Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on MACED’s website.

East Kentucky is changing. Gone are the days of King Coal but the question that lingers for many is “What’s Next?” There is a movement forming to help identify answers to that question. “What’s Next EKY!?” is an emerging network of communities in Appalachian Kentucky that envisions a bright future for this region. Building on the work of a small group of community leaders that formed following the Brushy Fork Annual Institute in 2017, What’s Next EKY!? is gaining momentum and we want you to be a part of the movement.

Betsy Whaley
Executive Vice-President, MACED

Our mission is straightforward:

Building relationships and connecting communities to support a thriving Appalachian Kentucky.

Our vision:

To create a network of communities and resource providers that can work together to foster thriving rural communities in Appalachian Kentucky and create a greater impact on the economic development of our region. By sharing ideas, encouraging mutual learning, collaborating on regional projects and initiatives, and bringing greater resources to our communities, we will establish a stronger and more diverse economy in these mountains we call home.

As a network, we value:

  • Inclusion
  • Letting the communities lead, especially when determining what works best for their particular place.
  • Mutual respect
  • Accountability

 With the support of regional nonprofit partners including MACED, the Community Farm Alliance, Berea College’s Brushy Fork Institute & AIR Institute, Appalshop, CEDIK, and the Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky, What’s Next EKY!? is working to bring more resources to communities in the form of technical assistance, funding, leadership development, business development, training for entrepreneurs, and the development of local food systems, arts, and tourism. We believe there are many opportunities for regional collaboration on joint projects and learning from one another about what is working in our communities. Together, we believe that we can help determine what’s next and move together to create a new economy in East Kentucky.

Contact Betsy Whaley, betsy@maced.org for more information.