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Committing to collaboration: Scholarship funding available for participants in Community Builders Leadership Institute

Glenwood Springs Community Development Academy

Members of the Glenwood Springs Community Development Academy tour Eagle Colorado as part of their eight-week, fall 2013 training. The Sonoran Institute’s next collaborative event will be the intensive, two-and-a-half-day Community Builders Leadership Institute, open to leaders from around the Western Slope, January 15-17, 2014. Accepted groups will be provided with a scholarship to cover all expenses (Photo By Jennifer Hill).

In today’s economy, collaboration is one of the most important keys to progress, especially for the many small communities of the Intermountain West.  But are our communities collaborating as well as they can?

Ed McMahon of the Urban Land Institute made a good point in his recent article titled “The Secrets of Successful Communities.”

“…historically, elected officials have tended to view neighboring communities, the county government, and even the managers of adjacent national parks or other public lands as adversaries rather than allies,” he wrote.

Why do so many of these entities operate as though they are in silos even though they are intricately connected?  Problems such as traffic congestion, housing affordability, lack of economic diversity, and jobs-housing balance are all greatly affected by forces outside of a community or county’s given borders.  They are, in fact, all regional problems.

As McMahon puts it, “the real competition today is between regions.”  This is especially true for the small, rural communities of the Intermountain West; that may not possess the resources and amenities on their own to create a lasting draw for businesses, tourists and new residents.  But, if communities are working together across a given region to play off of and enhance one another’s assets, that attraction can be magnified.

Collaboration, however, can prove difficult – especially now.  City and County departments are running as lean as ever, even though workloads are increasing as the economy recovers.  Finding the time to check in with partners and schedule meetings for dialogue can often feel unrealistic in such busy times.


To help foster collaboration, the Sonoran Institute will host Community Builders Leadership Institute January 15-17, 2014.

To help foster collaborative solutions for economic development and community planning, we will be hosting our inaugural Community Builders Leadership Institute (CBLI) in Glenwood Springs, Colorado this January for communities and counties across Western Colorado.  We are currently accepting applications from community teams across the Western Slope to participate in this two and a half day workshop.

What about expenses? In an effort to bring stakeholders together that normally couldn’t spend an intensive time working together, we are offering full scholarships for accepted teams to attend, so all participants need to provide is their time to attend.

During the CBLI, community teams will explore ways to more effectively align community planning and economic development, maximize returns on local investments, and build strategic partnerships needed to implement quality projects for the community.   Each team will bring diverse representation from their communities, including leaders from the public and private sector, and from both the county and municipal level.  This enables shared learning and action-planning that addresses mutual priorities and establishes common ground.

Working with experts in local finance, housing, land use, transportation and economic development, teams will gain practical knowledge on the nuts-and-bolts of building stronger communities, bridge community planning with local and regional economic development, and return home with a clear plan of action for next steps in their community.  Because the action plan developed out of this training will have been a collaborative effort that includes diverse input from community leaders, it will have a much greater chance for success going forward.

If you are interested in learning more about the Community Builders Leadership Institute, call Jillian Sutherland at 970-384-4364 extension 4002 or visit the webpage and download an information and application packet.  Applications are due on Wednesday, November 27th.



Jillian Sutherland is a Program Director with Community Builders. She helps develop training programs for communities and regions interested in linking their community and economic development efforts, and also assists communities with exploring opportunities for infill and redevelopment.

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