University of MinnesotaMany Minnesota communities are experiencing leadership shortages, but not because people are unwilling to serve. Research by Ben Winchester, Extension rural sociologist, has shown that there is simply a greater demand for leadership in community positions than there are available leaders. The need to support and encourage people to lead in rural Minnesota was unfortunately amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In response to these trends, University of Minnesota Extension created the online Leadership Refresher Series as a new way to engage adult learners and provide condensed leadership education to support both emerging and established community leaders. Educators designed the series with theories of microlearning and cognitive load in mind, helping learners to process information in manageable chunks that could be applied immediately. The series was delivered in five, thirty-minute online sessions with a goal of increasing leadership confidence, competence, and connections. Topics covered in the sessions included navigating conflict, emotional intelligence, and managing biases, among others.

A recent evaluation of Refresher Series participants found that 97% (out of 92 respondents) believed the series had strengthened their leadership skills, while 95% felt more confident as a leader as a result of their participation. 61% of respondents reported that they felt encouraged to contribute more energy to community projects, including pursuing higher leadership roles, contributing more at meetings and other gatherings, stepping up to facilitate project teams, and working toward purchasing a local business.

University of Minnesota Extension Leadership Refresher Series


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