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New Program Teaches Skills to Leaders of Small Communities

Missouri State University's Community and Social Issues Institute is launching two new leadership programs. This morning, our report focused on the program that provides training to people involved with non-profit organizations. Now, KSMU's Missy Shelton has a conversation with the institute's director and the leader of the other program which provides training to leaders in small communities.

Shelton: Gerry Lee, you are coordinator of GOLD, which stands for Greater Ozarks Leadership and Development. What are your hopes and dreams for GOLD?

Lee: Two things we're striving for: To develop leadership capacity in the smaller communities in this region that really don't have the resources to provide that leadership skill training for the leaders. Whether it's Springfield or Cassville, the need for leadership is the same. The leadership skill set that's required for city leaders, government leaders, or non-profits or business leaders is the same. But they can't do it by themselves. So GOLD hopefully is a conduit in the way we'll reach out to the community and provide those leadership skill development in the small communities. And the second one is to provide all the smaller communities in the region the ability to network and provide a regional context in their thought process. As they look at things going on in their community, it does have an impact on every other community around them, whatever that might be. So, one of the things we want to do during this process is to get them to think globally, act thinking about the regional context. The opportunity for communities to network from a best practices standpoint. What worked in one community, can we translate that into my community?

Shelton: Can you give me some examples of some practical things you'll be teaching through this program?

Lee: It's an eight month program and each month we'll be addressing a different topic: economic development, workforce development, education, infrastructure, highways. One of the things I heard from the communities was give me practical best practices. I don't really want a lot of fluff. Tell me what resources are available, how do I get those resources? Because they don't have time to go through that process. We want to open those doors so they're aware of what's out there.

Shelton: Would it be fair to say this is like an extension of the Leadership Springfield program?

Lee: It's very similar. Those are great community leadership programs focused on their own communities. We want to take those to the next level and bring that and those communities thinking on the regional basis and building that capacity on a bigger scale for the whole 24 county area. Very similar as far as structure and goals, just on a bigger scale.

Shelton: In terms of the big picture, what will the long term impact be of having a program like this?

Lee: I think there will be tremendous impact on building the networking between communities and the opportunity to collaborate and plan. Just the opportunity for building that leadership capacity helps the communities. All boats will rise.

Shelton: Dr. Lloyd Young, you are director of the Missouri State Community and Social Issues Institute. This program is directed to the smaller communities in our area...But how will this benefit Springfield?

Young: The Good Community Committee spent a couple of years looking at the past of our region, thinking that by understanding the past and the culture, we would find some handles for dealing with current issues. After two years talking about the history, we asked what next? And we said let's talk about the future. One of our members, Tom Finnie, just retired as city manager said, "What I learn is that the last part of the twentieth century saw Springfield become a city, for the first time. The first half of the twenty-first century will see Springfield became the center of a metropolitan region." That's what happening everywhere. It's not that we're trying to make that happen. It's just that that's what happening at this stage of history in our country, the emergence of metropolitan regions. He said, "Let's look at what's coming in terms of the opportunities to develop as a region to do things that are good for everybody, to get over the jealousies between communities. Let's see how we can find ways to work together as a region so that we can all benefit from working together." And so this is kind of in the same vein. There are so many things that are already regional...the chambers, economic development partnership, the council of governments which comes out of Diane May's operation here at the university. There are already dozens of regional programs looking at environmental issues. So that's what's happening and this is another aspect of trying to work together and treating each other as partners and as collaborators, not as competitors.