UGA Conference to Focus on Community Leadership

Staff Report From Athens CEO

Monday, February 8th, 2016

A year ago, the staff at the University of Georgia’s J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development imagined a conference that would bring together people with a common interest in community leadership development.

Those early brainstorms led to the upcoming inaugural Community Leadership Conference to be held at the Georgia Center for Continuing Education on Feb. 10 and 11.

“We were dreaming about it this time last year,” said Jenny Jordan, a program coordinator with the Fanning Institute. “‘Wouldn’t it be cool if?’ Then, we had to think about, ‘What did that really mean? What kind of conference would that be? What did we want the goals to be?’”

What Jordan and her colleagues came up with was a conference that will bring together practitioners, community leaders and scholars to talk about best practices and explore innovative ways to bolster community leadership development efforts. The two-day event will allow participants to take a broad look at the meaning of community, offering workshops that can assist groups centered around a geographical location as well as a common interest or cause.

Karen Rackley, who holds a number of leadership positions in Worth County, said events like this are huge for smaller communities like hers. Rackley is attending along with the entire steering committee of Leadership Worth, which is preparing to launch a youth leadership program. Each of the Leadership Worth committee members will attend two of the 16 sessions offered so they can bring a wealth of new ideas back home.

“When we’re able to go to these things and find ideas it helps us tremendously to stay ahead of the curve,” Rackley said. “This opens the doors up for us.”

Attendees will hear from Jennifer Frum, UGA vice president for public service and outreach;

Johnelle Simpson, UGA Student Government Association President; and Mathew Hauer, a demographer with the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at UGA. The conference’s second day will feature exhibits showcasing the work of Public Service and Outreach’s eight units.

The workshop schedule allows participants to create a customized agenda that meets their individual needs. Each session has been coordinated by a faculty member at the Fanning Institute, a unit of UGA Public Service and Outreach. The workshops are led by community practitioners that are experts on the topics as well as faculty from other Public Service and Outreach units like the Small Business Development Center and the Archway Partnership.

Fanning Director Matt Bishop said the institute directly serves 40 communities across the state while its curriculum is being used by more than 100 communities. In recent years, communities that have worked with Fanning have expressed interest in getting together to share best practices.

“It certainly is a way for us to more or less talk about the resources that we have here at UGA, but more importantly it’s a way to call attention to community leadership development and bring people together around the topic,” Bishop said. “Let’s look at some latest trends. Let’s look at some good things that are happening out in the state and learn from each other.”