Institute of Yellow Springs
local residents learn to lead
The Leadership Institute of Yellow Springs last month kicked off its yearlong
program of interactive training courses for leaders and potential leaders
who want to make a difference in the community.
The idea for the Institute was conceived more than a year ago, when community
members became concerned about the lack of leadership in the village,
particularly among people in their 20s and 30s. Sue Abendroth, a member
of the Institutes curriculum committee, said the older generation
of local leaders seemed to be aging and no one was lining up to replace
Its a nationwide trend, with the rise in two-earner households
and the pace of living increasing, people dont have as many opportunities
to participate because theyre so busy, Abendroth said. Volunteering
falls at the bottom of the list.
The groups goal became to recruit community members to get involved
with local organizations and to participate in a way that would be most
productive for the entire community.
Hopefully, we will help enable people to volunteer at organizations
in a collaborative way, as effective leaders, because thats what
will help the community regardless of the issues, Abendroth said.
The Leadership Institute, a nonprofit organization, has struggled against
the notion that it has a political agenda connected to the Concerned Citizens
Coalition (CCC), she said. The CCC spearheaded an unsuccessful effort
two years ago to recall two members from Village Council.
But Leadership Institute organizers maintain they have no political ties.
Abendroth said the Institute aims to do what is in the interest of the
entire community: to nurture effective leaders.
Ten local residents signed up for the Institutes first leadership
program for a $50 enrollment fee. The program includes seven different
instruction modules led by professional facilitators for a total of 55
hours. This kind of program might normally cost anywhere from $1,000 to
$2,000, said Jim Albright, the interim chair of the Institutes board
But organizers felt strongly that no one should be excluded from the program
because of financial limitations. The Antioch Company Foundation has contributed
funds to get the initial pilot going, and the program facilitators have
donated their time for little or no remuneration. Though the tuition fee
may increase later, organizers anticipate the principle funding for the
programs projected $20,000 annual budget will come from donations,
The program opened in mid-September with a day-long orientation module
on what it means to be a leader. Ohio State Universitys Gary Earnest
and Cece Cugliari, from Leadership Coshocton, led the group through an
introduction to the tools for effective communication and collaborative
technique for leadership in a diverse group. The second module, led by
local mediation consultant Fred Bartenstein, includes a series of sessions
focusing on familiarizing participants with local civic organizations.
Deborah Wilson, director of development at WYSO public radio and a participant
in the Institute, said, I hope to learn to be a listening leader
who guides and empowers people to make good decisions.
Participants are currently involved in creating an Internet resource center
about and for community organizations in town. They are also encouraged
to get involved in one or more organizations to observe how its leadership
functions. Wilson is volunteering for a year as a board member of Community
Resources, a local group interested in local economic development and
other economic issues.
I am excited to be taking the work outside of the classroom,
Wilson said. Hopefully, all [the participants] will learn to listen
and guide people and theyll bring their skills to their organizations.
Every year another group of participants will do the same, she said, and
the leadership will keep building.
The next instruction module will address conflict management. The focus
of subsequent modules will focus on managing the work of volunteer groups,
managing specific activities of community groups and project management.
The final session will be an evaluation process and a look at the potential
future of the program.
The Leadership Institute is still in an initial stage of formation. The
board of trustees is looking for a program coordinator who would handle
administrative duties and eventually take on a leadership role for the
organization. In December, the board plans to elect officers who will
serve on the first official term of the board of trustees, which starts