The Rush County Community Foundation (RCCF) and Ball State University hosted a Community Development course for local officials and citizens.

The three day course was held this week on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at the Rush County Schools’ administration building.

“RCCF received $50,000 from Lilly Endowment’s GIFT VII initiative to conduct community engagement planning work. After research, RCCF decided to partner with Ball State’s Indiana Communities Institute to offer the Localized Community Development course,” Executive Director of the Rush County Community Foundation Alisa Winters said. “Our decision to choose Ball State was due to a few factors. Many of the same words we had heard in our own community’s development were being used by Ball State in their presentation to us. Ball State is a trusted and respected institution among Rush County residents; and Ball State knows Rush County.”

According to Winters, the 30 people who attended heard the same data driven, scientifically proven message. The message being community development is reliant on community engagement and communication.

“We all were able to recognize that despite differences, we share a common love for Rush County and each have a vested interest in making it a better place for ourselves, our neighbors and our future generations,” Winters said. “Through our learning, we now have a better understanding of the structure and steps to take to actually use this shared love for Rush County for progress.”

Executive Director of the Indiana Communities Institute David Terrell and Dr. Michael Fortunato helped lead the Community Development course. The two are contracted with Ball State to teach Localized Community Development courses throughout the state.

“We think about community a lot different than we did 20 years ago. We have to do things differently,” Terrell said. “We have found in working with communities that the community whose leadership makes a purposeful effort to engage the whole community in different ways actually comes out further ahead in terms of making it a good place to live.”

Fortunato said those who attended the meeting were engaged and interested in ways to make their community better.

“We have a lot of evidence based models. Everything we do is backed by social science research,” Fortunato said. “We present it in a straightforward way. This community was fantastic. We sense an energy from this community that they are ready to get to work and they already collaborate and cooperate well.”

Winters said she and other community members will continue to meet and work together to promote progress in Rush County.

Rushville Mayor Mike Pavey attended the course and hopes the group keeps the momentum it established during the three day meeting.

“The message I received personally was to be a better communicator and be more inclusive to everyone,” Mayor Pavey said. “My hope is this group continues to expand and invite other people who need to be in the conversation and we develop a strategy and a way of working together to get things done.”
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