This is a pre-day focused on hands-on learning with successful community development efforts in some of the hardest hit counties in the region and getting up-to-date on the recent developments of the Network.


  • Hear about lessons learned and best practices in rural development
  • Create space for peer learning between funders
  • Get an update on the Network and progress
  • Have fun with an evening reception

10:00: Registration Opens

Registration in the Edith Windsor Parlor of the Martha Washington Inn

11:00 – 4:00: Learning Journeys

There are a limited number of spaces on our three learning journeys. Click the link to learn more and register for each learning journey. 

4:00 – 4:30: Break

Take a moment to breathe before diving back in.

4:30 - 5:30: Open Space - Coffee and Snacks

Participants will have an opportunity to sign up to host a conversation of their choice with other interested participants. 

5:30 – 6:30: Update and Introduction to the Network 

After seven years of exciting growth, the Network has made significant progress toward its goals and begun to generate new interest in funding opportunities in Appalachia. Attendees new to the Network and longstanding Network members will learn about the history and goals of the Network and get an update on progress over the last year. 

6:30 – 9:00: Welcome & Networking Reception

Reconnect with old friends, make new ones, and have fun over heavy hors d’oeuvres and drinks from a cash bar. The reception will be held onsite at the Martha Washington Inn.


This is the first full day in which attendees will develop common understanding, analysis, and vision.


  • Understand our current context at the national, federal, and regional level
  • Learn about how past efforts inform our future work
  • Identify key priorities and opportunities in promising sectors
  • Define principles for an equitable transition 

7:00 –7:45: Wake Up: Yoga Class or Walk through Historic Downtown Abingdon

Gather in the lobby of the Martha Washington Inn to take a brisk morning walk around Abingdon.

7:45: Morning Refreshments & Networking

Registration in the Edith Windsor Parlor of the Martha Washington Inn.

8:30 – 9:00: Official Opening & Welcome 

We will start with a welcome and appreciation of the partnerships that have made the Network a success. Steering Committee members will set the stage for our time together and encourage all participants to connect, learn, and share.

9:00 – 10:00: Federal and National Updates

Federal & National representatives discuss the current political context and look forward to the opportunities and challenges ahead.

10:00 – 10:15: Break

Take a break, but not too long.

10:15 - 11:15 Sector Priorities: 3 Big Ideas from Each Working Group

Each working group has 10 minutes to present the 3 Big Ideas from the sector.

11:15 – 12:15: Open Space Conversation 

Back by popular demand, the Open Space is place for attendees to host a conversation on a topic of interest. Sign up to host a specific conversation on the white board in the Edith Windsor Parlor, or find a conversation you’d like to join. These member-led conversations are a great place for organic ideas to emerge on new ways to collaborate across the Network.

12:15 – 12:45: Lunch with Keynote Speaker

A buffet-style lunch will be hosted at the Abingdon Farmers Market, just a short walk from the Martha Washington Inn. Invited keynote speaker, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, will discuss ongoing efforts to diversify and grow local economies in SWVA. The lunch will be heated in the event of chilly weather.

1:45 – 2:45: History of Equity Work in Appalachia

Enjoy a thought-provoking video presentation on the history of equity work in Appalachia, created by Appalshop. 

2:45 – 3:15: Networking Break - Coffee and Snacks Provided

Have an afternoon pick-me-up.

3:15 – 5:00: Equity Conversation

This session will reflect on the film made by Appalshop and explore Network members’ understanding of the issues surrounding equity in the region and define the Network’s core equity principles.

5:00 - 5:15: Closing Remarks

At the end of a big day, we'll come together to reflect on our work.

6:00: Board Trolley* to Heartwood

Trolleys generously provided by the Abingdon Convention and Visitor's Bureau

6:30 - 9:30: Networking Reception

Our day will conclude with a networking reception at the Heartwood. The evening will feature heavy hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar. 

*Participants who do not intend to remain at the reception are advised to drive to the event separately.



 The final half-day of the Gathering is dedicated to critical thinking around the Network’s future work.


  • Hear about the current state of equity funding in the South
  • Learn how the philanthropic sector can support long-term, sustainable movements
  • Nurture relationships and develop strategies within working groups
  • Get an update on leadership and activities of the core Network for the coming year

7:30: Morning Refreshments & Networking

Get fueled and then get to business.

8:30 – 9:00: Welcome & Reflections

Participants will share personal reflections from the previous day’s learning and conversations.

9:00 – 10:00: Keynote - National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy

Representatives from NCRP will present their findings from a participatory research project with the Grantmakers for Southern Progress on the state of funding for Southern change. They will also present a framework for planning and executing equitable philanthropy in the Sout, present best practices for equity funding, and highlight the greatest opportunities for positive structural change. 

10:00 – 12:00: Working Group Meetings

Working Groups will introduce new members to their ranks, discuss their work plans for the coming year.

12:00 – 1:15: Lunch & Network Business Meeting

The business meeting will engage you in the progress made towards sustaining the Network. The Steering Committee will present the budget, introduce updated policies, provide news on the efforts to attract new national funders to the Network and region, introduce new and thank outgoing Steering Committee members, provide updates on the next phase of the Philanthropic Engagement Project (PEP), and announce the Planning Committee of the 2018 Gathering. 

1:15 – 1:30: Closing Remarks

We will wrap up our time together by revisiting our collaborative poem, co-created by participants over the last two days at the Gathering.

1:30: Adjourn