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Moving Ahead Together

Forward your community’s vision

Are you looking to foster community change? The West Virginia University Moving Ahead Together program seeks community partners who are ready to get started. Moving Ahead Together is a partnership between WVU Extension and the Department of Public Administration’s Graduate Certificate in Community Development Policy & Practice (CDPP) program

In collaboration with host communities, this service-learning program prepares recent college graduates and new professionals to make a difference, while offering in-practice professionals an opportunity to level up through graduate study. Students are prepared to work in government and nonprofit agencies or social enterprises that may strengthen people, generate economic capacity, and improve physical infrastructure or environmental quality.

These faculty and student teams would like to put their efforts to work with your community’s stakeholders and residents.

Embracing social, economic, and environmental justice

Moving Ahead Together is grounded in participatory democracy, enabling community members to empower themselves in the pursuit of well-being and quality of life. We put those who will experience the effects of plans and projects in the driver’s seat, building local government transparency, responsiveness, and accountability.

As depicted in the figure, Stout (2019) offers a theory of community change that can be summarized as follows: Community development actors contribute various capacity-building activities within an overall community development process designed to enhance environmental, economic, and social sustainability through investments in various forms of community capital (natural, cultural, human, relational, political, organizational, financial, and built). 

Ideally, sustainable community development is a participatory, community-led process that moves through phases that are iterative and ongoing in nature: (1) raising awareness, (2) mobilizing engagement, (3) conducting baseline assessment, (4) visioning, (5) planning, (6) program and project implementation, and (7) evaluation.

Potential community development actors engaged in this process include: government agencies at all jurisdictional levels, but led by local leaders; anchor institutions like hospitals, colleges/universities, libraries, and museums; nonprofit organizations, including faith-based groups and charitable funders; businesses, including those involved in land development as well as those providing employment and necessary goods and services; and residents affected by decisions and actions at hand, often organized as volunteer civic groups. 

Depending on their aims, these actors engage in activities that fall under the broad umbrella of community development. Some community development organizations seek to catalyze stakeholders by raising awareness of challenges and opportunities and organizing associated action. Other organizations build capacity among individuals and groups through training, development, and technical assistance. Some organizations seek to strengthen and facilitate collaboration by connecting other community development actors. More intensive activities may invest in community development through various forms of finance (e.g., grants, loans, or venture capital), create community assets through human services, economic development programs, or physical development projects, and protect the natural or built environment.

A proven developmental path over 18 months

The Moving Ahead Together approach follows a proven developmental path designed by Dr. Margaret Stout that mobilizes stakeholder engagement, completes community assessment, engages in participatory visioning and planning, and finally prioritizes strategies to produce detailed project implementation plans. To ensure comprehensive community development, social, economic, and environmental determinants of well-being and prosperity are all considered, using a community capital framework.

Helpful staff and faculty

An Extension Agent acts as a host community liaison, working closely with local government representatives and WVU faculty to ensure success. Instructors have both practitioner and scholarly expertise that inform creative yet feasible strategies.

Applied fieldwork visits

WVU faculty and graduate student teams visit the host community each semester. Community stakeholders are invited to engage in research, visioning and planning sessions, and Project Action Teams.

Learn more and apply

To learn more about the Moving Ahead Together program or to apply to become a host community, contact the Program Coordinator, Daniel Eades. Become the next Moving Ahead Together community!

Apply to host a Moving Ahead Together community