related grant submissions or project ideas. This academic professional development encourages the growth and capacity for research in diverse factors facing rural family life, thus making the field of rural family scholarship more sustainable and impactful.


The organization of the multistate project will be in accordance with the Guidelines for Multistate Research Activities. Scott Loveridge will provide administrative guidance until a new Administrative Advisor is recruited.

We will rely on the extensive history of this research group, including detailed governance documents and existing infrastructure (e.g., website, data system). The initial organization of the team will be led by the core group of states writing the renewal (i.e., OR, FL, WA, KY, MT, AZ, KS). This core group will organize the first annual meeting of the potential participants (see Appendix E) at which elections will be held for the executive board committee. The Executive Board will consist of a Chair, Past chair, Vice Chair for Data, Vice Chair for Outreach, Vice Chair for Funding, Secretary, and Vice Chair for Dissemination. Each executive committee member will serve a 2-year term; members' terms will be staggered to maintain continuity of leadership. Working groups will be formed to produce and disseminate outputs on topics of interest (e.g., child health outcomes, family physical health, family mental health, economic security, training materials). The executive committee will meet once a month during the year and maintain contact with the Administrative Advisor and CSREES representative throughout the project. An advisory council will be formed that includes a diverse group of rural community stakeholders. At the first AC meeting, we will delineate agreed upon roles, expectations, and procedures.

Aggregation of existing national data with previously collected data will be led by a team member with expertise in that specific area who will be named by the executive board, with input from all team members, at the annual meeting. The external data leader will be responsible for coordinating data aggregation efforts among participating members, arranging appropriate cleaning and coding of the data, and making the final data set available to the project team. All cleaned data will be posted at a central location: Box hosted by Oregon State University. Box is a secure site from which data can be accessed by individual researchers and is approved by our Institutional Review Boards. For data collection, management, and analysis of all datasets, each state will be responsible for obtaining equipment and software to carry out project tasks. Working groups will maintain contact via email and teleconference calls. All team members will be encouraged to use project datasets for manuscripts in both scholarly and community publications according to the authorship rights detailed in the governance document, which will be updated and approved by majority vote at each annual meeting.

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