Arizona Town Hall: Civic Leadership

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Recommendations from the 101st Arizona Town Hall on improving civic leadership.

Ted Simons:Civic leadership for Arizona's future. That was the topic at the 101st Arizona town hall Recently held. Participants looked at ways to improve the quality of Arizona's civic leadership. Here to discuss the town Hall's recommendations are Two of the participants. Nancy Welch, vice president Of the Arizona center for Civic leadership at the Flinn foundation. And Lisa Atkins, vice president of public policy for greater Phoenix leadership and a board member of the central Arizona project. Good to have you both here.
Lisa Atkins: Thank you.
Ted Simons: Thank you for joining us. This is not the first town hall that has dealt with leadership, civic leadership, how to improve what we got. How come?
Nancy Welch: It really makes sense to look at civic leadership now and again. The town hall has looked at civic leadership three times since 1990. It makes sense because public policy changes, our environment changes, our communities change. And so it is really an opportunity to reflect on do we have the kind of civic leadership we need to position us well for the future.
Ted Simons: What is civic leadership?
Nancy Welch: Civic leadership is really the capacity of communities to solve their problems. And the people at the Arizona town hall really saw it as an adaptive process, the ability to adapt, the ability to collaborate, the ways that people can work together to solve common problems.
Ted Simons: Is there a disconnect between civic leaders and constituents?
Lisa Atkins: I think we focus more on the positives, on the opportunities that once we get out of our own little portion of the community, we realize that there are several aspects to civic leadership and opportunities that some of us may get so buried in what we're doing that we don't realize. We looked at the education community. We looked at the business community. We looked at our nonprofit community and faith-based communities to see what other people were doing to add to every component of what makes a successful community.
Ted Simons: I think some would say though that there is a disconnect.
Lisa Atkins: There might be.
Ted Simons: They look at civic leadership in general in Arizona, as we mentioned earlier, some are lampooning us and making fun of us. Arizona --
Lisa Atkins: I think it depends where you are on an issue and where you set in the community. We have a lot of success stories around Arizona. The folks that participated in town hall, diverse group from all over the state, had their own stories of success to bring to the table. They recognized that there are problems but chose to focus on the opportunities.
Ted Simons: Should they choose more on the problems?
Nancy Welch: You know, really there is an opportunity to see civic leadership as deciding on a common vision and moving towards that. Empowering people and motivating people to move towards that. And this is called civic leadership for Arizona's future, especially because we are starting our second hundred years of statehood. When you look at the town hall over the past couple of years, they looked at government for Arizona's next 100 years, civic engagement, and then the logical follow on was civic leadership for our future. People really concentrated as much on the future as they did on what is going on right now.
Ted Simons: You mentioned education and community and faith-based organization. The role that those particular entities have on civic leadership.
Lisa Atkins: We also talked about the role of technology, which is a now aspect of civic leadership and how we communicate. We talked about the leadership organizations that are available. Where are the crossover points between the business community and the nonprofit community and the faith-based community. What are the opportunities that we have to not only improve our leadership today, but more importantly to develop a leadership for tomorrow. Think one of the most outstanding parts of the town hall were the number of students we had this time. And their interest in what it means to be a civic leader. And how they see the development as being necessary for successful communities.
Ted Simons: Again, though, the role of business, education, community, faith-based organizations, what are those roles in civic leadership?
Nancy Welch: The roles are really, I think, both complimentary and different. Education was seen as a preparation ground for civic leadership, whether it was in the curriculum for all ages of students, or in the ways in which institutions grow. Business was seen as both a player in civic leadership and a place where civic leaders grown through the opportunities that they have in business. As Lisa mentioned, it was really very much bringing Arizona's resources together from all of these sectors. We talked often about the ability to collaborate and work across sectors to address the challenges that Arizona has and to build quality communities.
Lisa Atkins: From a business community standpoint, fostering civic leadership also fosters economic development and economic success in our communities. When you look at the leadership programs that we have across the state and what FLINN brown is doing not only to develop civic leaders to the future but to coordinate the leadership programs, that is an eye opener when you realize there is a cross-section of effort all over the state of Arizona.
Ted Simons: Among the recommendations, reconsider term limits and reconsider clean elections. Why?
Lisa Atkins: To broaden the pool of people that may be interested in participating in some of our elected offices. But those elected offices range from a fire district, a school board, an HOA, in my case a central Arizona project is an elected board. But I think that we also should not lose sight of the education recommendations about making sure that there is a level of civic education. That businesses have a role. It wasn't solely focused on the current elected officials or perspective. What are all of those things that make a successful civic leader?
Ted Simons: Last question, I thought it was interesting that one of the recommendations was formal training for elected leaders on ethical behavior, respect, collaboration. That says something that you would even have to recommend that.
Nancy Welch: I think it says how much people are concerned about their communities and concerned about Arizona. And they want the very best for Arizona. And they see that as a way of preparing leaders for the future who are prepared to face the problems we have.
Ted Simons: Did you leave the town hall optimistic?
Nancy Welch: Of course.
Ted Simons: And you?
Lisa Atkins: Absolutely.
Ted Simons: Very good. Good to have you both here. Thank you for joining us.
Lisa Atkins: You're welcome.
Nancy Welch: Thank you very much.

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