September 19 - 22, 2021
2021 UEDA SUMMIT THEME
Transformation: Forward Thinking in a Changing World
2021 UEDA Summit Speakers
Founder and Executive Director, Center on Rural Innovation
Matt Dunne is the founder and executive director of the Center on Rural Innovation (CORI), a national nonprofit action tank committed to creating economic opportunities in rural America through the development of inclusive digital economy ecosystems that support entrepreneurship and job creation.
A lifelong Vermonter, Matt served 11 years in the Vermont House and Senate, getting elected to his first term at age 22 — the same year he graduated with a B.A. from Brown University. While focusing on technology and progressive economic development as a legislator, he also helped grow a Vermont-based software company to over 100 people.
In 1999 Matt was appointed director of AmeriCorps*VISTA under President Clinton, where he led PowerUp, one of the first national efforts to bridge the digital divide, and launched an Entrepreneur Corps to focus on micro-finance in high-need communities. And in 2007, he started Google’s Community Affairs division out of a former bread factory in White River Junction, Vermont, where he led all local U.S. philanthropy and engagement, including the Google Fiber rollout and orchestrating educational and development initiatives in Google’s data center communities across rural America.
Matt’s political life continued with bids for lieutenant governor and, later, governor of Vermont, but losses at each turn left him at a professional crossroads after his last unsuccessful campaign. Out of the spotlight, he spent the ensuing months working his family’s farm, splitting wood, bringing his kids to school each day — reflecting on his career, and attempting to figure out a new mission.
Through conversations with friends and a research fellowship at MIT, Matt explored the rural-urban divide that came to the fore in the 2016 presidential election. What he learned about the unprecedented rural opportunity gap that had emerged since the Great Recession spurred his decision to start an organization, CORI, that could leverage the experiences from his past — community development, technology, policy — to bridge this economic divide.