Who is CAN?

Since 1992, the Central Appalachian Network (CAN) has worked for a more just and sustainable economy for all in our region. As a network of nonprofit organizations, CAN has worked in over 150 counties in the Central Appalachian states of Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. Our diverse member and partner organizations employ a variety of strategies that help to strengthen communities, diversify economies, and guide an economic transition to make our region more resilient, inclusive, and sustainable.

CAN is a network of networks, anchored by a Steering Committee of 7 large non-profit organizations. CAN also includes a network of small grantee partners and sector-focused networks that coordinate regional analysis and strategies in areas like Food & Ag, Clean Energy, and Creative Placemaking.

Our network of practitioner partners includes over 50 different organizations working on community economic development, including non-profits, local government agencies, lenders, community groups, social enterprises, and academic institutions. These networks are leading the charge in transitioning Central Appalachia’s economy by creating economic opportunities that are environmentally sustainable, building on our cultural assets and natural resources, and meeting the needs of our region’s people.

Partner Perspectives



The fact that active and experienced practitioners in the field inform and govern the program promotes a boots-on-the-ground perspective with a true understanding of the needs, challenges, and opportunities in Central Appalachia. When you have the Central Appalachian Network backing you, it helps a lot!

CAN Partner

Our relationship with CAN has been integral to staff professional development. It is extremely valuable given our remote, rural location to connect with others in the sector and continue evolving our best practices and tactics together.

CAN Grantee

We felt less alone and more inspired to create connections and develop effective and replicable work.

CAN Grantee

We found models for specific programs that we are interested in and/or have recommended to others.

WV Food & Farm Coalition

We will continue to utilize CAN's network of member organizations and partners by using them as mentors, resources, and sounding boards for our work.

CAN Grantee

We use CAN anchor organizations as mentors and bounce organizational and strategic ideas off of them.

CAN Partner

I appreciate and value the different perspectives the CAN members and partners bring to an issue. It helps elevate the conversation to a regional perspective.

CAN Partner

Small groups continue to emerge - first they connect to their neighbors, then their state, and then to the bigger region. It takes time, but it is happening.

Brandon Dennison, Coalfield Development Corporation

CAN made the first ever grant to our sustainable agriculture enterprise: Refresh Appalachia. CAN’s support of Refresh Appalachia highlights CAN at its best: deep, lasting networks that pioneer a new economic reality. CAN does a lot with a little.

CAN Convening Attendee

This experience was amazing and gave my job, passion, and mission more purpose and guidance.

CAN Convening Attendee

It was a great space to meet people from across the region and finally interact with people I was either emailing or hearing about through my work.

Where is CAN?

The map below helps identify many of the actors involved in this network of networks – just click on a bookmark to see more information about that organization, including how they participate in CAN, their location, and their website. You  can search for individual organizations or see a list of organizations in each category by clicking on the toolbar to the right.

PLEASE NOTE: This map is best viewed on desktop/laptop. If viewing on mobile/tablet just zoom in to view the markers more easily.



CAN’s Analysis

CAN recognizes that historically, a complex set of economic, social, environmental, and political factors have prevented the Central Appalachian region from reaching its full economic potential. A lack of economic diversity and the out-of-state ownership of industry, coupled with a lack of investment in the region, have led to a scarcity of economic drivers and a highly uneven distribution of wealth. An undervaluing of education, a lack of local control, continued outgoing migration, and a learned sense of helplessness have led to weakened community capacity and the disenfranchisement of many rural communities. This disenfranchisement, as well as a lack of connection between people and government, has led to the consolidation of political control and ineffective governance in many areas. And finally, the exploitation and short-term valuing of natural resources have led to a degradation of the region’s valuable environmental assets.

Despite these challenges, CAN sees many opportunities for working towards an Appalachian economy that creates wealth that stays local, improves the livelihoods of rural communities, and protects and sustains the natural assets of the region. These opportunities are supported by recent shifts in the public dialogue around economic diversification and long-term resilience, which requires sustainable use of natural resources.  This emerging shift in public perception represents an opportunity; it also indicates that the timing is right to promote sustainable economic development in a number of economic sectors. CAN’s position as a regional network allows us to influence the public discourse and capitalize on local business and economic diversification trends to encourage more long-term awareness and investment in sustainable economic development efforts. In addition, new and emerging markets for sustainable, local products and services provide an opportunity for triple bottom line entrepreneurship, which takes into account economic, social, and environmental factors.

CAN believes that our collaboration allows us to be more than the sum of our parts. CAN member organizations have diverse strengths and areas of expertise, which we each put to use in support of a common vision.



CAN’s Coordinator

As an action-focused network (sometimes referred to as a Collective Impact network), CAN makes use of a network coordinator to support key functions of the network, including: internal communications, external communications, learning conversations, strategy development, project management, and more. This role is played by a coordination team at Rural Support Partners, which is a social enterprise that plays a variety of roles to support a just and sustainable economic transition in the Appalachian region.