Wisconsin's Top Rural Development Initiatives is an annual recognition program sponsored by Wisconsin Rural Partners, Inc. The program seeks to uncover and share the great things happening in rural Wisconsin through a process of open nomination, a panel of judges from diverse backgrounds, and a public awards ceremony, together with publishing profiles of the initiatives in WRP's online database.
Begun in 1998, then-president of WRP Wendy Hinrichs Sanders said, “We want to increase the visibility of these best practices and strengthen the network between communities so they can model after creative projects that have been successful in other areas of the state. Rural communities, especially, can’t afford to keep reinventing the wheel.”
Since 1998, more than 150 initiatives have been recognized and profiled for community leaders to learn from. Several of the initiatives, such as Juneau County Inventors & Entrepreneurs Club and Coop Care in Waushara County, have been adapted in other communities across the state.
Nominations consist of a 500-word-or-less essay describing an initiative's background, innovation, spirit of partnership, impact, and potential use as a model for other rural Wisconsin communities.