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Cohort program transforms community leaders

Leadership class

U-Lead, Extension's leadership education program, provides intensive training for community leaders to frame and solve public issues in innovative ways.

They say two heads are better than one.

That certainly held true as Extension and the Association of Minnesota Counties (AMC) launched a transformative leadership education project, AMC Futures, in 2006.

Today, the 4-year-old partnership has helped more than 170 county employees from 26 counties foster positive change while building strong leadership skills. Born out of U-Lead, Extension's leadership education program, AMC Futures provides intensive training for county staffers to frame and solve public issues in innovative ways.

Nicollet County Public Health nurse Sandy Renor credits AMC Futures for her ability to address complex issues more effectively. She says the experience taught her how to engage local stakeholders—such as exercise science professors and physical education teachers—and gain community support for a new initiative, the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP).

"The tools and strategies from the leadership program are very helpful," says Renor, who was an AMC Futures participant in 2008-09. "SHIP is not just about telling people that exercise is good. We're asking that policy changes be put into place so that physical activity becomes part of everyday life. My projects have moved forward by applying skills from the course."

The leadership training also encouraged Renor to network and connect with staff in other counties. "It really opened the door for me to say, ‘I wonder what's working well in Jackson County?'" she says. "It benefits Nicollet County to explore other perspectives and reframe issues. Sometimes we get so busy in our own little worlds that we forget to tap into what's happening in a neighbor county."

Extension U-Lead cohorts met in 30 Minnesota communities last year. Workers from local governments, business associations and other organizations participated in the research-based training and workshops.

For more information, visit the Extension U-Lead Program.

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