CURE unveiled its Leadership Network at an event designed to explore the rural Millennial experience. About 50 people attended “Don’t Worry; We’ve Got This” – A Gathering of Rising Leaders, and after a panel of presentations, 36 participated in a World Cafe discussion about their experiences with leadership. Almost all the people in the room were under the age of 35 and currently living in a rural area.
Our primary goal with the event was to connect young(ish) people living in rural areas to each other, and based on the feedback we’ve received and the general energy in the room, we were successful. We consider this critical because conversations we’ve had with smaller focus groups and research on Millennial demographics indicate that people in their 20s and early 30s feel particularly isolated in rural areas, especially if they are transplants. We feel–and the Harvest from the World Cafe discussion confirmed this–that leadership arises out of partnerships and collaboration and that the best way to encourage community leaders is to connect community members with each other and with a broader network of passionate people.
Secondarily, we hoped to find out what potential leaders need to become full-fledged changemakers so that we can provide the most strategic support possible. In addition to networks and connections, participants also mentioned the need for concrete skills like training in public speaking or access to resources like event space. However, we were also pleased to see that this event alone already seemed to be equipping rising leaders; several attendees reported learning that they were more confident than they realized–and confidence is a key component of being willing to step up and play a role in one’s community.
Though CURE’s Leadership Network is only in its beginning stages, “Don’t Worry; We’ve Got This” was a promising start. We envision that, ultimately, by fostering meaningful connections between people, the Leadership Network will inspire and equip individuals to become confident, capable, and knowledgeable leaders. At this point, we have begun by cultivating relationships within a Millennial cohort and developing social media networks that will keep people in touch digitally after our kick-off event. We look forward to continuing this work by both expanding the demographics we reach and holding more in-person events. We believe that through developing this Network, CURE can be a catalyst for change and growth in the Minnesota River Watershed.