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A pinch of framing, a dash of social capital: a successful recipe for community leadership

sprig by Posted in Rural Capacity Building

If life is like a box of chocolates, is leadership like a delicious pie? Well, let’s think about this…to make a pie you need all the right ingredients, the right equipment and talented people to pull off the recipe. A lot goes into the making of a pie. If all the parts aren’t working in sync, the finger-licking treat turns into a heap at the bottom of your trashcan.

Bill Crawford uses this analogy in a recent Mississippi Business Journal article. He writes

“Ever messed up a recipe? Worked hard. Did most everything right. But, your final result was…well, you can remember the words they used.

Community projects can have the same results. People work hard. They do most everything right. But, the outcome is not what they expected. More importantly, the community view is nobody cooked up much of anything worthwhile.

That happens less often when community leaders do follow a good recipe.”

He goes on…

“Community leadership programs can be great recipes for providing citizens knowledge needed to lead effectively plus use leadership skills… Too few of our communities have leadership programs.”

We agree! For more than 25 years, the Blandin Community Leadership Program (BCLP) has worked in rural Minnesota communities from Ada to Zumbrota, training over 6,500 leaders. These leaders have the talent and the right ingredients. At BCLP, they learn about the tools that can turn the raw material into something truly tasty for the community. What are they?

  • Framing: Framing involves drawing attention to what is, or isn’t happening, in the community and inviting community members to think about what they are willing to do to make a difference. Framing is not only something leaders use to call for ideas, they also use the tool to create shared meaning around the issue and why it is important.
  • Social capital: Rural leaders know that to make a healthy community it takes the dedication of many individuals with different perspectives. In order to bring together these perspectives, relationships need to be formed so that available resources can be acknowledged and tapped for the good of the community.
  • Mobilization: This includes using the social capital they have developed throughout the community to not only get things done – but to sustain the effort into the future.

Over the years, we’ve seen some pretty scrumptious pies baked by rural communities around Minnesota. Here’s a sampling of the good work we see happening everyday:

  • Forward Fergus Falls: Born out of a BCLP cohort, FFF is tapping the talents of its innovative community leaders to help create a vision for its future.
  • Itasca County Family YMCA: On Friday, the YMCA broke ground on a new Active Living Center and building expansion that was dreamed up at a BCLP retreat.
  • Tatanka Bluffs Corridor: Community leaders in Redwood and Renville Counties reached over the river that divides them and decided it was time to build a bridge (metaphorically speaking). They created the Tatanka Bluffs Corridor and reinvented the area as a recreation destination for local and national visitors.

We recently selected our 2015 BCLP communities. They are

  • Blooming Prairie, Ellendale, Medford: 10 trained leaders
  • Grand Rapids: 219 trained leaders
  • International Falls: 70 trained leaders
  • Long Prairie: 35 trained leaders
  • Luverne: 46 trained leaders
  • Redwood Falls: 50 trained leaders
  • St. Charles: new to BCLP!
  • Winona: 72 trained leaders

If your community is interested in learning more about BCLP, click here. No need to keep testing out recipes that just aren’t producing quality results. We’ve got the right mix!


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