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Extension > Source - Fall 2006 > Community leadership to reduce poverty

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Community leadership to reduce poverty

Small town

Thirty-six communities participated in the Horizons program pilot in 2003–04.

More than 80 percent described actions that addressed housing issues, job skills training, community development, youth programs, business development and community healing. They reported:

  • The program engaged low-income people in program implementation and created community structures to continue working on poverty.
  • New resources were brought in through grant applications and new coalitions.
  • More youth, newcomers and culturally diverse residents became involved in leadership.
  • Participants ran for public office.
  • Volunteerism increased.
  • Businesses got more involved in public issues.

When it comes to creating a thriving community, it's the community members themselves who are the key to success. Helping rural communities of 5,000 residents or fewer develop their human asset is the goal of Horizons, a program of the Northwest Area Foundation.

Horizons is partnering with the University of Minnesota Extension Service to deliver local training, organize communities to develop plans for the future use of local talents, and evaluate the results. "Leadership needs to come from across the entire community, from people who don't currently see themselves as leaders," says Monica Herrera, Extension's program director for Horizons.

In addition to expanding the quantity and quality of leaders, participating communities will have honest discussions about poverty and identify action steps—all with the help of an Extension community coordinator. The long-term goal is to change population loss and economic decline into prosperity.

To kick off the program, five Horizons "Showcase" events will be held in October 2006. The program consists of four phases.

To learn more and to see a map of eligible communities, visit If your community meets the demographic criteria, consider attending to hear an overview of how the program works.

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