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Leaders to discuss community involvement

WORTHINGTON -- Everyone is invited to meet and talk about getting people involved in the community -- especially those who haven't been before -- from 6:30 to 7:45 p.m. today at the Nobles County Integration Collaborative, at West Learning Center.

"One way to solve community issues or public problems is to involve the public in those discussions and in those problems," said Toby Spanier, the Extension educator who will facilitate the meeting. "There's a great demand for leadership in communities in our state, and ... we have to have new leaders step forward."

The public is invited, but the meeting will be also the final one for the 14 people involved in a seven-session Integrative Community Leadership Program.

Participants are leaders in nonprofits, businesses, local government and education who live or work in Worthington, and they have been meeting since February.

The program, like an earlier leadership effort that met in 2009-2010, is sponsored by the Nobles County Integration Collaborative, the Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce and the University of Minnesota Extension.

The meeting will be organized with open space technology, in which people get together to focus on a central pre-set theme but choose their own specific questions to talk about in small discussion groups.

During the meeting, they can move from one discussion group to another if they wish, and can put forward their own ideas and questions.

"The general principles are --whoever shows up are the right people to be there, and whatever's talked about is the right thing to talk about," Spanier explained. "If (the conversation) is not moving you or exciting you, you have an opportunity to move to a different conversation. That's how open space works."

In an open space meeting, participants have to be very active and engaged. People will have an opportunity to discuss strategy in increasing community involvement.

"We want the leadership to be good and inclusive and welcoming and really engage the public," Spanier said. "(We're) building both the leaders and the leadership in the community."