Community leadership and engagement to reduce poverty
Horizons is a community leadership and development program aimed at reducing poverty in rural and reservation communities with populations of 5,000 or fewer and with histories of economic decline. More than 300 communities and 15,000 people have participated in this program across an eight-state region stretching from Minnesota to Washington.
The Northwest Area Foundation (NWAF) initiated Horizons in 2003. Soon after, it engaged Everyday Democracy and the Pew Partnership for Civic Change as national partners. They, in turn, worked with seven University Extension programs and Sitting Bull College to coach local residents in leadership, program management, community dialogue, and other civic engagement processes.
While serving as deputy director of Everyday Democracy, Clearview Consulting president Patrick L. Scully worked closely with the program lead for Horizons, Jean Burkhardt, to integrate the two organizations’ approaches to philanthropy and community development. Pat developed plans that included:
- Focus groups by Lake Research Partners to reveal people’s starting assumptions, concerns, and hopes for reducing poverty,
- A discussion guide, Thriving Communities: Working together to move from poverty to prosperity for all, and
- Large-scale train-the-trainer programs.
An external evaluation noted the following about Everyday Democracy’s contribution to Horizons’ impact:
“The community dialogue (Study Circles) was arguably the most valuable component of the program, engendering both new knowledge and a deepened understanding of poverty and its ramifications in communities. … The Study Circles process has been, and will continue to be used, in Horizons communities for other difficult issues, and is widely perceived as a valuable model for community problem-solving.”
Diane L. Morehouse and Stacey H. Stockdill, Northwest Area Foundation Horizons Phase II Program Final External Evaluation Report, QED-Quality Evaluation & Development, September 2008.