Appanoose, Henry Counties Successfully Complete Virtual Leading Communities Program

June 5, 2020

Computer screen showing virtual facilitators conducting Leading CommunitiesLeading Communities: A Place-Based Community Leadership Program created by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Community and Economic Development (CED) was offered virtually for the first time to three counties that had classroom instruction interrupted by COVID-19. These were Appanoose, Henry and Sac.

Two of the counties, Appanoose and Henry, completed the program in May. The third, Sac County, will finish this July.

Both Appanoose and Henry Counties had completed five of the six sessions of Leading Communities prior to the closings. Given the opportunity to complete the program virtually, both counties agreed to the opportunity and CED staff recreated the entire program in a virtual environment.

The format for the final sessions were generally in keeping with those in the classroom, with the exception that each virtual session took place over two periods of time. The flow was the same as the classroom, while the communication options were changed. This was to keep the same rhythm for the participants.

Himar Hernández, CED associate director, and Deborah Tootle, associate professor and extension specialist, presented Session 6 as Sessions 6a and 6b to the Appanoose County class on May 20 and 27 and to the Henry County class on May 22 and 29.

Making the program virtual did not lessen the positive impact that Leading Communities has on participants.

“The Leading Communities Program has been wonderful for our community. When the Chamber of Commerce decided to sponsor a community leadership program, we had no idea how valuable the vision portion of our program would be,” said Kristi Ray, executive director of the Mount Pleasant Chamber of Commerce.

“We are starting to see a movement in our community of younger leaders stepping forward and sharing their opinions. We are starting to uncover challenges in our community that are stifling the transition to our next generation leaders. Just as importantly, we are starting to see an appreciation for our community and a realization that the next generation of leaders is ready to take the reins. We just need to keep finding the avenues to do so,” Ray added.

Sac County has sessions five and six to complete. CED specialists Jill Sokness and Jane Nolan Goeken will facilitate virtual sessions 5a, 5b, 6a, and 6b for Sac County in July, with program manager Julie Aberg Robison and CED specialist Brian Perry in support roles.

With the coming fall classes, CED faculty and specialists will continue to adapt to the changing needs of Iowans while improving the delivery of programming. To keep the program within the same six-session time frame, Leading Communities will employ the “flipped classroom” method of teaching, allowing participants to read assigned work ahead of each session. This form of asynchronous and synchronous learning will allow for the session to be discussion- and activity-based and kept within a two-hour time frame.

Virtual Leading Communities will also be platform-independent to allow it to be accessible in more settings.

Leading Communities is a modular and interactive program designed to teach community members to develop, increase and sustain the local leadership efforts that are necessary to address community issues and create resilient communities.

Communities and organizations interested in hosting Leading Communities should contact Brian Perry at or 501-772-8988.