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The Community Education Coalition has launched an initiative to package and sell the Columbus model of collaborative leadership to other communities and groups that want to emulate its success.
Jack Hess, who helped come up with the concept, has been named the executive director of the new Institute for Coalition Building. Hess will leave his position as director of the Columbus Chamber of Commerce on Oct. 31.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity,” Hess said, calling it an extension of the kind of work he has done for years with the chamber.
Hess’ work with the institute already has begun. In a nutshell, the education coalition is creating a fee-based structure for the outreach service it has provided for free to communities and organizations that asked for it.
The amount of money the institute will charge has not yet been determined, Hess said. However, he said it would vary from one community to another based on need and the level of help that each one wants.
The Community Education Coalition was created in 1997 as an offshoot of the Chamber of Commerce to bring the local educational and business sectors together to foster the development of a better educated and more capable workforce here.
Coalition accomplishments have included the creation of the Columbus Learning Center, which opened in 2005 as a shared learning space for Ivy Tech Community College, IUPUC and Purdue College of Technology and a space for the state’s WorkOne program.
With the Heritage Fund in 2007, the coalition created the Economic Opportunities through Education by 2015 program, a regionally focused initiative, funded by Lilly Endowment Inc., to develop educational programs in advanced manufacturing, health care services and tourism.
Out of EcO15 efforts, the Indiana University Center for Art and Design opened last year in downtown Columbus. The center serves as a launching point for IU students studying apparel and interior design to learn broader design concepts by studying architecture.
The Institute for Coalition Building will be an entire division of its own within the education coalition. The new entity already has secured some communities as clients and has piqued the interest of others.
The new institute is starting with $800,000 in seed money from Lilly Endowment and the Community Education Coalition.
The initiative is meant to create a new revenue stream for the education coalition. Some money will be pumped back into the outreach program. Some will be reinvested in Columbus to make it stronger by training tomorrow’s leaders on how to build a community.
Ultimately, though, Community Education Coalition President John Burnett said the main point of the initiative is to help communities improve and learn how to bring their various entities together so everyone in those communities benefit.
Burnett said Cummins Inc. leader and philanthropist J. Irwin Miller was among the innovators of the community collaboration concept.
“How do you get three organizations with different missions, different purposes, different views of a problem in the same room to amass the resources to solve a complex problem?” Hess said. “A lot of leaders aren’t taught that skill set.”
Community leaders said they are thrilled to have Hess as the institute’s executive director.
Burnett said Hess, as one of Columbus’ next generation of leaders, was a natural to take the job, given that he co-founded the institute and already had done a lot of the legwork.
Randy Proffitt, executive director of marketing for Ivy Tech Community College — Columbus/Franklin, said he can’t think of anyone more qualified for the job than Hess.
“He has this great ability to bring people together to discuss issues,” Proffitt said. “I think he’s a very forward thinker.”
John Quick, superintendent of the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp., called Hess a “brilliant strategist” whom he has worked with often over the years.
“You’d be hard-pressed to find someone better to run this initiative,” he said.
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