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Leadership Bartholomew County plans to expand its class offerings and shake up its mission next year for the start of its 30th class.
The nonprofit program, which has had more than 630 graduates, has been grooming community leaders in government, business and charities since 1982. There was a hiatus from 2002 to 2005 during the previous major reworking of the curriculum and direction.
The eight-month LBC course takes students through all facets of local leadership and introduces them to the Columbus model of coalition building, said Tom Sobat, president of the LBC Board of Directors and a 2012 graduate. The 29th class began with a full-day session at Mill Race Center earlier this month and will conclude its once-a-month classes in April.
The LBC program, open to anyone, has generally focused on the nonprofit side of leadership, but a new program is being developed with Jack Hess of the Institute for Coalition Building to focus on bringing the coalition model of leadership to all aspects of the community, Sobat said.
The new program will launch with the first class of a two-year pilot program in January, Sobat said. While the current LBC sessions are spread over nine months, the new class likely will consist of six sessions, Sobat said. He said the new course will build on the lessons of the core LBC class.
“It will be a second step for those students in LBC and those leaders throughout the community who aren’t familiar with the coalition model,” Sobat said.
Hess, in an opening session for the current crop of LBC students, explained the success of Columbus as a result of the private, public and nonprofit coalitions that worked to improve the community by tackling local problems.
Initially championed by former Cummins executive
J. Irwin Miller, that collaborative leadership style has led to a boom in Columbus that lifted it far beyond similarly sized and positioned communities in the state, Hess said.
Danielle Brandon, a 2008 LBC graduate, was a board member for five years and now is the class facilitator. She said the curriculum changes a bit every year because the program committee tries to meet participants’ needs and react to class feedback. For example, this year’s class will include a new session on agriculture in the community.
She said one of the program’s goals is to highlight the “value proposition of Bartholomew County,” focusing on the success of its community partnerships.
“What we try to highlight is the different aspects of the community and the partnerships that are forged between different aspects, and also try to highlight different organizations in which our class members might eventually want to volunteer,” Brandon said. “Our goal is to train people to be leaders both at work, if they choose to take that leadership information and apply it at work, and in the community.”
Paige Harden, a 2008 graduate of LBC, former board member and spokeswoman for Columbus Regional Health, said the LBC message resonated with her. She had always wanted to give back to the community, but before her LBC experience she didn’t know how to harness her full potential.
“Columbus is a wonderful community, but that didn’t happen by coincidence,” Harden said. “Columbus is so great because countless passionate community members volunteer their time to create the best possible place to live and work. In my experience, LBC is the link between passionate community members and meaningful work.
“LBC taught me how and who to network with, and showed me where the greatest community needs were. I learned how to put all of the pieces together so that I could add the most value possible to Columbus,” she said.
Sobat said the board is working to incorporate that community vision into a new mission statement, which will be considered by the board Tuesday at its monthly meeting. Next year’s LBC class also will feature the return of large projects for participants, he said.
The original LBC classes focused heavily on large projects, where the class members worked together to launch community initiatives and to research community problems. Among the projects that LBC classes helped facilitate were the creation of the local Domestic Violence Task Force, the Volunteers in Medicine clinic and the city receiving the All America City Award.
Lynne Sullivan, a former board member, said that by the time of the 2002 hiatus, the program had stagnated. The heavy focus on projects and class requirements that included taking a night shift with city police and attending a host of community board meetings had caused interest in the program to dwindle. Enrollment was shrinking, and companies were less willing to spend money on the program as they developed in-house training, she said.
Sullivan, former Republic editor John Harmon and then-class facilitator Fredericka Joyner worked to revamp the core of the LBC curriculum and brought the program back to life for a relaunch with the class of 2006. The new LBC featured lower costs for participation and shorter class days, and it removed some of the after-hours requirements, she said.
Rather than a focus on the projects, the new classes focused on how the community works.
“I would say that half those people really enjoyed those projects; they thought they were fantastic,” Sullivan said. “The other half, which I was part of, did not. I felt there was a lot of pressure because there had been so many excellent projects. ... There was a feeling that you had to just do something monumental.”
Sobat said the upcoming shift in direction for LBC means a return to the larger projects with next year’s class. The current class will work on several smaller projects this year, he said.
The large projects created a sense of achievement and a legacy for the alumni, with a benefit to the community, Sobat said.
Brandon said the return to larger projects is because LBC has consistently received feedback from students that they missed the feeling of accomplishing something more tangible for their efforts.
“We are in the very early stages of figuring out how can we work that in, into a format that we can accommodate in people’s schedules,” Brandon said.
The students build relationships and develop networks while learning in LBC, Sobat said.
“It takes a lot of people who are in the same boat and introduces them and gets them working together,” Sobat said.
Alex Whitted first learned about community service from his parents, former assistant city attorney Allen Whitted and school board member Billie Whitted. He said he feels a need to give back to the community. As a member of the newest LBC class, Alex Whitted said he already has learned more about the Columbus community than he knew before.
“It was a humbling experience to be surrounded by so many leaders and so many aspiring leaders,” he said. “Seeing where Columbus has been and seeing so many people eager to continue its rich history of leadership was a good experience. And having all of that in one room was cool.”
Columbus Police Chief Jason Maddix also is a member of the new class. He said that he is excited to meet some of the other upcoming leaders in the community and to learn more about Columbus.
“There are a lot of things that happen behind the scenes in this city that I still don’t know about, and I am anxious to learn, to network and to meet some new people,” Maddix said.
Duane Risser, a drafting manager at Cummins Inc., deputy coroner and medic with German Township Volunteer Fire Department, is a member of the newest LBC class. He said he has wanted to take the LBC course for several years and his manager at Cummins thought it would be a great idea.
Risser said he plans to take the leadership lessons back to work and to public service.
“We take things for granted, and hopefully this gives an opportunity to make the connections, the networking and the opportunities to connect with the agencies that maybe we are better fitted to serve,” Risser said.
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