CAN Member Organizations

Appalachian Center for Economic Networks

Appalachian Sustainable Development

Mountain Association for Community Economic Development

Natural Capital Investment Fund, Inc.

Rural Action


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Our Mission

CAN’s mission is to work with individuals, community leaders, businesses, policy makers, nonprofit organizations, and others to develop and deploy new economic strategies that create wealth and reduce poverty while restoring and conserving the environment.

Latest News

Welcome to the Central Appalachian Network (CAN)!

In December 2014, CAN partnered with the WV Alliance for Economic Inclusion to host a Small Business Trainers Workshop in Charleston, WV. Building on a series of learning calls between entrepreneurship support actors, this 1-day strategy session brought together banks, Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs), non-profit organizations, business incubators, community groups, investors, USDA, US Small Business Administration, development districts, and Community Development Finance Institutions from across the region. The major takeaway from the event was the need and opportunity for more cross-sector collaboration and better coordination of the small business support services and resources available across Central Appalachia. You can read more about the insights, challenges, and promising opportunities for collaboration across the region's entrepreneurial ecosystem in this 3-page briefing paper: "Cross-Sector Collaboration in the Small Business Support Ecosystem." Please download and share


Rooted in AppalachiaWe are pleased to release "Improving Systems of Distribution and Logistics for Regional Food Hubs," a research report prepared for CAN by the Massacheusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Food hubs are increasingly popular as a means of bridging the gap between small and medium-sized farms and mainstream markets. Hubs located in rural areas, however, face numerous challenges when it comes to logistics and distribution. This report summarizes existing research on food hubs, profiles several national case studies, and provides a set of findings and recommendations related to food hub development in Appalachia. You can download the report here.


CAN was recently featured in an article in the Fall 2014 issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Reivew (SSIR), one of the leading publications for social change work. The article focuses on CAN as a collective impact network, and the importance of CAN's long-term funding partnership with the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation. You can read the article here!


CAN's Small Grants program is in its 5th year, having funded over 20 different organizations pursuing a variety of local food system and sustainable economic development projects. We've pulled together a summary of all of the grantee projects to date, and it truly is an impressive body Rooted in Appalachiaof work being purused by some fantastic organizations and leaders. Click here to download the Summary Report, which includes all grantees from 2010 to 2013.


Older News


Through CAN’s work with rural entrepreneurs and value chains, we’ve recognized the importance of market access for strengthening rural-based economic sectors. Following the 2013 CAN Tank gathering described below, we distilled the experience and analysis of over 50 of Appalachia’sleading development practitioners down to a set of concrete strategies.

CAN TankClick here for the 3-page briefing paper on strategies for Expanding Market Access for Rural Enterprises. We hope it can inform your work to build sustainable rural economies in Appalachia!



CAN members and partners were part of a gathering hosted by the Red Mantra Group in August 2013, which brought local food system developers and supporters together with a diverse group of corporate buyer representative. Executives from Whole Foods, Wal-Mart, Kroger, Nestle, CH Red MantraRobinson, Harris Teeter, and others sat down to discuss the obstacles to a thriving regional food economy, particularly the challenges of financing, logistics, and farmer readiness. The proceedings report summarizes those discussions and provides some key findings and recommendations. You can dowload the report here.


CAN is excited to announce our 2014 cohort of small grant recipients. This year's eight grantees represent four states and a variety of organizations, including non-profits, colleges, local governments, and social enterprises. Learn more by visiting our Small Grants page.


In August of 2013, CAN hosted a "CAN Tank" event in Roanoke, WV, which brought together regional economic development leaders to address the challenge of expanding market access for rural-based enterprises and economic sectors. Click here to download a research report on the rural-urban continuum and economic connections in Appalachia, prepared by Brian Dabson of the University of Missouri's Institute of Public Policy. See our Resources and Publications page for more information.


Grantee mapIn June of 2013, CAN brought together current and past grantees and other network partners for a gathering in Prestonsburg, KY. The gathering focused on networking, organizational capacity-building, and strategy sharing. CAN is excited to help support all the great work happening around the region!


Branding study imageCAN is pleased to announce that the report "Branding Study for Appalachian Food Economies" is now available! This report was compiled in conjunction with the MIT Keeping Wealth Local Clinic. It provides an overview of place-based food brands within and outside of the region, and offers exciting insight into the possibilities for place-based branding efforts in Central Appalachia. You can download the report here.

Click here to download CAN's eight page Executive Summary.


Since 1992, our network of nonprofits has worked in over 150 counties in the Central Appalachian states of Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. We have a bold vision of a more just and sustainable Appalachia. Learn more about the network here, and about our work here.