Communities Team with UGA, Go Virtual to Develop Leaders

Charlie Bauder

Thursday, May 21st, 2020

Communities across Georgia can now deliver their adult and youth leadership programs virtually with support from the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development at the University of Georgia.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Fanning Institute—a unit of UGA Public Service and Outreach—has created virtual program formats for both its Community Leadership Program and Youth Leadership in Action curricula. This now allows the institute’s faculty to deliver the adult and youth curriculum modules to program participants in an interactive, virtual format.

“Now more than ever, communities need to continue their leadership programs so that existing and emerging leaders at all levels are equipped with the leadership tools they need to address the critical challenges borne out of the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Matt Bishop, director of the Fanning Institute. “COVID-19 has impacted every aspect of our lives, and we’ve all had to make adjustments. It’s the same for how we deliver leadership programs. The bottom line is communities don’t have to cancel their programs because we can’t meet face-to-face. Of course we want to be together, but we’ve adapted our programs and services so that communities can continue to develop leaders vital to their community’s future success.”

Maintaining the basic structure and essence of the adult and youth leadership curricula, faculty utilize virtual meeting technology and other tools such as polls, quizzes and presentations to translate the traditional, face-to-face, classroom experience to an interactive, virtual setting.

“This is not a static webinar,” Bishop says. “Just as we always have in-person, we will continue to work with programs to tailor the virtual experience to meet their specific leadership development goals.”

In April, institute faculty facilitated a virtual session on leading change for this year’s Leadership McDuffie class.

“We met via Zoom and led the class through interactive polls and icebreaker activities to get everyone engaged,” says Brittany Adams-Pope, Fanning Institute public service faculty. “Then, the class utilized virtual breakout rooms and a larger group conversation to interact and discuss how they are leading in their communities through the pandemic and how they can affect positive change moving forward.”

Response to the virtual session was overwhelmingly positive.

“Participants were able to collaborate with each other in virtual breakout sessions, which allowed for deeper discussions on topics,” says Debbie Jones, executive director and CEO of the Thomson-McDuffie Chamber of Commerce. “I was very impressed with the Fanning Institute for pulling this together and giving us a top-quality product.”

Along with providing leadership training, the institute has worked with various adult and youth programs through the pandemic to keep the classes engaged and connected virtually.

For example, institute faculty have continued to engage virtually with students in the Georgia Possible program, a leadership development and college readiness program developed by UGA and the Clarke County School District.

“We’ve sent them emails with links to leadership talks, virtual college tours and college readiness content and hosted virtual gatherings over Google Hangout,” says Lauren Healey, Fanning Institute public service faculty. “Even though it’s through a computer screen, the students have appreciated the opportunity to meet with each other and maintain the relationships developed through Georgia Possible.”

In addition to delivering youth and adult leadership programming via a virtual format, faculty and staff remain equipped to assist organizations with strategic planning efforts and provide training on leading effective virtual meetings.

“Regardless of the effect COVID-19 has had on how we do business, we remain committed to building a stronger Georgia through leadership development,” Bishop says. “I encourage communities and organizations to reach out to us and let us know how we can support them.”

For more information on virtual adult leadership programming, contact Brendan Leahy. For information on virtual leadership programming for youth, contact Lauren Healey.