We're on the move to serve Central Minnesota. 

Contact a staff member 

Initiative Foundation Get Logos
Initiative Quarterly Magazine
Initiative Quarterly

Emerging Leaders


Embracing Public Service

As Baby Boomers retire, a new generation is poised to lead Central Minnesota

Giving young people across the region the tools they need to succeed in civic leadership is the goal of the Foundation’s Paths to Civic Engagement workshop series, an in-depth extension of the Foundation’s Emerging Leaders program.

Designed to give advanced training to almost 50 motivated community members under age 40, these programs are one piece of a plan to address to the region’s demographic shifts. 

In the next 10 years, Central Minnesota’s population of people ages 65 and older is expected to grow by 49.5 percent, according to the Minnesota State Demographic Center. During that same period, our population of working-age adults will increase by just 2 percent. This looming shift is an urgent issue for the business owners and managers who keep the region’s companies growing and for local governments and community organizations that are just as likely to feel the pinch when seeking skilled workers and leaders.

According to Initiative Foundation research, more than 4,800 civic leadership positions—from school boards to city councils to county boards and state and federal offices—exist in Central Minnesota. If you count regional nonprofit executives and board members, the number swells to more than 11,000.

It all adds up to huge opportunities for Central Minnesota citizens who are looking to grow in their work and civic lives. "Research indicates that one out of every 27 people will need to take on a community leadership role in Greater Minnesota as our population ages,” Kiley said.

The August 2016 sessions at the Initiative Foundation included workshops and presentations on …

  • Ethical leadership
  • Interacting with the media
  • Effective governance models
  • Resolving conflict by working across generations and sectors
  • Understanding the basics of government finance.

Session Information

Understanding Local Government—The Call to Public Service
Keynote speaker Don Ness, former mayor of Duluth, launched the series with reflections on his experiences as a community leader. The day also included an exploration of basic government structures; discussions on key community leadership roles; a review of government finance and potential funding options; and resources, deadlines and processes for filing for an elected office.
Tools for the Servant Leader
Participants of this session explored how their core leadership values and ethics influenced decisions. In this comprehensive session, attendees also learned about effective tools and strategies to work across generations, sectors and cultures by connecting to the overall community vision.
Enhancing Leadership Effectiveness
Don Shelby, an investigative journalist, former news anchor and Peabody award winner, spoke on effectively framing messages with the media. In addition, the session explored best practices in governance and identified ways to cultivate a healthy balance between public and private life.

Agile, Able Leaders: The Next Generation

Helping leaders across generations, cultures and communities is the primary goal of Emerging Leaders, a community development program of the Initiative Foundation. Successful applicants will meet monthly to refine and shine their community and cultural leadership skills.

IQ_Q115_Cover_Thumbnail.jpgReplacing the more than 10,000 baby boomers retiring every day in the United States from long careers and community leadership roles will be critical work for the small towns and rural communities of Greater Minnesota. Compared to the Twin Cities, where one in 56 people will be tapped to take on a leadership role, the average rural Minnesotan has responsibility for six or more top jobs. The roles can range from running small businesses to serving on community and nonprofit boards and supporting the leadership of area churches and schools.

Don Hickman, Initiative Foundation vice president for community and economic development, said it's crucial for Central Minnesota communities to tap the talents and passions of established leaders and those who might not yet think of themselves as leaders. "We need to plan ahead about how to help pass the baton and encourage that next generation of leaders to step up," said Hickman. "It's important to build these connections because not only do these traditional leaders have a lot of wisdom to share, the new leaders we're seeing in that 18- to 35-year-old demographic reflect the diversity that's helping to grow the region."

About the Supporters

The Emerging Leaders program is supported by a Bush Foundation Leadership Network grant. The Bush Foundation's investment in building the capacity of individuals through fellowships began in 1965. Since then, more than 2,200 Bush Fellows and Native Nation Rebuilders have reshaped every aspect of the region. The full list of Leadership Network Grant recipients can be found at BushFoundation.org/2014LNGGrants.

Participant Directory   


Leadership Resources

The Initiative Foundation’s Emerging Leaders program is just one way to help new leaders succeed. Here are other resources for emerging leaders in Central Minnesota.

  • The Anderson Center provides management and leadership development forums for executives across Greater Minnesota.
  • Working in communities where they’re invited, the Blandin Foundation builds the capacity of community leaders to solve problems through the Blandin Community Leadership Program.
  • Many local chambers have programs designed to introduce members to the special needs of area nonprots and community groups. St. Cloud Area Leadership is a Chamber of Commerce
  • program designed to help current and emerging leaders understand the dynamics of the community and the role leadership has in building healthy communities. In Brainerd, Leadership, the Lakes Area, uses a four-month peer-learning model to enhance individual leadership skills. 
  • The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits sponsors a series of networking lunches and other events aimed at connecting nonprofit and community service leaders with resources and networking support. 
  • SCSU’s Department of Campus Involvement provides student leaders a chance to discover their leadership skills through StrengthsQuest, a tool that helps find out what motivates individuals to make a difference. On the Leadership Resources page you will find a link for StrengthsQuest or Strengths Finder Self Assessment Program.


Don Hickman

 Don Hickman
Vice President for Community
 Workforce Development
(320) 631-2043

Keep Investing In
Central Minnesota

Thanks to our supporters and contributors for powering possible and investing in Central Minnesota. Keep the momentum going.