UGA Leadership Initiative Helps Communities Expand Leadership Pipeline

Brittany Adams-Pope

Monday, April 11th, 2022

Since 2017, Appling LEADS has built a network of community leaders throughout the southeast Georgia county.

After four years however, it felt like the program needed to take the next step, said Keri Crosby Orvin, president and CEO of the Baxley-Appling County Chamber of Commerce.

“In evaluating the program, we have always had a good demographic and cultural mix in our leadership class,” Orvin said. “However, we wanted to make sure we were reaching all parts of Appling County and helping translate the diversity of the leadership program to other community committees and activities. To make that happen, we needed resources and assistance.”

To obtain those, Orvin looked to the UGA J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development’s Innovations in Community Leadership Initiative.

Through the initiative, the Fanning Institute provides resources and technical support to communities and organizations in Georgia seeking to enhance their leadership development efforts.

Since starting in 2020, it has enabled the institute to support leadership development efforts for 15 organizations throughout Georgia, and the institute is now accepting applications for this year’s initiative.

Possible projects include community-focused, skills-based programming that prioritizes community and civic engagement; leadership development for underserved populations within a community; programming that enhances workforce vitality; programs that enhance student opportunities and leadership skills; entrepreneurial leadership development; multi-county, regional leadership development programming; or programming focused on enhancing diversity, equity and inclusion or conflict transformation within communities.

In Appling County, the initiative enabled Appling LEADS to update its curriculum to cover topics such as multigenerational leadership and cultural competency.

“Alumni felt those topics would be valuable to add to the program,” Orvin said. “Appling County is changing and we need to prepare and plan so we can embrace that change and continue building a vibrant community where everyone feels involved and feels heard.”

The program also invited civic and nonprofit organizations to speak to the class and show them avenues for getting involved in Appling County following graduation from the leadership program.

“This allows participants to think about where they could plug in after the program,” Orvin said. “After graduation, we will challenge the class to commit to an organization they are interested in and we will help facilitate that connection to get them involved. It is vital for a rural community like ours that everyone engages somehow, whether through government or through a civic or community organization.”

Appling LEADS will graduate its 2022 class in June and with the changes, the program should make an even bigger difference in the community, Orvin said.

“Without the initiative and the support of the Fanning Institute, we would not have had the financial resources and capacity to develop something this impactful for Appling County,” Orvin said.

The application period for the 2022 Innovations in Community Leadership Initiative runs through April 15, and the institute aims to again work with a wide array of organizations.

“In past years, not only have communities used the initiative to build new or update existing youth and adult leadership programming, but nonprofits have utilized it to partner with us to create programs to develop leaders within the populations they serve,” said Brittany Adams-Pope, Fanning Institute public service faculty.

Leadership development is one of the most crucial investments a community can make to generate attention from business and industry, said Matt Bishop, Fanning Institute director.

“Communities without the resources to dedicate to leadership development can find themselves at an economic disadvantage,” Bishop said. “This initiative allows us to partner with communities committed to investing in leadership development, but lack the necessary resources.”

The Innovations in Community Leadership Initiative is supported by private funding donated by members of the Fanning Institute Advisory Board, most notably a lead gift from the James L. Allgood Family.