The Northwest Area Foundation selects Sidney, Glendive and Circle as pilot communities for Leadership development program.

Sidney is one of 12 communities in the country’s Northwest region that will be part of a new leadership program focused on poverty reduction and hope.

The Northwest Area Foundation announced the 12 communities involved during a telephone press conference Tuesday afternoon. The communities are in North Dakota, Montana, Idaho and Washington.

By Bill Vander Weele

Sidney Herald

Glendive and Circle were also selected to form with Sidney one of the clusters involved with the project.

The Northwest Area Foundation’s mission is to reduce poverty in an eight-state region.

"Our first focus is for poverty reduction," said Jean Burkhardt, program leader for the foundation’s Horizons area.

Burkhardt explained poverty efforts are more successful if designs are made and owned by local communities.

The cluster of the three eastern Montana cities will work under the Montana Community Foundation.

Each of the communities in the program has a population of less than 5,000 people. Each city will join a pilot program to bolster and extend their leadership systems as a strategy to reverse economic and population decline and move on to hope.

"Studies show that small communities, even if they are distant from larger population centers, can thrive if they have a strong leadership system," said Karl Stauber, president of the foundation.

The foundation expects to invest up to $4.4 million piloting this initiative in a total of 40 communities over two years.

Each organization will receive about $350,000 to be used in its cluster of three cities.

The foundation’s center points are poverty, leadership, community and partnership.

Burkhardt notes the program leaders don’t need to leave their home cities. Instead, instruction goes to their communities.

"We take the program right to them," Burkhardt said.

The extensive 18-month program will begin in early May.

Officials say there’s no limit on the number of participants in each city. There is also no age limit – some elementary and middle school students are involved in other cities.

The key is to build leadership in each rural area.

"Anyone can lead given some skills, some confidence and the opportunity," Burkhardt said.

The program’s goal is to recruit, train and retain leaders.

Stauber notes most rural towns have a small group of strong leaders.

"But when one of those individuals leave their leadership role, they aren’t taking just one hat but many hats," Stauber said.

He remembers an active family who left a small town. When that family left, the town lost a school board member, a business leader, a church leader and the president of the student body.

"Part of what we’re about is to broaden and strengthen leadership," Stauber said. "We also want to reduce burnout. They are pulled in so many directions, it’s tough to stay energized."

The Sidney Area Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture played a key role in bringing the program to Sidney. Requirements included a list of signatures from potential participants.

The Northwest Area Foundation, headquartered in St. Paul, Minn., helps communities reduce poverty in its eight-state region: Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon.

Copyright © 2004Sidney Herald Leader.


Glendive chosen for leadership program

By Margaret Brinkley
Ranger-Review Staff Writer

Glendive is one of 12 rural communities across named to join an innovative leadership development program designed to help reverse economic population declines.

Dawson County Extension Agent Bruce Smith is very excited with the opportunity leadership training will give the Dawson County and surrounding areas. “It’s going to be an intensive training and we’re already getting a lot of people who are interested,” he said. “It’s something people have been asking for for a long time.”

He is hoping many people in the community will sign up and complete the training, he said. The training will be done in Glendive and is paid for by the sponsoring organization, Smith said. “You can’t get any better than that,” he said.

The Northwest Area Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to reducing poverty, will invest more than $1.4 million in leadership development training in the 12 rural communities. The program is intended to bolster and extend leadership systems within the communities as a strategy to reverse economic and population decline, and move to hope.

The foundation focuses on reducing poverty because they believe poverty affects everyone, said Karl Stauber, president. “Studies show that small communities, even if they are distant from larger population centers, can thrive if they have a strong leadership system,” he said. “Our aim is to help rural communities strengthen their systems in order to reduce poverty for the long term.”

The leadership program is called Horizons and was introduced to communities through a series of leadership showcases. The showcase was in Glendive during November last year.

Poverty, leadership, community and partnership are four very important aspects of the foundation, said Jean Burkhardt, Horizons Program lead. She focused on the community and partnership aspects and explained training, resources and staffing will be brought to the communities through partnerships with agencies in each state. The Montana Community Foundation will be providing the training for this area.

“Our aim is to support and expand the community’s local leadership system so that it has a better chance of making real and lasting change,” Burkhardt said. “Many times, leadership programs require that people travel long distances to participate. We want as many people as possible to have access to these resources, so we’re bringing the program to them!”

Burkhardt said the program is all-inclusive and anyone interested in leadership training may participate. There is one community which has 200 people taking the training, she added. They are encouraging young adults, in middle school and high school, to participate as well. Teaching young adults leadership skills increases their participation in community building programs. Anyone, even those who live outside city limits, who feel they belong to one of the cluster communities may take the training, she said. Smith said that because the training is open to everyone, he doesn’t mind if people from areas nearby, such as Wibaux, want to join.

Communities will work in clusters, and Glendive will be joined by Sidney and Circle. Beach, Regent and Mott, N.D. were also named as a cluster for the 18-month-long training program. Coaches will work with the communities, beginning in early May.

The pilot program was launched last summer with 15 communities. Three additional clusters will be named in May and will complete the pilot roster. During this two-year phase for Horizons, the foundation expects to invest more than $4 million in up to 40 small communities.

Six other communities located in Idaho and Washington complete the list. Elk River, Kamiah and Orofino, Idaho and Omak, Tonasket, and Bridgeport, Wash. will also be taking part in the program.

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