California Institute for Rural Studies

Principles & Practices

Principles and Practices

The California Institute for Rural Studies uses the following set of guidelines and strategy screening questions when deciding what research projects and partnerships to pursue.

Accountability to Community

We ensure our work aligns with the priorities of rural communities most impacted by inequities; collaborating directly with communities in support of their organizing and advocacy goals.

Strategy screening question: Is this work that the community is asking for?

Distributed Leadership

We go beyond the one charismatic leader approach to ensure many voices, and more distributed influence and power to advance our vision and strategy.

Strategy screening question: Who is leading this work and how can they work in partnership with someone who has never led this type of work before?

Community Expertise

We listen to impacted communities and influence other institutions to do the same; ensuring rural communities have what they need to tell their own stories, assess their own situations, and put forward their own solutions. Prioritize indigenous and local leadership.

Strategy screening question: Who is representing this work publicly?

The Value of Data & (Hi)Story

We keep the histories of rural communities alive; amplifying indigenous histories and worldview; using data and story to strengthen organizing and advocacy efforts, and the quest for lasting solutions to the problems rural communities face.

Strategy screening question: Is this work rooted in the history of the issue/place/people at the center of the work?

Bridging Research
& Organizing

We connect the skills of social science research to organizing and advocacy leaders and campaigns on the ground; research for action.

Strategy screening question: Does this work provide tools for action?

Creative & Responsive Methods

We go beyond traditional academic research methods; engaging the arts, storytelling, participatory action research.

Strategy screening question: Are the methods used for this project as exciting as the findings?

Direct & Indirect Impact

We put out reports and forge collaborations that can result in large strategic investments in rural communities and/or shifts in how the field approaches the work; not just about the immediate return.

Strategy screening question: Does this work point to long-term, systemic change and does the budget of the project redistribute resources to rural California?

Data Partners

We play a unique role (conducting and contributing research, data, and stories) in healthy relationships with other players in the social justice movement.

Strategy screening question: Does this work provide data to the movement?


We take on strategic work while remaining nimble enough to shift strategy as conditions change overtime; not getting locked into foundation-driven work.

Strategy screening question: Does this work respond to a current issue or need?

Influencing Academia

We stay in dialogue with academic institutions, serving in a watch-dog role and encouraging them to prioritize rural studies long term.

Strategy screening question: Are there ways to share the methods and findings of this work with colleagues in academia?