The award, presented by the UGA J.W. Fanning Institute of Leadership Development, was formally announced during the seventh annual Community Leadership Conference, hosted by Fanning, on March 1.

The Clayton County Chamber of Commerce redesigned Leadership Clayton in 2020 to incorporate a renewed focus on skills development in areas such as collaboration, navigating a multigenerational community, conflict management, leading difficult conversations, and enhancing diversity and inclusion.

In addition, participants learn more about Clayton County’s strategic focus areas such as aviation, education, healthcare, wellness and the environment, cultural arts, economic development and industry, while also designing and implementing a service project to address an area of need or opportunity in the community.

Leadership Clayton graduated its first class in October 2021. A second class was announced just a month later in November and formally began in January 2022.

“Clayton County has committed to building a diverse community of leaders who not only understand the issues facing the county, but also learn the leadership skills needed to actively engage in making an impact in Clayton County’s future,” said Matt Bishop, director of the Fanning Institute. “Leadership Clayton exemplifies how a well-rounded, intentional leadership program can serve as a foundation for positive change.”

Receiving the award is an honor and recognition of the work the program has done in Clayton County, said Valencia Williamson, president and CEO of the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce.

“Since 1972, Leadership Clayton has provided the inspiration for emerging and existing community leaders to become actively involved in making a difference locally and regionally,” said Williamson. “Through our collaboration with the Fanning Institute, we have enhanced the program to include a curriculum focused on community leadership development. Our participants now have an opportunity to sharpen their skills and become more effective leaders.”

An attendee listens to the 2022 Community Leadership Conference keynote address on March 1, 2022. (Photo credit: Sydney Fordice/UGA Public Service and Outreach)

Around 200 people attended this year’s conference, which was held virtually for the second straight year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The presentation of the Innovations in Community Leadership Award highlighted the conference, which brings together community leaders from all walks of life each year to share ideas and insights for strengthening communities, organizations and individuals through leadership development.

This year’s conference, titled “Leading Forward,” also included a keynote address from Taylor Hafley, an applied demographer at the UGA Carl Vinson Institute of Government, on the 2020 Census and demographic trends in Georgia.

“While Georgia is among the fastest and largest growing states in the country, that growth is socially and geographically uneven,” said Hafley. “Among other trends, half of the population growth is concentrated in five counties and the population is aging. Because of this, Georgia leaders face a common set of opportunities and challenges that manifest differently in communities across the state.”

Throughout the day, participants attended sessions on topics such as navigating generational differences, inclusive leadership, adaptive leadership, and emerging trends in the field of leadership development.

“Communities of all sizes are facing increasingly complex challenges, and we need to find ways to support and accelerate the development of effective and collaborative community leaders,” said Renee Byrd-Lewis, Leadership Gwinnett board chair. “The 2022 Community Leadership Conference provided the perfect forum for professional networking, exchanging ideas and sharing best practices.

Each year, the Fanning Institute presents the Innovations in Community Leadership Award to a community or individual that has moved beyond traditional community leadership programming through innovative practices, partnerships and activities that better serve participants and their communities.

Also during the conference, the institute announced that applications would open soon for the 2022 Innovations in Community Leadership Initiative. For more information on the initiative, click here.

Writer: Charlie Bauder, 706-542-7039, [email protected]
Contact: Matt Bishop, 706-542-6201, [email protected]