by James Hopper & Julia Dossett Morgan

When Winthrop Rockefeller came to Arkansas, he quickly got to work building his cattle ranch and his community on Petit Jean Mountain. His purposeful community building quickly spread throughout Arkansas, initially because he used his philanthropic efforts to support community initiatives. Rockefeller then began driving economic growth through the state by serving as the first chair of the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission (now the Arkansas Economic Development Commission) and eventually through his service as Governor. 

For the past two years, Institute staff members James Hopper and Julia Dossett Morgan have attended UCA’s Community Development Institute (CDI) to learn from and alongside community leaders from across the region about community development principles. Many different topics were covered in the Year 2 curriculum attended by James and Julia, including: 

  • Creative placemaking and arts as an economic engine 
  • Business attraction, retention, and expansion 
  • Entrepreneurship 
  • Community planning 
  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • Volunteer management
  • Asset mapping
  • Workforce development
  • Historic preservation
  • Leadership development 

Shelby Fiegel, PCED

Director of the Community Development

“The mission of CDI is to empower leaders with the knowledge and skills necessary to proactively improve their communities’ physical and human resources, thereby increasing the quality of life for all. It takes ALL leaders (elected officials, Chambers, nonprofits, businesses, industries, city and state representatives, educators, healthcare workers, the list goes on and on) collaborating together to achieve positive change at the local level. CDI offers a space where fundamental community and economic development knowledge can be shared, new connections can be made and leaders can grow and share their learned experiences.”

Needless to say, it was a busy week with a wide variety of speakers, challenging activities, and engaging conversation. 

Whether it was a presentation, conversation, or activity used to teach us about a particular community development concept, collaboration was one common theme that ran across all of these topics. 

Not just collaboration, but effective collaboration among diverse groups who often hold opposing viewpoints or don’t initially share the same goals. Just as Winthrop Rockefeller believed, the Institute believes that solutions to our most pressing issues can only be found by bringing together people and organizations with differences of opinion and finding common ground for innovative solutions together. 

Annually, CDI is providing James, Julia, and about 150 other community leaders the chance to learn the skills needed to drive their communities forward. CDI is driving communities to devise creative solutions to problems by working across boundaries and barriers that keep people stuck “in their lane” and outside the community development process. The strongest communities build themselves through collaboration.

The Institute can provide meaningful support to these communities as they collectively come together to get their dreams off the ground. 

Whether by hosting a retreat, leading workshops on leadership and communication, designing meeting and facilitation solutions for your needs, or hosting conferences for up to 200, we want to be the first place to call upon when it is time to pull people together and get them on the same path.

Click here to learn more about applying for CDI 2023, and follow CDI on Facebook!

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