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How Rustic Pathways Takes a Community-Centered Approach to Program and Service Project Development
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How Rustic Pathways Takes a Community-Centered Approach to Program and Service Project Development

Rustic Pathways has always taken a community-centered approach to develop programs with service projects that meet the needs of the local community. This started when we expanded our operations to Fiji in 1996. Our goal was to collaborate with members of the Nasouri HIghlands community to create service projects that would have a sustainable and lasting impact.

We’ve used the same process to establish new partnerships as we’ve expanded our operations into new countries. And now that we’ve aligned our community impact outcomes with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, we’ve enhanced that process to ensure that our programs contribute to these global initiatives and our company operates with these goals in mind.

Rustic follows these five steps when developing new programs and community service projects:

1. Identify and Design Projects with Local Partners
Rustic’s Country Teams and Community Impact Managers spend a lot of time in local cities, towns, and villages getting to know community members to understand their needs and priorities. We then collaborate with local partners to develop projects that address immediate needs, contribute to specific goals identified by the United Nations, and build on community strengths.

2. Provide Students Opportunities to Engage in Meaningful Service
We collaborate with our partners to create well-defined roles for our students that harness their skills and ensure they make meaningful contributions to community service projects. Students select programs based on personal interests and skill sets, maximizing both their experience and the success of our service initiatives.

3. Work Together to Achieve Community and Student Goals
Our students assist our local partners during their programs and work collaboratively to achieve project goals. Students and communities use the unique skills they bring and learn from and about each other. When students return from their programs, they can continue supporting the community they visited or other Rustic partner communities through the Rustic Pathways Foundation as Impact Ambassadors.

4. Monitor and Evaluate the Impact of Ongoing Initiatives
Country Teams and Community Impact Managers conduct regular evaluations with project partners and beneficiaries, evaluate both the process and impact of our ongoing initiatives, and consistently use feedback to improve project design and implementation. The results of our community service projects and their contributions to the Sustainable Development Goals are published in our annual Impact Report.

5. Ensure that Projects are Sustainable and Have a Lasting Impact
We establish partnerships with a long-term view, recognizing that real change can take time. We provide ongoing support to partners and projects through our programs and the Foundation, take on initiatives in a range of areas, and work to ensure a lasting impact.

How Rustic Pathways Community Partnerships Work

Rustic Pathways has partnered with the Sacred Valley Project since 2016 to assist with its efforts to provide educational access to girls from rural Andean communities. Students assist the Sacred Valley Project during Sacred Valley Service and the Rustic Pathways Foundation provides ongoing support through donations.

Rustic’s community and student impact outcomes now contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals related to education and gender equality.

Community Impact

In 2018, Rustic Pathways supported 48 students from 18 Andean communities in the Sacred Valley who received 1,000 hours of tutoring and more than 19,000 meals. Of those students, 95% passed their courses and 100% of seniors graduated high school

Student Impact

Rustic students on Sacred Valley Service interact with the local students, learn about their lives, and develop and understanding of the conditions that lead to gender inequality and impact their ability to get a quality education. Rustic students participate in group discussions and reflect about actions they can take in their home communities to advocate for girls’ education.

For example, the UN recommends:

  • Girls stay in school, help empower their female classmates, and fight for their rights to access sexual and reproductive health services.
  • Boys work alongside girls and women to promote gender equality and healthy relationships.
  • All students advocate that governments prioritize education, including free primary education for all; encourage the private sector to invest in educational resources and tools; and urge NGOs to foster the importance of education in local communities.

Click below to get more information about our global impact at Rustic Pathways.

About the Author

Andrea Bouch

Executive Director, Rustic Pathways Foundation

Andrea has spent her career exploring social impact and sustainable development while working in microfinance, impact investing, philanthropy, education, and tech. Andrea traveled with Rustic Pathways as a high school student in 1997 and has since visited 50+ countries. She holds an MBA in nonprofit management and international development from the University of Geneva, Switzerland, where she was also an adjunct professor in social entrepreneurship, and a BA from UC San Diego. A California native, she has lived in Chile, Guatemala, and Switzerland and considers travel a central component of her happiness.