Marion County is making impressive improvements in iivability but continues to report some of the highest negative statistics in Oregon: hunger, poverty, drug-use from all residents; school drop outs, delinquency, and pregnancy rates for youth. A common link to these recurring statistics is a lack of education and access to information. Many of the great programs in Marion County are limited to expansion by funding, staffing and the general physiology to provide them in some of the rural areas where needs are also high but less concentrated. Other barriers in rural areas are regular transportation, communication, an accessible knowledge base for start-up organizations, and digital access. For rural youth, continual and affordable activities beyond sports are limited.
The Sustainable Communities Project is designed to assist community-based groups, coalitions, organizations and smaller local governments in building their civic leadership capacity, communication and outreach skills; and human and fiscal resources through fostering dialogue and improving access to training and education materials. Program emphasis is on quality-of-life issues such as healthy, resilient youth, active watershed education, economic diversification and rural community capacity building.