Kansas Profile - Now That´s Rural
A special community meeting was held in western Reno County. People
wondered how many folks would attend. Someone said, "You´ll have
twenty there, maybe ten."
So, it was quite exciting when 86 people
showed up. That was the beginning of a western Reno County community
partnership, which would probably not have happened without something
called the Community Development Academy. The Community Development
Academy is an opportunity for teams of community members, such as
those in Reno County, to come together and learn about processes to
benefit their communities. It´s today´s Kansas Profile.
Ron Hirst is one of those who participated in the Community
Development Academy, and is a strong believer in its benefits.
He is an economic development specialist with the Quest Center in
Hutchinson. He is also a long-time Reno County farmer and
businessman, plus recently served as Mayor of South Hutchinson.
A few years ago, Ron participated in a public affairs facilitation
workshop put on by K-State´s Institute for Civic Discourse and
Democracy. He learned about a Community Development Academy to be
held in 2008 in Newton. This academy was for teams of people from
communities in the region, so Ron started checking around to see who
was interested. He helped put together a team of people from Reno
County who participated in the academy. It was a resounding success.
"I wish every small town would have a representative or two at this
workshop," he said.
The Community Development Academy is a series of workshops designed
to provide community leaders the assessment and strategic planning
information necessary to devise participatory community development
plans and strategies. The academy is put on by a group of partners
including K-State, the Kansas Department of Commerce, and the Federal
Home Loan Bank of Topeka, with grant support from USDA Rural
The interactive four-day workshops are spread out over a three-week
period. Topics include concepts of community development, community
capital assessment, leadership, action planning, visioning,
assessment, housing, strategic planning, and more. The program
concludes with a resource fair of funding sources, so participants
can get directly acquainted with funders who can help make those
community plans become reality.
Academy participants receive extensive information, resources, and
training on skills to help communities. The goal of the academy is to
empower community leaders through increased knowledge, leadership
skills, recharged spirits and inspired community action.
Ron Hirst feels the academy has been extremely beneficial. The Reno
County team included people from the city of Hutchinson, plus rural
outlying towns such as Pretty Prairie, population 610, and Partridge,
population 259. Now, that´s rural.
Ron said, "Our homework got us working together, plus we got a lot of
good ideas from listening to what the other community teams
One outcome was a partnership with K-State Research and Extension in
creating Fairfield Area Partners, a joint initiative for the
communities in western Reno County. That was the initial community
meeting which I referenced at the beginning. Not only did this
partnership come about through the academy, its initial meetings
utilized some of the community development processes that were taught
at the academy.
Ron said, "Another thing that was very useful was learning about
PRIDE and the other resources that are available. I wish two or three
people from every city council would go through this training.
Anybody that attends will be ready to go back and do something good."
Additional academies are being planned in southeast, northwest, and
northeast Kansas. In addition to the community workshops, there will
be a parallel Community Coaching Academy for individuals such as
Extension agents or economic development professionals to receive
training in community coaching.
Communities are encouraged to participate. For more information, go
It´s time to leave this Reno County meeting, which was brought about
in part through the work of the Community Development Academy. We
salute Ron Hirst and all those involved in Reno County for making a
difference by learning these processes and applying them back home to
improve their communities.
Ron Wilson is the director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.