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Virginia Cooperative Extension -
 Knowledge for the CommonWealth

Take Charge Program Expands into Three Eastern Virginia Counties

Farm Business Management Update, December-January 2002/2003

By Pam Gibson

An innovative partnership between Virginia Cooperative Extension's "Take Charge" and Blacksburg Electronic Village's "BEV in a Box" program has been fostered by a Technology Opportunities Program (TOP) grant, funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce ( This grant is the driving force behind the effort to "Get Rural Virginia Connected." BEV's staff will work closely with local and regional Extension agents to bring the participating counties a broad combination of technical expertise from Virginia Tech.

Through a pilot program in Carroll County, leaders found that by teaming the components of the two processes - planning actions and information technology - communities could make powerful and meaningful changes to improve their future. Through this grant, the Blacksburg Electronic Village ( and Virginia's Cooperative Extension (VCE) Service ( are working together to help rural communities in Virginia move into the Information Age. BEV will provide technical expertise and community network systems, while VCE provides extension agents in each community for leadership and institutional support. The purpose of the grant is to set up these communities with a community network, and guide them in using it as a tool to improve local economic conditions and community involvement in decision-making. More information is available in the grant summary (

Take Charge

Change in rural America presents many challenges to rural decision-makers. In the midst of change, however, are opportunities for community betterment. Rural America can take charge of its future by recognizing these opportunities, organizing efforts, and mobilizing resources to take action.

The Take Charge Program is an educational program designed to enable rural leaders, decision-makers, and residents face the future. It helps them to objectively analyze their community, consider alternatives, develop and maintain consensus, strategize, and take action for community development. It helps rural residents take charge of their community's destiny. Take Charge programs are being held in the following counties in 2003:

Objectives of the Take Charge Program

The Take Charge Program Workshops

The Take Charge Program begins with three, three-hour workshops. These workshops are designed to foster collaboration among the citizens of each community, to move the group toward consensus, and to provide a framework for creating a vision for the county.

Workshop #1 - Where are we now?
Examine historical and current trends and characteristics of the community (community indicators) and consider implications of the future. Self-examination of the community's strengths and financial, social, human, and natural asset vulnerabilities.

Workshop #2 - Where do we want to be?
Develop a collective vision for the future of the community. Assess the opportunities for and threats to achieving that vision.

Workshop #3 - How do we get there?
Identify and frame overarching development issues. Identify existing resources to help address these issues. Explore alternative ways to organize the community for action.

Benefits of the Take Charge Program

For more information on the TOP Program and Take Charge, go to

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