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Community-Based Projects


The Community Change Collaborative (CCC) is an interdisciplinary, graduate-level student group affiliated with the Virginia Tech Institute for Policy and Governance (VTIPG) in the School of Public and International Affairs. We work to promote public participation in local governance and the broader community. In line with VTIPG’s mission, we support communities in exploring and addressing social, economic, and environmental problems, in communicating across differences and in developing tools for inclusive engagement. CCC’s members are well positioned to explore the underpinnings of social and community change while also applying and evaluating community development models.

Virginia Tech encourages transdisciplinary teams to develop solutions for destination areas such as rural health through its Beyond Boundaries initiative; the University also fosters experiential learning for students through a variety of hands-on programs such as internships and community service learning.  The Community Change Collaborative embodies these goals in its programming as it brings students and faculty from different disciplines together to discuss key concepts linked to community change, to develop research ideas, and to collaborate on projects while offering professional and personal growth opportunities for participating students and faculty through its efforts to assist stakeholders in the region. 

Benefits to Members

Students and faculty engaged with the CCC benefit from the applied teamwork, grounded theoretical discussion and community-based development that its projects entail. The complexity of work outside of the classroom leads to important learning linked to coping with pervasive uncertainty, ensuring measured judgments through observation and iterative assessment, and developing interpersonal skills through interaction with a diverse array of community stakeholders and academic colleagues from different disciplines. These qualities improve the leadership and problem-solving capabilities of the CCC’s students and faculty, some of whom will work beyond such boundaries for the rest of their careers as a result.

Community-Based Work

Our community partners seek to develop and sustain community-engaged planning processes that align stakeholder interests and resources within their populations with longer-term goals while developing and focusing social capacity. Through meetings and thematic workshops, members of the CCC have supported community stakeholders in these efforts by facilitating cross-sectoral discussions and reporting on progress through oral presentations and written deliverables. CCC members have engaged in facilitation, data collection and assessment, public reporting and presentations, site visits and project development.

To date, the CCC has developed working partnerships with three Virginia communities in Central Appalachia: Montgomery, WV, Patrick County, VA, and Pennington Gap, VA, to conduct community-based research and praxis for the benefit of its student members, participating communities and affiliated faculty.

The CCC also designs and facilitates workshops with nonprofit organizations and groups across the region to conduct strategic visioning, positioning and nonprofit governance, and members facilitate small group discussion for partner events. The CCC has partnered with the nonprofit organization Diamonds in the Ruff (DITR) to improve its governance and with the Dialogue on Race (DOL) to support that organization’s pursuit of nonprofit incorporation, as well as through small group facilitation for DOL’s bi-annual summits.

Related Reports and Presentations:
A Community Conversation for Patrick County, VA (2019). VT Institute for Policy and Governance.

Future Goals, Lodging Workshop and Panel Discussion for Pennington Gap, VA. (2019). VT Institute for Policy and Governance.

Lara Nagle, Neda Moayerian and Max Stephenson Jr., “Conceptualizing Cross Sectoral Partnership Building in Two Small Appalachian Towns,” For the 42nd annual conference of the Appalachian Studies Association, Asheville, North Carolina, March 14-17, 2019.

A Community Development Update: Pennington Gap, VA. (2017). Virginia Tech Institute for Policy and Governance (IPG) and the Virginia Tech Office of Economic Development (OED).

Strategically positioning Montgomery, WV for the Future: A Community Development Update. (2017). Virginia Tech Institute for Policy and Governance (IPG) and the Virginia Tech Office of Economic Development (OED).

CCC’s community-based work has been made possible in part by funding from:

  • Virginia Tech Office of Economic Development (VT OED)
  • Virginia Tech Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention (VT CPSVP)
  • Virginia Tech Institute for Policy and Governance (VTIPG)

The CCC partnered in 2017 with the VT Office of Economic Development to meet with stakeholders in Montgomery, WV from local government, a number of businesses and tourism officials, along with leadership from BridgeValley Community and Technical College.  The VT team facilitated two strategic positioning workshops with these stakeholders and community residents, which resulted in a report assessing outputs from the meetings and recommendations related to the community’s identified priorities. CCC members presented this report to community stakeholders at a subsequent meeting, during which residents also provided feedback.

The following year in March 2018, CCC and VT-OED organized a panel for Montgomery stakeholders focused on business incubators and makerspaces featuring Annette Patterson, founder and president of the Advancement Foundation in Vinton, VA; Lydeana Martin, Community and Economic Development Director in Floyd County; James Creekmore, intellectual property lawyer and founder of a local art gallery and business incubator; and Anthony Flaccavento, farmer and sustainable economic development consultant.  The panelists’ perspectives helped Montgomery stakeholders envision the potential for different types of community gathering spaces and programs for fostering local entrepreneurship. BridgeValley subsequently initiated the rehabilitation of a vacant lab building to launch a makerspace program called the GRID (Generate-Restore-Innovate-Design). 

CCC members visited the GRID in October 2018 to attend business management workshops and to tour the facility firsthand. The space includes classrooms for community members to develop skills in 3-D printing, fine arts, robotics and wood working, as well as an art gallery and vendor stalls for local artisans to showcase their work at an affordable rate.

Dr. Max Stephenson, CCC advisor, introduces the guest panelists at a CCC workshop to explore Montgomery’s interest in makerspaces and business incubators
Dr. Max Stephenson, CCC advisor, introduces the guest panelists at a CCC workshop to explore Montgomery’s interest in makerspaces and business incubators (March 2018)

The CCC partnered with VT OED in 2017 to host a series of community building and priority-setting workshops in Pennington Gap, VA, with support from local government officials and interested residents.  CCC members then developed a report analyzing regional trends and the data arising from the workshops to highlight opportunities and relevant resources to address the community’s newly articulated goals.  CCC members presented key findings from the report to the Town in a subsequent meeting to launch the community into a phase of action planning based on the consensus-building that had occurred during the listening sessions and report debrief.  Due in part to those community discussions, the Town pursued funding and policies for marketing and tourism development projects, and encouraged the creation of a local community development group called the Pennington Partners.

With an increasing focus on affordable lodging strategies to support overnight stays and tourism in Pennington Gap, Town stakeholders attended a CCC designed and facilitated workshop focused on lodging possibilities in March 2019.  The program featured a professional panel representing different sectors, comprised of Jason and Byron Dowdy of Milestone Development, LLC; David Hill, President of Hill Studio; Scott Tate, Associate Director and Neda Moayerian, Graduate Assistant, of VT-OED; and a recorded presentation from Maria Saxton, who recently received her Ph.D. in Environmental Design and Planning and who had conducted research on the feasibility of tiny home communities to address affordable housing and tourism lodging needs.

 Workshop participants were able to ask panelists specific questions about different types of lodging, including attracting and financing a traditional hotel/motel, employing historic preservation to repurpose existing structures, how to support property owners in joining Airbnb and in the process enhance town revenues and craft ordinances for short-term homestays. 

CCC member Neda Moayerian presents the pros and cons of developing AirBnB capacity to expand short-term lodging options in Pennington Gap (March 2019)
CCC member Neda Moayerian presents the pros and cons of developing AirBnB capacity to expand short-term lodging options in Pennington Gap (March 2019)

Following the lodging discussion, Pennington Gap Town Council invited the CCC to facilitate a retreat for its members to help them process and review content from past community listening sessions organized by both the CCC and the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) through its Rally Virginia grant program. The retreat involved a stakeholder assessment, priority-setting and goals assessment, as well as identification of strategies to engage additional stakeholders in realizing stated goals. Following the Council retreat, members of the CCC compiled a final report summarizing the discussion that will also serve as a working document for continued Council assessment and priority setting.

VTIPG has also supported Dr. Maria Saxton to conduct a feasibility study and business marketing plan for potential tiny house development in Pennington Gap.

The CCC began a collaboration with Patrick County with the support of a Vibrant Virginia grant to work with communities in Southside Virginia.  Reynolds Homestead is well-positioned as a cultural and community center and Virginia Tech Foundation-owned facility in Critz, VA.  With Reynolds, the CCC has collaborated with a variety of community stakeholders and has organized preliminary stakeholder meetings and visioning workshops.

The CCC met with key Patrick County stakeholders in September of 2018, which led to a CCC-facilitated community workshop in February of 2019 with a larger group of cross-sectoral actors, in order to identify community assets and challenges. One notable outcome of this workshop was a list of nine “cluster” priorities categorized by participants, rather than defined a priori.  The Collaborative will seek to support these community priorities moving forward by sharing resources, facilitating additional workshops around the County and connecting stakeholders with new partners and a variety of expertise. 

CCC members Beng Lipsey, Garland Mason, and Cathy Grimes facilitate the organization of group priorities in Patrick County (February 2019)
CCC members Beng Lipsey, Garland Mason, and Cathy Grimes facilitate the organization of group priorities in Patrick County (February 2019). Photo Credit: Andy Morikawa
Pennington Town and Council members discuss strategies
Patrick County residents prioritize goals together
Artisan wares at the GRID in Montgomery, WV