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Focus on Leadership: Community Response

Focus on Leadership: Community Response

We approach each topic in the Prairie Idea Exchange project in four ways: 1) a gathering of economic development professionals; 2) reporting in Dakotafire magazine; 3) community input—online, on postcards, on our forum page (, and in person at a Dakotafire Café event, 4) and with a final report in the magazine that reflects the feedback. Here’s what we learned on the topic of leadership.

What was in the magazine again? 

  • Our leadership issues are a supply-and-demand problem: Fewer people available to fill more leadership roles.
  • Younger generations respond to leadership demands differently than older generations do. One to note: dedicated to organizations (older) vs. dedicated to causes (younger).
  • We may need to rethink what’s really needed. Some groups might not be. Some borders or boundaries may be limiting. Some goals might not require permanent organizations.
  • Build up local leaders in three big steps: Invite them. Engage them. Train them.
  • Don’t say no one ever asked you to get involved.
    (Because we did.)

What readers had to say about leadership 


“I believe the lack of rural leadership may go hand in hand with the labor shortage we have in the state. When rural folks who are capable and in demand to lead, they can’t because they can’t leave their business, farm, etc., because they can’t leave it in capable hands.”  —blueheeler96

“I see very few young people getting involved in leadership in our rural communities. I don’t know if they are too busy or too afraid to speak up to help get the changes made that would benefit them. For a long time, my impression of a community leader was someone older and established and probably financially well off, so as to afford time to be a leader. My husband and I both grew up in rural South Dakota. We moved to the Twin Cities for college, but also thinking there would be more opportunities to get involved in community and be involved in something that matters. We stayed there for 10 years until a family illness prompted us to move home. After moving back to Watertown five years ago, I am finding I am much more motivated to make and be a part of a change for the future of South Dakota. I want to help build communities that are appealing to people like me and help us want to raise our families here. I want people to feel like they still have opportunities for entertainment and education. I would like to help find opportunities to get involved and also help others know about forums such as this one to get involved in!” —Macktj02

Want to add your own ideas? The conversation continues at


from reader response postcards:

I pledge to become involved in my community by…

“Being a catalyst in our local community.” —Lisa & Jeremiah Klein, Rosholt, S.D.

“Keeping positive. Recruiting new leaders.” —Ben Hanson, Sisseton, S.D.

“Am an EMT—help some, but can do more.” —Karen Bolton, Clear Lake, S.D. 

“Stepping out of my comfort zone and encouraging more people. Having a better outlook on our area and stepping up to the plate to do more for positive change in Sisseton and surrounding area. Encourage others to love our community.” —anonymous

“Being a better change maker.” —Aaron McCleerey, Sisseton, S.D.

“Building relationships and encouraging people.” —anonymous

“Being positive … encouraging others to help bring change … even without the title of being a leader.” —anonymous

“Begin the conversation and help organize a community event surrounding all the good groups/ideas/businesses.” —Lori Moen, Sisseton, S.D.

“Compliment past or current leaders for a job well done and encourage them to continue.” —Andrea Nelson, S.D.

“Sharing leadership and support wherever possible.” —Laura & Dan Overbo, Volga, S.D.

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