5 Lessons to Launch Community Development Efforts from the Brushy Fork Leadership Summit

BY JENNY TOTTEN, COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT COORDINATOR, THE HUB

The Hub’s Community Team Leadership Corps (TLC) teams from McDowell and Lincoln counties traveled to the Brushy Fork Leadership Summit in Berea, Kentucky where they networked with other small Appalachian communities who are facing similar challenges and learned from Dr. Vaughn and Sandy Grisham about successful community and leadership development. After these days of intense learning, we took some time to reflect together.

Here are our 5 takeaways from the Summit – we’ll be focusing on incorporating these into our work in the coming months, and we hope they are a benefit to you in your work as well!

  • Don’t Wait, Just Get Started: Dr. Grisham and others within the leadership training network really hit home the idea that the best time to get something done is right now and to stop waiting on somebody else to do it. 
  • Long Term Community Development Must Lead to Jobs: Dr. Grisham and Sandy are both strong believers in the power of community development to lead to economic development and job growth – they saw it happen in Tupelo, Mississippi with George McLean and his work.  The work of keeping a community growing cannot be held by volunteers alone. 
  • Start with What You Have and Build a Unique Identity: Our teams heard from a group who have been working in Clay County, Kentucky who have taken advantage of existing assets in their areas and created economic development opportunities around those assets. The swinging bridges of the county are on the map and tourists are visiting for cultural heritage events in Manchester, KY. Our teams were quickly brainstorming ways to showcase the ways that their own communities are unique. 
  • Traditional Leadership Roles are More Concerned with Infrastructure and Surviving: This really hit home with our small communities. Often times people assume that mayors, city council, and other governance roles are not involved in community development because “They just don’t care,” while Dr. Grisham painted a different picture – of a mayor or council member who cares dearly, but must be more involved in making sure the sewer system is functioning or in making sure the grass cutting bill gets paid this month. 
  • Before Economic Development comes Community Development. Before Community Development comes People Development: This is the central idea to the Tupelo model of community development – and it simply states that before you can work as a group, you’ve got to be personally ready and have the initiative and mindset needed to engage with others to get things done. Seeing this process laid out and connected in to the real-world example of Tupelo, Mississippi, the landscaping department at University of Mississippi, and the very small-town Appalachia example of Bakersville, North Carolina showed our teams that the process works and is sustainable in the long term. 

 

We came back from Berea exhausted, yet inspired and ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work! Next up our teams are jumping deep into community visioning and project development – stay tuned to see their futures unfold. 

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