The Highlander Research and Education Center is a center based in New Market, TN.  Through popular education, participatory research, and cultural work, we help to create spaces — at Highlander and in local communities — where people gain knowledge, hope and courage, expanding their ideas of what is possible. Highlander works with individuals, organizations, networks and alliances in order to boost the capacity of existing organizations, build the present and next generation of leaders in the region and beyond, and support collaboration and network development.  

Through extensive leadership development programs, specialized institutes, residencies, technical assistance, capacity building, and one-on-one coaching, Highlander works to boost the skills of community leaders and the capacity of existing organizations. Highlander works with interns, social work students and fellows, and over the last 82 years many have gone on to run organizations, programs and networks in the Central Appalachian region and around the country and the world.  At the core of Highlander’s work is bringing people and organizations together to learn and grow from each other to create positive, transformational change. 

Rural Support Partners provides evaluation support to the program and was instrumental in the necessary planning and research to support development of  the fellowship. As a management, strategy, and evaluation social enterprise based in Asheville, NC, Rural Support Partners helps organizations and networks become more effective at their work to build assets and improve economic conditions in low-wealth communities. Since the company was founded in 2008, Rural Support Partners has worked with close to 50 partner organizations and collaborative networks across Appalachia and the Southeast on a wide range of organizational and network development projects.

In addition, Rural Support Partners runs a highly successful Rural Fellowship program within their own shop. They have worked with 14 fellows and graduate interns over the past five years, supporting their leadership and professional development while increasing the organization’s capacity to serve. Three former fellows are now employed as full-time RSP staff, while others have gone on to successful self-employment and leadership positions in social work and community support organizations.