Nearly a year ago, the Indianapolis-based Mitch Daniels Leadership Foundation said it was looking to expand its Fellows program beyond central Indiana. The foundation, which bills itself as a bridge between the state’s current and future leaders, achieved success by adding fellows from communities such as Fort Wayne, Gary, Hammond, and Evansville. Executive Director Mike Young says the foundation has also added board members with connections to other parts of the state and the expansion efforts are accelerating.
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Young said the foundation dealt with several challenges in expanding the program.
“Most of our events, which were originally planned to take place all over the state have moved online and that’s been the biggest challenge and the biggest disruption for us, but it’s also created some new opportunities for people who would otherwise not be able to get together to convene virtually and talk and get connected,” said Young. “So we’ve tried to take it in stride and take as much of an advantage out of it as we could.”
Another major challenge, Young says, was the fact that the foundation’s personal networks were tied to central Indiana.
“Early on, that was how most people found out about who we were,” he said. “We’ve really tried to, and I think succeeded, at building more of a statewide network and that network is now coming into play as we’re recruiting.”
Young described the Fellows program as a “two-year master’s degree in Indiana.” He says, since Indiana is made up of 92 counties, the program should reflect all of them as much as possible.
“You learn about health, education, economic development, civics and leadership in the state and also learn about things that are going well here, things that we could improve upon, and some ways that you can actually go out and drive change,” said Young. “At the conclusion of the first year, you actually create a project that you then actualize in your second year that attacks one of the issues or problems that you identified in your first 12 months.”
In addition to simply growing the number of fellows from throughout the state, Young says the program has helped connect different parts of the state that want to work together.
“I think that that’s often overlooked; there are parts of the state that really would like to collaborate with other regions and it’s very difficult often just due to geography to make that happen and so we’ve been able to act as a conduit on certain things and I think that, in that function, we’re helping the state and we’re also taking advantage of some of the great networks in those cities.”
Young says the foundation will soon hire a full-time membership director to help grow the statewide push for the program. Another goal is to create a series of regional hubs for the program, which he says will most likely be located in Fort Wayne and Evansville.
The foundation is currently accepting applications for its fourth Fellows cohort, which are due in mid-March. You can learn more about the program by clicking here.
Young says the foundation dealt with several challenges in expanding the program, including the pandemic.