The Center on Rural Innovation Announces Renewed, Expanded Funding from Siegel Family Endowment

Grant totals $2.8 million over three years, and is intended to scale CORI’s workforce development programs to serve a national audience

Hartland, VTThe Center on Rural Innovation (CORI) is pleased to announce the commitment of three years of funding from longtime funder, partner, and supporter Siegel Family Endowment (SFE). The grant totals $2.8 million over the next three years, and targets programs and work that will help the organization scale its efforts to bring digital economy jobs to small town America and close the rural opportunity gap.

“At this time when rural America is having a moment, this generous commitment of foundational support will give us the runway to build the strategies for remote work, digital skilling and scalable startups to allow us to build a model for strong, resilient economies across rural America,” said Matt Dunne, CORI’s Founder and Executive Director. One of Siegel Family Endowment’s core strategic goals is expanding access to the benefits of the digital economy, which has been advanced through partnerships with a wide range of grantees and partner organizations. SFE’s holistic approach to achieving this goal has driven longstanding partnerships with organizations as diverse as Scratch, a creative coding platform that enhances computational thinking skills for young people, and Pursuit, a skills-training program that trains adults with the greatest need and potential for their first jobs in tech.

CORI and SFE first began working together in 2017, when SFE made a commitment to support CORI’s K-12 curriculum implementation and a technology startup accelerator in Springfield, Vermont. This round of support attracted other funding partners, national and local, to these projects, including the Vermont Community Foundation, the Economic Development Administration, and the Kauffman Foundation, and functioned as proof-of-concept for the organization’s then-nascent strategy for strengthening rural communities through digital economic advancement.

The funding relationship between CORI and SFE was renewed in 2019 to advance a pilot program developed in partnership with the Economic Development Administration. This work expanded CORI’s footprint to more than a dozen rural communities across the country, built on the strategies that were developed during the Springfield, VT pilot program, and provided the proof-of-concept needed to advance a playbook for engaging in different contexts throughout rural America. That second stage funding allowed CORI to create and support the Rural Innovation Network, a growing consortium of small towns engaged in building digital economy ecosystems. This new funding will allow for expansion of the network and provide more services to this growing community of practice including partnerships with national technology skilling providers, pro bono legal services for startups, and technical assistance to ensure network communities are engaging traditionally underrepresented minorities and women as they build their digital economy ecosystems.

“At SFE, we’ve been especially interested in CORI’s ability to utilize the natural overlaps of physical and social factors in their programmatic work,” said Katy Knight, Executive Director of Siegel Family Endowment. “Each of the strategic programs that we’ve partnered with them on over the years is designed with full awareness of the relationships between physical community spaces, the economic and civic life of rural America, and the substantial opportunities for innovation and digital advancement that exist at those intersections. We’re excited about this next phase of our collaboration.”

Other funders who have committed to this stage of CORI’s growth include LinkedIn co-founders Reid Hoffman and Allen Blue, and the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation.

About Siegel Family Endowment

Siegel Family Endowment (SFE) is a foundation with a mission to understand and shape the impact of technology on society. Founded by computer scientist, entrepreneur, and philanthropist David M. Siegel, SFE employs an inquiry driven approach to support organizations and research at the intersections of learning, workforce, and infrastructure, and aims to create a world in which all people have the tools, skills, and context necessary to engage meaningfully with all elements of a rapidly changing society.

About the Center on Rural Innovation

The Center on Rural Innovation (CORI) is a national nonprofit action tank advancing economic prosperity in rural America. Our comprehensive approach to digital economic development and entrepreneurship includes building a nationwide network of local economic change agents, using mapping tools and data analytics to highlight opportunities that exist in small towns, making direct investment in underserved rural entrepreneurs, and closing the digital divide so all Americans can participate in a 21st century digital economy.