This article proposes combining public relations and development communication insights so that organizations, particularly in the public sector, can engage and empower rural communities to adopt and exploit infrastructure developments for mutual benefit. Applying appreciative inquiry to explore the communication process involved in the development of micro-hydro power plants in Kulon Progo Regency, Indonesia, this article offers a view from those who are regarded as the target of communication, as the opposed to those take an organizational standpoint. The study proposes a new development project communication model which seeks to initiate, secure and sustain positive community outcomes and meet the project initiators’ requirements. This is achieved through collaboration and the gradual relinquishment of power and decision-making from the latter to the former. The model emphasizes the importance of the processes of communication as well as outcomes, and considers rural communities as having agency, rather than as objects of or for development. By embracing community assets such as local knowledge and contextual wisdom and the characteristics of collective communities in non-Western countries such as togetherness, reciprocity, a strong sense of shared destiny, locality, and fraternity, the model offers a community centric approach which encourages progressive community empowerment and ownership. The evidence points to the impacts for both communities and governments being more beneficial and sustainable than current communication practices.