“Not Davos. North Bend.” – Unknown

For years, we’ve been culturally conditioned to believe that important things, change-shaping things can only be done by powerful people from elite institutions at invite-only events hosted in coastal cities and ski-resorts. This story. Wow, this story. It is so much in need of changing. It is not only inaccurate. It also diminishes the dignity of millions. For example, those of us from small towns and rural communities have been told time and time again that change doesn’t come from people like us, not from where we come from. In turn, some of us have had trouble speaking out and sharing our vision of the world with those around us. I know I did.

My name is Shawn Humphrey and I work with social innovators from small-towns and rural communities to build platforms for telling their stories, their way.

I grew up in a small-town in the southwest corner of Ohio. I remember the first time I was called a “social innovator”. My first thought was “Nah, not me. I don’t have the pedigree.” But, here’s the thing. I did. Just not the kind that our culture always finds merit-worthy. It took years for me to say what it was that I wanted to say. I don’t want you to wait as long.

So, if you are from a small town or a rural community and want to ignite social transformation in your community and beyond, I’m here to tell you that you can. Hell, I’m here to tell you that you are exactly what we need. Your background, path, history, family, community, crazy relatives, the whole tangled mess of your upbringing is a gift. All of it gives you one-of-a-kind ideas, angles, perspectives, and interpretations of our society. All of it gives you a voice that is yours and yours alone. No one can see what you see. No one can create what you are going to create. Because, no one has lived the American experience like you have. And, honest to goodness, right now, our collective tomorrow needs to hear your voice today.


It’s fundamentally a DIY, boot-strapping approach to changing the world. It is also methodology for beginning and sustaining projects in a low-cost manner. I’ve embodied this methodology into a project-building checklist that’s freely available, chronologically ordered and accompanied by tools, resources, and how-to-guides. And, since it’s the start that stops most of us, I’m also offering a free online course for those looking for more guidance with the checklist and a bit of help with dissipating the paralyzing fear that attends the beginning of any new project. 


For anyone from a small town or rural community who imagines the world differently, imagines it better, more just and livable, more democratic, humane, and beautiful.


I know that I already introduced myself above; but, just in case you skipped it. My name is Shawn Humphrey and I’m a serial social innovator with a knack for mobilizing globally recognized organizations and movements on a meager budget. And, just to get this out of way at the onset, I am also a white, heterosexual, cis-gender man. Looking at me from afar you could say “He won the privilege lottery!” It’s true. I did. Yet, life is complex. Because, I’m also part of the Appalachian diaspora. My people ventured out of Hazard County Kentucky in the early decades of the 20th century. We ended up scattered along the edges of Cincinnati. I grew up near-poor, poor and then near-poor again along the Ohio River. At one time or another, my people and I have been called white trash, hillbillies and river rats. My step-father went to jail when I was 15. Government issued peanut-butter and asking for food we could not afford from the up-the-street grocery store are part of my heritage. I was small-town fortunate though. I had an abundance of good people around me (neighbors, teachers and coaches). Indeed, my high school football coach secured scholarship money for me to play at his alma mater. As a first-generation college student, I struggled; but, ended up finding my way.

If I had not won the privilege-lottery it’s less likely that I would be in a position to share these words with you in this manner. Not impossible. Less likely. But I did. So, here I am. Sharing this with you was not easy. But, as you’ll learn, doing this and other things like it are part of the work. The necessary work of earning one’s self-possession – a prerequisite to changing the world. And, I would like to earn the honor of walking alongside you as you pursue your work.

Frontpage Photo by: Kool Cat Photography