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Reflections from the Connecting Community Leaders Conference

By Laura Bloomberg

No one leader, no one sector, no one organization or elected official can possibly resolve the sticky issues that challenge communities.
Connections can help.

On October 12th and 13th the Center for Integrative Leadership (CIL), in partnership with the University of Minnesota's Extension Center for Community Vitality and the Office for Public Engagement, hosted a gathering of alumni from nine University-sponsored leadership development programs to build connections and work together on thorny community leadership challenges. The conference included alumni from the following programs:


  • Humphrey Nonprofit Leadership Programs

  • The Humphrey Policy Fellows Program

  • Horizons LeadershipPlenty Cohorts

  • The Isanti County Step-Up Leadership Program

  • MARL (The Minnesota Agricultural and Rural Leaders Program)

  • Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation District Leadership Education Programs

  • The U-Lead Advisory Academy

  • The Minnesota Principals Academy

  • The Technological Leadership Institute

Together, these leaders grappled with a range of community partnership questions:

When you think of the future for your community, what are the pressing issues that need to be addressed?

What could leaders in your community or region of Minnesota contribute to and receive from a partnership with the University of Minnesota to help address these pressing issues and make your community thrive?

Small group discussions were facilitated by Extension Educators; University faculty members from a number of community-focused programs joined the conversations to listen, learn, lend advice where needed, and help build connections to University resources based on community need.

Here's what participants had to say about the gathering:

I enjoy being in a big room of people who wanna DO something in the world, rather than sit around and be cynical. I love just hearing everyone's strong opinions and creative ideas. Change is good.

The collective power of gathering leaders across sectors paired with the knowledge of the University is awesome. I am looking forward to what comes next as this model is honed throughout the years to come.
I loved hearing other professionals ideas and thoughts about the subject matter at the tables I attended. It was refreshing to have deep dialogue about subjects important to me as well as others. Meeting other leaders was also a great experience. As a director of a small agency in rural MN it gets lonely sometimes and intense dialogue is often replaced with how's the weather?

This is just the beginning. In follow-up to this gathering, CIL students and staff will establish priorities to help build University support for the ideas generated. Our commitment to the leaders engaged in this dialogue is that we will support their cross sector efforts to ensure that their Minnesota communities thrive.

Watch video montage and interviews with attendees


View videos from conference here.

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