Ford Institute Leadership Program

2003 to 2016

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From 2003 to 2016, the Ford Institute's primary method for achieving community vitality was through a series of training classes called the Ford Institute Leadership Program. The program engaged more than 6,000 rural community builders from 88 rural hubs throughout rural Oregon and Siskiyou County, Calif. It provided the foundation for the Ford Institute's Community Building Approach, which was introduced in 2015.  

The program was based on the belief that vital rural communities develop from a broad base of knowledgeable, skilled and motivated leaders, a diversity of effective organizations, and productive collaborations among organizations.

The Institute selected four new communities to enter the program each spring and each fall. The series of trainings typically unfolded in this sequence:

Year 1 Leadership Development (class 1)
Year 2 Effective Organizations
Year 3 Leadership Development (class 2)
Year 4 Community Collaborations
Year 5 Leadership Development (class 3)


The Leadership Development training consisted of 48 class hours held over four Friday–Saturday sessions. The classes focused on developing the community leadership capacity of individuals. The training emphasized an interactive and facilitative style rather than lectures. It drew on the knowledge and skills of those in the room, augmented by the lessons in the curriculum.

A typical class consisted of about 25 individuals (high-school students to retired seniors) with leadership experience ranging from emerging to seasoned. This training was designed for a diverse mix of citizens representing business, government and non-profit sectors.

Curriculum concepts included:

    • Community capacity and social capital
    • Personality types and leadership styles
    • Community development models
    • Catalytic Leadership Model
    • Asset mapping
    • Group development
    • Models for group decision-making
    • Communication strategies
    • Volunteerism

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