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Information on Horizons

What is Horizons?

Horizons is a community leadership program aimed at reducing poverty in small rural and reservation communities faced with economic decline and demographic change.  The program explores perceptions about sources of poverty and builds a stronger community leadership base to help address this issue. 

Who funds Horizons?

The project is funded by the Northwest Area Foundation, whose mission is to help communities reduce poverty in Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon.  The Foundation has invested in experienced regional institutions to provide training, consulting and technical support in each Horizons community.  The North Dakota State University Extension Service supports all 46 communities that have completed the 18-month program since 2003. 

How long does it take?

The program is 18 months long with four required segments.  Each community involved must meet thresholds for each segment within defined timeframes before they can move forward.  Each threshold is connected to skills and achievement that help strengthen a community.

What does it involve?

Each community involved in the program receives an initial foundation of resources and tools.  NDSU Extension then helps community select additional resources customized to address their unique needs.  For one community, it might mean economic development training, for another, conflict resolution counseling or technical skill courses.  All communities take part in:

  • A Study Circles conversation - this community conversation and action planning is focused on poverty.  It requires 12 hours during a two month period and the involvement of at least 30 people.  The goal is for the community to learn what poverty looks like there and what they might be able to do about it.
  • A leadership training - the leadership training in each community involves a program called LeadershipPLENTY and at least 20 people will participate in this program.  It assumes every community member can provide leadership.
  • Community visioning and planning - this is focused on leadership growth and poverty reduction.  It involves the whole community.
  • Idea Implementation - NDSU Extension and others will provide support, coaching and additional resources as communities put their plans into action.

How does a community benefit?

By completing the entire Horizons program, a community can expect:

  • a community-wide understanding of poverty and ways it can be solved;
  • more people in leadership roles in the community;
  • community leaders who come from all ages, backgrounds, and incomes;
  • at least six people with better skills to help lead community discussions and move toward community action;
  • three people who can present ongoing leadership training in the community;
  • at least 20 people with enhanced leadership abilities;
  • a vision and a plan created by many in the community
  • up to $10,000 to sustain community strategies for poverty reduction and leadership;
  • connections to many organizations and hundreds of other Horizons communities that can help for the long haul; and
  • changes from within the community that allow their work to continue long term.
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