The Kentucky Rural-Urban Exchange (RUX) is a creative leadership program designed to build confidence, grow social capital, and bridge divides to unite Kentuckians.

Together, we are growing relationships across divides to build a more collaborative and connected Commonwealth.

The Kentucky Rural-Urban Exchange (RUX) invites rural and urban Kentuckians working in the arts, agriculture, community development, education, health, and business to create an influential network that possesses both the social capital and capacity needed to transform Kentucky's future.

Each year, RUX brings 75 members together over three community intensive weekends per year. over the two year cohort, to develop professional skills and leadership potential while exploring all that Kentucky has to offer—engaging with the social culture, foodways, artistic work, natural environments, regional identity, and broader context that is defining Kentucky in the 21st Century.

We explore the issues by getting to know those most affected: square dancing with people in recovery at a treatment facility, enjoying Bosnian coffee service in a mosque, touring tobacco farms in transition, or discussing development and displacement with clients of a homeless shelter.

The RUX 2018 cohort listens to the owners of the Dennison Farm and Farm Stand talk about diversifying their crops from tobacco to include vegetables for market.

The RUX 2018 cohort listens to the owners of the Dennison Farm and Farm Stand talk about diversifying their crops from tobacco to include vegetables for market.

RUX’s Currency of Connection Framework guides the design of these Intensives, and is focused on People, Place and Partnership.

We nurture literacy of Kentucky’s diverse identities, histories and cultures, and work with members to tell their own story, develop intercultural competence, and teach best practices to advance their work at home.

As a creative leadership program, we emphasize cultural work as a key to leadership development because we believe that true leadership is a process of deepening connections to others, and that the point of connection becomes the pipeline through which good ideas coalesce.

RUX 2018 members explore Beaver Creek near Glasgow, KY.

RUX 2018 members explore Beaver Creek near Glasgow, KY.

Our work is deeply of this place and is helping to align an extraordinary network of Kentucky’s creative class.

We are most successful when members feel a heightened sense of belonging, are inspired to contribute to the issues facing their communities, and experience determination- the belief that through their skills and connection, they can impact the destiny of their communities.

Based on member evaluations, we know RUX is capable of growing individual skills and confidence, building social capital, improving individual and collective efficacy, and bridging divides.

RUX 2016 cohort members participate in a story circle with the community at the Eastern Kentucky Social Club in Lynch, Kentucky.

RUX 2016 cohort members participate in a story circle with the community at the Eastern Kentucky Social Club in Lynch, Kentucky.


What We’re Learning from the Currency of Connection Framework

The Kentucky Rural-Urban Exchange is guided by a distributed leadership approach to movement building, wherein partners, steering and host committee members, alumni and cohort members collectively contribute to the evolution of the programming. RUX staff and Steering Committee have been working with the cohort and alumni to document and evaluate the RUX program from the beginning, which has provided a wealth of learning about this project’s impact and methodology.

This learning has shaped values that guide us:

1) We believe that the people who live here have the experience and knowledge to address our challenges, steward our resources, and model our collective future

2) We see connection and belonging as vital community capacities, and value social cohesion as key to community health

3) we believe that providing opportunities for exchange and peer learning inspires people, evokes a shared sense of purpose, sparks innovation, and can begin to bridge solutions.

The RUX 2018 cohort snaps a group photo at the Bosnian Islamic Center during the Cave Country Community Intensive.

The RUX 2018 cohort snaps a group photo at the Bosnian Islamic Center during the Cave Country Community Intensive.

The Future of Rural-Urban Exchange

In 2019, the program will be hosted in urban Northern KY, Appalachian Eastern KY, and rural Western KY, and includes a leadership cohort of 75 members from 29 counties who are diverse in their experiences of age, expertise, sexuality, gender, race, geography, culture, and class.

Looking back on our first five years, RUX has proven its concept. While the initial goal of RUX was to reach 150 people and every region of the Kentucky in the first five years, the program is proud to have exceeded that benchmark by serving 200 Kentuckians from 42 counties. We have hosted fifteen Community Intensives in ten communities, and We are recognized in articles in the Christian Science Monitor, CityLab, the Wall Street Journal, and in reports by the National Governors Association, the Ford Foundation, and Americans for the Arts. 

RUX 2018 Cohort members listen to hosts at BLDG during the Covington Community Intensive.

RUX 2018 Cohort members listen to hosts at BLDG during the Covington Community Intensive.

This connective work is more essential than ever before.

we regularly receive requests to expand the program into other regions, so RUX is working to grow the capacity of our flagship program in Kentucky while also sharing our methodology to powerfully impact other regions struggling to achieve a thriving culture of rural-urban interdependence.

To help RUX transition into its next chapter of strength and growth, we are seeking partners to invest in this program that has risen from the ground up, is in demand, and contributes a relevant component solution to the specific needs of our time.