May 27, 2008

Fifteen central Kentucky organizations have partnered to offer a new web site for youth and adults seeking to develop their community leadership potential.

The site, called “Let’s Lead,” is hosted by the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture’s Center for Leadership Development. The site focuses on community-based leadership development opportunities in Lexington and the Bluegrass region.

“This is a wonderful example of community engagement for our university,” said Tricia Dyk, director of the center. “We looked nationally for a model of this approach and found none, so we designed the site based upon a leadership development framework.”

Visitors to the site can explore opportunities for fostering individual, organizational and collective leadership abilities. The site takes visitors through a virtual mountain-climbing experience, beginning with a base camp of community leadership opportunities and then leads visitors through specific skills needed to make a full ascent. It culminates in a summit of training opportunities where visitors are provided direct links to partner Web sites for more extensive information on each program.

“The idea of a one-stop leadership development resource is appealing,” said Stephanie Hong, executive director of Partners for Youth, one of the participating organizations. “Previously, if a person wanted to locate training programs to build their leadership skills, they were on their own to search for these kinds of opportunities.”

The concept began a year ago as a conversation between Wanda Bertram, executive director of LexLinc, and Laura Williams, program director of the Knight Foundation. The two recruited other participants and began meeting monthly. Within months, the UK College of Agriculture’s Center for Leadership Development offered to develop and host the Web site.

Partners see the site as a way to build a stronger community presence, to inventory leadership development opportunities and to create a strategic planning consortium, according to Kathy Plomin, United Way of the Bluegrass president.

“On down the road, we see this coalition serving as the foundation of a more collaborative approach to growing leaders in our community – leaders with intentional skill sets based on the broader goals of our community,” she said.

Let’s Lead partner, Linda Stampf, vice president of Leadership Development at Commerce Lexington, is a firm believer in this approach.

“All of these leadership development programs play an important role in our community,” she said. “But there has been no way for people to plug in based on their personal abilities and desires. By locating them all on one Web site, we are able to begin building a more logical continuum of leadership development opportunities and cross-market our programs.”

Partners in the Let’s Lead portal include: Commerce Lexington, Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Seminar (HOBY), LexLinc, Partners for Youth, Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, Fayette County Cooperative Extension office and 4-H, Non-Profit Leadership Initiative, Center for Leadership Development, The Kentucky Chapter of the United States Green Building Council, United Way of the Bluegrass, Urban League of Lexington, Girl Scouts, Lexington Fayette Urban County Government, and the YMCA of Central Kentucky.

Lissa Pohl, program and outreach associate for UK’s Center for Leadership Development said the partnership can expand.

“Let’s Lead partners invite other community organizations that provide leadership development opportunities to also have a presence on the site,” she said.

Interested organizations can apply by checking out the “partners” page on the site, which provides criteria and an application. Visit the site at http://www.letsleadlex.com.

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