INDIANAPOLIS - A new pilot program from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs aims to boost quality of life collaboration. The Peer program will match two Hoosier communities with one serving as a mentor to the other to help address the challenges associated with putting a quality of life initiative into action. OCRA says the goal of the program is for local leadership to gather best practices and the tools "to advance an innovative vision."

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, OCRA Deputy Director Matt Crouch said the program seeks to have communities learn from experience.

"Our thought is, 'Who better to learn from than another community that has dealt with the exact same issues that you're dealing with?'" said Crouch. "So what we're going to have happen with the program is the participating community is going to host the mentor community and they're going to be able to come in and take a tour of their community. We'll have a facilitated conversation to talk about what kind of challenges they're experiencing and then really walk through the shreds of what could they learn from each other and how do they help overcome the challenges and find that real common area."

OCRA says communities from any size can become a Peer participant or host community. The office is looking for a local unit of government with multiple organization and agency partnerships to apply for the program. OCRA will review the applications and pair the final two communities. The host community will receive a $20,000 grant to implement a quality of place project based on recommendations from the process, which will be matched by the peer community.

"In our Strategic Plan, expanding the quality of place opportunities is one avenue we identified as a way to help retain, attract and develop talent as well as encourage regionalism," Jodi Golden, executive director of OCRA, said in a news release. "The program’s success will be realized by the communities’ ability to share strategies with others facing similar challenges.  We are excited about the potential this pilot program holds."

Crouch says the long-term goal of the program is to foster continued collaboration among communities, even after participation in the program has ended.

"One of the things that we continue to stress to our communities is that we're all in this together and that the state of Indiana is stronger, better and more successful if it's not just Indianapolis that's doing well. It's just as important if a Huntingburg is doing well, a Madison is doing well, a Huntington is doing well, a Peru is doing well and so we can all learn from each other and grow stronger together at a rapid pace."

OCRA plans to release an informational video Wednesday to further explain the program and the application process. Applications will be received through August 16 and the paired communities are slated to be announced September 12.

You can learn more about the program by clicking here.