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In 2003, the Northwest Area Foundation (NWAF) launched an ambitious leadership program to test the hypothesis that it is possible to build leadership capacity as a strategy for helping rural communities deal with issues of poverty. This bold experiment engaged over 100,000 people from rural communities across seven states in a leadership process. Over a five year period, 283 small rural and reservation communities elected to participate in the 18 month Horizons Program which evolved to include a Study Circles program that focused on understanding poverty; LeadershipPlenty (a nine module leadership development program) attended by 6,000 people; and a community visioning exercise that focused 15,000 community members on developing and implementing action plans to address poverty. The communities were supported in the process with resources, mini grants of up $10,000, and coaches from Delivery Organizations (often University Extension Services). In 2010, the Leadership Learning Community was commissioned by NWAF to develop a Case Study telling the compelling story of the Horizons Program.

The case study will lift up the work of Horizon’s experimentation and learning for the field on scaling leadership development work that identifies lessons learned; and as an investment helping to push the field in directions that are important for all foundations interested in community level results.

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