On Monday, September 20, over 100 Regional Council members and El Pomar staff travelled through the fall foliage and convened in Cripple Creek, the historic mining town where Spencer Penrose made his initial fortune. Each Council met for almost two hours on its own, discussing grant recommendations However, some of the best work accomplished during the retreat occurred outside of these conventional Council meetings.
“During the annual individual interviews and in the feedback from the 2009 statewide meeting, Council members tell us they want more interaction with other Councils. To that end, we designed sessions and activities to encourage conversation, sharing and connections. Those interactions filled the day with energy and enthusiasm,” commented Cathy Robbins, El Pomar vice-president and director of the Regional Partnerships Program.
Inter-regional discussions took place throughout the day. Council members spoke about their regional work on panels including Education as a Vehicle for Workforce Development and Investing in a Better Future for our Youth. These panels transitioned into discussion groups that led to further facilitated idea-sharing and collaboration.
One of the break-out sessions encouraged Council members to share their hopes and aspirations for future work of Regional Councils. These ideas covered topics ranging from leveraging dollars and partnerships in the regions to how to be a leader in problem-solving and maintain a sustainable impact in a fast-changing world. Some ideas revolved around recurring themes of leadership, workforce, and economic development. Darlene Scott, Northeast Council member, emphasized the idea of “grow-your-own” leadership and workforce and the importance of promoting these ideas at an early age to youth through education systems. Lori Cooper from the Southwest region raised the idea that rural communities face an issue in having to draw from the same volunteer and leadership pools repeatedly, leading to burnout and a lack of sustainability.
When asked to indicate the overall value of the statewide meeting, 100 percent rated adequate or extreme value. Many of the issues discussed and questions posed by the council members did not have immediate answers, but they served to jump-start strategic thinking in communities statewide.
Susan Lander, Southwest council member, enjoyed this valuable experience and only wished that more council members had attended and had had more time to talk:
“The part I love the best is learning what other councils are doing, how they decide on their grants and who is on their council. The presentations were very interesting and helpful. Like any committee or council you are on, spending time with folks doing what you are doing in another area is always inspiring.”