Horizons Anti-Poverty Program Background Information
A leadership-development program designed for small, rural towns demonstrates how communities that become aware, engaged, and energized about poverty issues can make change happen.
Horizons was a multi-year community leadership initiative, designed and launched by the Northwest Area Foundation (NWAF). Everyday Democracy and the Pew Partnership for Civic Change partnered with NWAF in this effort, which was delivered by a number of nonprofits, Tribal Colleges and State University Extension Services. Horizons was designed to build community leadership and capacity to address poverty in small, rural, and reservation communities. It was predicated on the theory that communities already possess many of the assets and skills to arrest social and economic decline, and can, with leadership training, resources and support, craft and implement a shared community vision to address poverty in meaningful ways.
To date, 283 high poverty, small, rural and reservation communities have completed the Horizons program. The pilot program, concluded in 2005, involved 44 communities; 140 communities completed Horizons Two in 2008. The current cycle, Horizons Three, concluded in April, 2010, with 99 communities completing the entire program sequence. Since the pilot phase beginning in 2003, the Horizons program has provided leadership training, focused conversation and learning about rural poverty, and coaching, training and resources to help the participating rural and reservation communities take steps to address poverty. Over 100,000 people, close to 30% of the population of the 283 communities, have participated in this program.
Horizons Theory of Change
In a Theory of Change, evolving over time based on evaluation findings and lessons learned, the program was intended to test whether focusing rural communities on poverty through structured conversation, and building new leadership systems, would lead to community action on poverty. Extensive data has clearly validated this underlying Theory of Change. Focusing small rural communities on poverty reduction, helping them to acknowledge and understand it, and enhancing their leadership systems by identifying and empowering new leaders, and equipping them with new skills DOES lead to community action on poverty. Moreover, these data have validated the initial assessment of the Horizons pilot test: relatively modest investments in rural and reservation communities do lead to significant changes in community capacity.