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Extension > Leadership and Civic Engagement Alumni > August 2017

Thursday, August 24, 2017

2017 Community Leadership Series - Who is the next generation of leaders?

Summer might be coming to a close, but the 2017 Community Leadership Series continues with our upcoming FREE webinar, "Who Is the Next Generation of Leaders?"  Join us September 21, 2017 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. (CDT) to learn more about this interesting topic that explores the new generational cohorts who live and lead in our communities. 

We have been hearing a lot about millennials in the media but what do we really know about them and their impact on our communities?  It is sometimes hard to distinguish facts in all of the reports about this generational cohort that is larger than the Baby Boomers.  As community leaders, it is important to understand the new generation of leaders who will be working beside us in organizations and leadership.

Join Brian Fredrickson, Leadership and Civic Engagement Educator, as he explores the unique characteristics of the millennial and digital cohorts.  This webinar will present research and insights on key factors such as community involvement, communication styles, and motivation to help you welcome the next generation of leaders.

Register at by September 12, 2017 at 5:00 p.m. (CDT).

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Vital Connections On Air Episode 4: ReGen

Vital Connections On Air Episode 4 features ReGen, a grassroots organization located on Minnesota’s Iron Range. This group of motivated millennials help young newcomers, and those who are “young at heart,” develop social roots on the range. Social roots are the connections that make a community feel like home to its residents.   More important, they inspire you to make the community stronger.

Char Conger, Jessalyn Sabin, and Desiree Yourczek arrived in the Iron Range for different reasons. Char was relocated for work but ended up staying. Jessalyn and Desiree grew up on the Range, left for school, and then returned. What ties their stories together is that each of them wanted to build relationships when they arrived on the Range—to  connect with other community members.

Scholars refer to the connections that we make as social capital. Social capital is gaining more attention, because  it is critical to the health and vitality of communities. Social capital is made up of bonding networks and bridging networks.

Bonding networks refer to strong connections built among people who have similar backgrounds and everyday experiences, such as family, friends, and neighbors.  Bridging networks refer to weaker connections among people with diverse backgrounds, such as members of organizations, or associations outside a person’s inner circle. Although both types of networks are necessary, bridging networks help people meet bigger challenges and take advantage of opportunities. Social roots grow from these networks.

ReGen, and other groups and organizations like them are addressing  a need that has always existed in communities—our emotional need to create a life beyond work.  Millennials, the generation born between 1981 and 1995, place a higher value on work-life balance. Ben Winchester suggests it is necessary to show millennials the entire community— not just production or office areas—to get them to live and work in your community. Groups such as ReGen are an asset to businesses and communities because they build the necessary connections to recruit and retain the next generation of citizens and employees.   

Showing people what you love about your area, sharing its history and story, and connecting them with other newcomers is a powerful way to strengthen a community. Helping others to put down social roots impacts their personal narrative as well as the narrative shared about your community. It can also help you explore your own narrative. For Char Conger, becoming involved and learning about the region changed how she viewed her life on the Range. Char decided “to be the person that I’ve been in other communities.”  She became involved in organizations, she attended community gatherings.  She became an iron ranger.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Vital Connections On Air Episode 3: The Leadership Gap

We have all received the phone call or had the conversation at the grocery store. One of the community groups in town needs a board member, a volunteer, more people to bring bars.  If you are like me, you say that of course you will do what you can, but as you walk out of the store or hang up the phone all you can think is:  "Isn't there someone else who can help?"  

If you think this is happening more often in your small community, you might be right!  According to Ben Winchester, senior research fellow for University of Minnesota Extension's Center for Community Vitality, we are facing a leadership gap. In his recent analysis, he found that 1 in 16 people must serve as a leader in rural Minnesota counties. Urban and metro areas are also seeing a need for leadership but because of the size of their communities, their leadership demand is more like 1 in 51 people. Ben shares his research on this topic in our new episode of Vital Connections On Air.

This need for leadership is not due only to changing demographics.  According to Ben it is because Minnesota is a leader in the number of non-profits available to meet needs in our communities.  The growth in the number of nonprofits throughout Minnesota leads to more people needed to serve in leadership roles.  Between the years of 2000 and 2010, Minnesota saw a 19.3 percent increase in the number of nonprofits.  This is compared to an 8% increase in population during that same time period.  With this type of nonprofit growth, Ben estimates that we need 1,700 new leaders each year to fill the demand seen across our state.

There are many things communities can do to address the leadership needs they see in their communities.  One of the first things community members can do is engage with newcomers who are moving to their communities.  This does not mean introducing yourself and then abruptly asking them to join the board of the local organization. t means taking time to build a relationship.  Engaging in community work is a personal decision that is encouraged through relationships and connections.  By taking time to visit the new person who moved in down the street, learning about their interests, and connecting them to the right group or person, you build social capital that will strengthen your community.  

You might even open up one night of your overflowing meeting schedule somewhere down the road.

Communities can also facilitate connections among newcomers.  Ben shared in Episode 1: Not Your Grandpa's Rural that the best $150 dollars a community can spend is on a newcomer dinner.  This gathering encourages people who have chosen to join your community to create connections with each other and with the rest of the community  If you create these opportunities, you benefit from meeting newcomers, and they benefit because they learn who else is in their community and begin to build social roots.

Extension has also helped communities address the leadership gap by co-creating community and county-based leadership programs.  There are a variety of types of programs throughout Minnesota. Leadership programs  are led by community members and groups that are committed to helping prepare the next generation of leaders.  These leadership programs build upon Extension’s model that brings the same group of people (i.e., “cohorts) together over multiple months to explore different leadership topics.  The programs are created by a local Design Team. Extension Leadership and Civic Engagement educators design and deliver an educational program that  meets the unique goals and outcomes desired by that community, county, or region.  

Learn more about the unique aspects of the various programs and how to become involved if one is in your area. If you are interested in finding out how to bring leadership development opportunities to your community, contact Holli Arp, Program Leader for Leadership and Civic Engagement, at

Photo Credit: Flickr user pantin5

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