When the Appalachian Community Fund was brought into being 20 years ago, its founders were individuals who had bonds and histories with struggles of the region and who lived and worked in the region -- farmers, teachers, miners, housewives, organizers, preachers, educators, grassroots leaders. ACF was envisioned to be a source of money specifically targeted to the central Appalachian region because of its severe isolation and economic depression. Social change as a process, a goal, and a guiding principle is the foundation for ACF's purpose and work. This perspective and accompanying strategy is reflected in a two-pronged approach to meeting the needs of communities:
- Self-determination and support of local leadership development, community identified solutions, and empowerment and Understanding and trying to act on the causes of problems and oppressions while addressing the immediate needs identified by the local community organizations.
- Social change strategies depend on people's self-determination and empowerment, local and grassroots leadership development and support, and a common understanding of the causes of the problems. ACF continues to be guided by people grounded in the communities and work of the region who developed this working definition of social change.
ACF's Definition of Social Change
The Appalachian Community Fund defines social change as the movement of people toward the establishment of environmental, economic, and social justice and the redistribution of wealth, power, and resources as indicated by evidence of:
- Organizing and action led by people working to control their own lives;
- Educating communities about the root causes of oppression and injustice;
- Eliminating barriers to full participation in society ( i.e. racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, ageism, ablesim, and exclusion from decision-making processes);
- Focusing on efforts to change cultural, social, political, and economic systems and institutions that create, accommodate, and perpetuate social injustice;
- Creating and modeling democratic cultural, social, political, and economic systems;
- Connecting local issues with national and global concerns; and
- Networking, collaborating, and cooperating with other change agents working toward similar goals.
ACF supports many different social change issues and approaches including:
- Educational opportunity and equity increased funding for schools, higher education opportunities, and racial diversity among teachers and administrators.
- Environmental action opposing unregulated practices of Mountain Top Removal, a process of blasting the tops off of mountains to get to the coal seam which destroys forests and mountains, creates dangerous rock slides and waste piles, and pollutes and dams up streams and creeks.
- Cultural and artistic participation for social change writing and performing historical and political drama and music, preserving and affirming traditional arts and crafts, multi-cultural sharing and work among Central Appalachia's diverse populations including untold stories of struggle in African -American and other underserved communities.
- Community based economic development and opportunity building markets and skills in rural communities through local solutions, local products, community kitchens, and improved economic development policies and practices.
- Women and girls issues support and healing for survivors of domestic violence, overcoming isolation, gender barriers, and access to continuing education.
- Multi-cultural and racial justice programs in support of new immigrant communities, and programs and processes for racial equality and healing
- Community media community-owned and staffed radio stations, newspapers, film and video by and for communities, increased policy work to address media control.
- Youth outreach - programs designed by youth for youth to increase their skills and to address the needs of youth in academics and public and community services.
- Health care and child care making child care and health care affordable and accessible for everyone.
- Non-violent communities - organizing to end police brutality, increase democratic participation, institute policies and practices against hate crimes and homophobia.
- Civil liberties and human rights organizing to ensure civil liberties and human rights are upheld for all people, including those of immigrant residents and migrant communities.