Community leadership program planning in the rural South
Oates, Andrea Dannette
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Social capital is a key resource for community development in resource-limited rural communities. To identify and develop such capital, an action research case study was conducted on the dynamics of a rural community leadership development program planning initiative in the southern community of Massix County (pseudonym), Georgia. The Massix Archway Leadership Development Work Group, as a part of the University of Georgia’s Archway Partnership, was a diverse group of community volunteers charged with developing the program. The purpose of the case study was to investigate this process of planning a sustainable community leadership development program. Specific research questions were 1) What key strategies do volunteer community program planners employ to plan a sustainable community leadership development program? 2) How do diversity and inclusion impact power and privilege in rural South community program planning efforts? In particular, how do faith-based leaders, as leaders of rural community organizations, engage in program planning efforts? 3) How do volunteer community program planners learn and develop individually and collectively? The development process and the intervention of program planner recruitment were tracked over a two-year period of time by conducting participant observations, surveys, interviews, and a focus group at various times. In the process of planning the leadership development program, planners made a critical decision to sever ties to an existing leadership development program hosted by a major community development stakeholder in order to create a broader-based, inclusive program offering that better met the needs of the community at large. Based on the study of the process, it can be concluded that 1) A planning table of multiple community organizational stakeholders and diverse community constituents creates the conditions for the development of inclusive, sustainable community programs; 2) A flat organizational structure, skilled facilitators, and intentional group dynamic techniques can foster the collective empowerment of diverse community planners; 3) An outcome of community-based action research and interventions led to both personal and organizational learning and change; and 4) For rural communities, diversity and inclusion in program planning efforts are associated with program sustainability.