In the last ten years, Indianapolis has embarked on a positive economic path with initiatives such as 'quality of life' plans, 'great places' initiatives, 'neighborhood investment plans,' 'inclusive growth strategies,' light rail transit and combating structural racism. Most community development practitioners agree, for the long-term success of a thriving community, a pipeline of emerging leaders is required to help build and secure a competitive, inclusive and thriving advantage. Purdue Extension-Marion County’s Community Economics and Leadership Program (CELP) equips Millennials and up-and-coming managers and supervisors from government, community and private organizations with a broader understanding of these community contexts enabling them to maximize and leverage local initiatives while exploring foundational principles of community economics and the leadership skills needed to create and sustain growth. An outcome of the program includes excitingly diverse community-based projects.
A CELP advisory committee worked with Community Development Educator George Okantey to guide and develop the program. They helped determine community priorities and skills needed to address pressing issues and leadership gaps in Marion County. They particularly influenced the inclusion of soft skills such as problem-solving, accountability and learning through an equity lens. The learning sessions conducted biweekly over four months included: (1) personality influences on thinking, behavior and relationships; (2) group dynamics and roles; (3) design thinking for community development practitioners; (4) inclusive growth and the future of work; (5) financial intelligence and business development; (6) how to hold people accountable; (7) facilitative leadership; (8) collaboration and consensus-building; and (9) design project presentations.
CELP knowledge is now being put to work by program graduates through these ongoing community projects:
• Improving Financial Literacy among Area 15-18-Year-Olds (Jim Hardee)
• Managing Dreams – a better approach to social work (Andrew Lee)
• A New Residential, Social and Commercial Hub for West Indianapolis (Lisa Laflin)
• A Collective to Build an Efficient Public and Social Sector (Ceceily Brickley – Second Place)
• Focus Groups for Focused Business Growth (Neil Metzger and Brittany Rasdall)
• Pathways for Youth Opportunity and Engagement in Haughville (Carlie Turner – First Place)
• Bike Locks on Shelby Street (Michelle Strahi-Salinas)
• Nature Bathing IPS (Dan Borritt, Candice Graves and Brittany Van Meter)
• Connecting You (resident, organization or institution) to Your Neighborhood (Ashlee Weaver)
• Serving Recreational and Nutritional Needs of Forest Manor Neighborhoods (Amber Broughton, Vivian Muhammad and Stephanie Powers – Third Place)
• Paramount Englewood: Extracurricular Opportunities (Reggie Martin and Darius Sawyers)