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Program trains leaders from within communities
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Individuals are stepping up to the challenge and leading their communities to improve in areas from beautification to resource identification.
Now in its second year, the LeadershipPlenty program has proven successful in several Mississippi counties. Three new classes of participants recently graduated from the program with improved leadership skills they can use to better their communities.
The second class of Leadership82, a joint project for Webster, Choctaw, Montgomery and Carroll counties, resulted in a resource directory that will aid future strategic planning activities in each county.
"In March, just prior to graduating, our Leadership82 participants went through the LeadershipPlenty module on asset mapping, which gave the participants the opportunity to work with all the elected officials in the four-county area," said Cynthia Wilson, Webster County director with the Mississippi State University Extension Service. "Through this process, the class participants and the elected officials began developing a regional resource directory."
Asset mapping is one of nine modules in the LeadershipPlenty program. Participants in the 50-hour program also learn how to look for leaders within the community, manage groups effectively, make meetings more productive, manage conflicts, build strategic partnerships, develop and implement a plan, evaluate impact and communicate efforts to the local community.
"The beauty of the program is that it can be tailored to each individual community's needs. We can modify the program to fit a particular community's needs -- health, economic development, education issues or any other community issue -- and incorporate additional, more specific information for that community," said Chance McDavid, an Extension associate in Community Resource Development.
In Marshall County, the leadership training program was the first effort to bring together people from all areas of the county around a common purpose.
"Our project area is beautification. We want to make our area more appealing and attractive to tourists and to the people we have moving in from Memphis and Shelby County," said Janet Jolley, Marshall County Extension director. "Some of the target areas our groups are working on are enforcing ordinances to curb some of our littering problems, creating a resource directory and creating an awareness of adult education."
The group is operating on the principle that a cleaner image will promote civic pride, enhance the quality of life and increase economic potential. The group also plans to conduct programs for children in the local schools with the hope that they will take information home to their parents.
Residents in Jackson communities joined together for the LeadershipPlenty training in an effort to gain a better appreciation for their community. Ester Ainsworth, manager of the Neighborhoods Division for the city of Jackson, said the program was very beneficial to the neighborhood organizations involved with the Jackson Association of Neighborhoods.
"The LeadershipPlenty training provided insight into how the residents could be more effective in identifying leaders, identifying issues in the community and working with the local government and partners to resolve them," Ainsworth said. "The whole program helped to empower laypersons to become more effective in their communities."
Ainsworth said her goal was to educate community leaders about the role they can play in making decisions for their communities.
"I believe we reached our goal, and if nothing else, the residents have increased their awareness of how critical their role is in helping to determine the direction of their communities. The participants have a much better understanding of how they can be a part of the process," Ainsworth said.
LeadershipPlenty is designed for diverse groups of people who want to address a community problem or work to make their community a better place. People of all ages and backgrounds are encouraged to develop their leadership potential.
The program was designed by the Pew Partnership for Civic Change, a Virginia-based civic research organization that strives to identify and document promising solutions and strategies crucial to developing strong communities. The MSU Extension Service is a state LeadershipPlenty partner, and Mississippi is recognized by the Pew Partnership as the first to implement the training on a statewide basis.
"The Pew Partnership describes the program as a tool to mobilize a change in mindset from one with a leadership lack to one with leadership plenty," McDavid said.
For more information about LeadershipPlenty, contact McDavid at (662) 325-3144 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.