The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the University of Kentucky have just released a free online toolkit to help rural leaders build more vibrant and livable communities.

The Rural America Placemaking Toolkit aims to help rural leaders working on economic development projects using or considering the community placemaking method. Placemaking is a collaborative process in which community leaders develop plans to create quality places where people will want to live, work and visit.

“When rural people thrive, all America thrives," said Xochitl Torres Small, USDA's rural development undersecretary. “That takes investment in the physical, digital and social infrastructure that builds and strengthens successful communities."

USDA signed a $260,000 cooperative agreement in March with the University of Kentucky's Community and Economic Development Initiative to expand access to placemaking resources through an online toolkit and a national virtual workshop.

Through the interactive toolkit, rural leaders can assess their community's readiness for placemaking activities. The toolkit includes real-life examples of placemaking projects that rural leaders can replicate, as well as directories of national and regional technical assistance providers and funders.

The website is organized into four major sections: Creative Community Conversations; Community and Cultural Assessments; Public Spaces and Gathering Places; and Cross-Sector Partnerships.

Placemaking plans “can enhance a rural community's capacity to provide people access to economic development opportunities as well as community infrastructure such as affordable housing, safe and reliable transportation, high-speed internet and more," according to the USDA's rural development website.

To read how one electric cooperative is using the community placemaking model to revitalize its service area, check out the June 2022 RE Magazine cover story.