Monday, February 9, 2009

UGA Fanning Institute Reports on a Leadership Development Program for Rural Georgia

A new study by the University of Georgia Fanning Institute shows that community leadership programs are helping to support economic viability in Georgia’s rural counties. The report—Georgia’s Community Leadership Initiative—was released today at the Georgia Rural Development Council’s 8th Annual Leadership Day program in Atlanta.

“Broad-based community leadership is critical to building and maintaining a community’s ability to respond to the state, national and global changes that alter local opportunities,” said Michael A. Beatty, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, in the foreword to the report.

In 2002, the Georgia Rural Development Council started the Community Leadership Initiative to broaden the state’s leadership base and build local capacity to address social and economic issues in communities. The initiative provides seed-grants on a competitive basis to rural counties that lack sustained leadership development programs. Today’s report examines the results of the initiative’s first five years (2002 to 2007).

During that period, 94 rural counties received 184 grants and more than 3,200 Georgians completed grant-supported training. Program graduates devoted more than 96,000 hours to improving their skills and learning about their community’s problems, assets and resources.

Participants said the program improved their ability to build partnerships, facilitate discussions, manage conflict, find solutions to problems in group settings, and other leadership skills.

In 75 percent of the counties that received grants, graduates became more involved in their communities—running for elected office, leading local task forces to address community problems, and serving on local boards for community groups such as downtown development authorities, economic development authorities, and philanthropic organizations. Some 46 percent of participants immediately assumed leadership roles as officers, committee chairs and organizers.

The Community Leadership Initiative increased program activity in 70 percent of the grant receiving counties and the number of self-sustaining programs increased by 47 percent during the five-year period.

The complete report is available at

The GRDC Community Leadership Initiative now is funded by OneGeorgia, administered by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, and managed by the Fanning Institute at the University of Georgia.

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