The four west central Minnesota community action agencies received state recognition from the Minnesota Community Action Partnership at its annual best practices awards event February 15 in St. Paul. Lakes & Prairies Community Action Partnership, Mahube Community Council, Otter Tail-Wadena Community Action Council, and West Central Minnesota Communities Action, Inc. were recognized for outstanding achievement in increasing stake and ownership by low-income people in their community, through their joint West Central Leadership Academy.
Based on the premise that often the full potential of leaders in a community goes untapped, The Academy helps previously undiscovered leaders who may feel held back by their incomes take more active roles in building their communities' future. The Academy provides a space and structure for people to acquire and practice skills, and to build on strengths to help them become more effective leaders.
Also recognized for their work with The Academy were West Central Initiative (WCI), which is coordinating and funding the program, and The University of Minnesota Extension’s Center for Community Vitality, which is contracted to lead the training sessions.
Now in its third year, The Academy consists of eight sessions that range from such topics as "Understanding Leadership and Your Community,” "Civic Leadership” and "Visionary Leadership.”
Cindy Bigger is the educator who developed the curriculum and leads the sessions. The preliminary data she has collected indicates participants are more self-assured in their leadership abilities. "One of the greatest outcomes from the West Central Leadership Academy is that the participants increase their confidence that they can lead; that they can make a difference in their communities. They do not have to wait for others to act, they will act and lead the organizations they are involved with,” she explained.
"Empowering people with low incomes is the most important thing we do in Community Action,” said Stephen Nagle, Executive Director of West Central Minnesota Communities Action, Inc. "We appreciate WCI’s willingness to fund The Academy and make it happen.”
"This is the kind of shared venture we really like to see,” said WCI President Nancy Straw. "Rural communities must recruit far more people to fill leadership positions than their urban counterparts. We need the talent and voice of everyone to lead our communities and build a stronger region.”
Community Action Agencies invest in people and communities by responding to people's immediate and long-term needs. Their explicit goal is to help customers move toward economic independence, growth, well-being and opportunity.