Shrinking The Rural Leadership Gap

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From Kayla Schnuelle, Leadership Engagement Director & Network Weaver

 

What happens when the leaders in your community retire, move or step down? Is there a leadership succession plan happening in your community? Is the next generation of leaders being mentored?

Leadership is important and even critical for long-term success and vitality of rural communities. In my experience, leadership tends to be the major factor that distinguishes thriving rural places from those that are lagging behind.

Kayla-graph

As we look deeper, it becomes apparent that the transfer of leadership from one generation to the next may be another important factor and could serve as a powerful tool for communities.

The rural leadership gap is real and is amplified because of outmigration of the millennials. According to a research published in the Cornhusker Economics, some young adults, especially young families, are looking to relocate from metro areas to nonmetro areas. They want to live in family-friendly communities to raise their children. They also need a way to support themselves, so employment opportunities are critical.

In most rural communities, the majority of leadership positions — elected service and volunteer — are held by the oldest two generations in the communities. The 2012 Nebraska Rural Poll showed that of young Nebraskans (under the age of 36) that took the poll, only 8 percent held elected offices and less than one-third held formal leadership roles. This is not a new phenomenon. It has happened for decades, but the unique part of this trend is that the lack of leadership transfer is now coupled with the huge transfer of wealth occurrence.

The Nebraska Community Foundation researched the transfer of wealth in Nebraska, predicting that during the next 50 years, more than $602 billion will be transferred from one generation to the next. This will be the largest intergenerational transfer of wealth in our state’s history.

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The World War II and Baby Boomer generation own more private wealth than any other generations, with more than $600 billion in wealth. This wealth may be held in real estate, securities, retirement accounts and other assets. Some will go to taxes while most will go to heirs. Due to outmigration, many of those heirs no longer live where the wealth was built and may no longer feel connected to those places. Once wealth leaves these communities, the opportunity for give-back becomes more and more unlikely. (The Nebraska Community Foundation, 2011 Transfer of Wealth Study Summary Report, 2012.)

So, what happens when the transfer of wealth is accompanied by a gap in the transfer of leadership? People will retire and pass on their wealth and leadership positions, but what happens when the next wave of leaders are unprepared and/or nonexistent?

According to the 2015 American Community Survey, in Nebraska’s 86 most rural counties, there is a population dip between ages 20-49 (Figure 1). It is significant in most instances. Many people are not surprised by this. However, when you think about the dip in population, the transfer of wealth and the transfer of leadership brings a significant challenge.

What is the solution? There are no specific answers, but I believe that rural leadership needs to start and continue a culture of ‘giving back to the community.’ This happens with service, financial gifting and becoming a community leader. Current rural leadership also needs to mentor, teach and ask the next generations to participate and lead efforts in rural places.

 

“A true rural leader invites other people of diversity to the table and steps back, guides and supports in an act of service to their community.” – Kayla Schnuelle

 

If you do empower others to serve and guide with a gentle hand, then the opportunities for your community are generative and endless. The young leaders that you mentor are the best attraction and retention for the next wave of rural leaders.

Support your community by supporting a culture of giving, and make intentional plans to transfer leadership by extending personal invites and embracing new thoughts, ideas and people. Slowly but surely, we will see the rural leadership gap diminish.

 


 

Kayla Schnuelle

Kayla Schnuelle

Leadership Engagement Director & Network Weaver | Rural Futures Institute
@kschnuelle

Kayla Schnuelle directs the RFI Student Serviceship program, coordinates the state-wide network of young professionals, Connecting Young Nebraskans, and offers her expertise in facilitation and leadership throughout many of RFI’s initiatives.

She has developed a deep understanding of the opportunities and trials that young professionals are finding in rural places. With an immense support network in place, Kayla has coordinated three statewide summits and has assisted in planning two national Rural Futures Institute Conferences.

 


 

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CYN Blog | Abigail Frank | Neligh, Neb.

CYN steering team member Abigail Frank from Neligh, Nebraska, is on the blog! In her vlog she shares about her background, the importance of CYN, the resource that has inspired her research and more! Watch to the end and be sure to share what helps you create positive energy at work.

 

 


 

Abigail Frank

Abigail Frank

Full-Time M.A. Graduate Student
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Abigail Frank is a full-time graduate student at the University of South Dakota working toward her masters in science, majoring in administration with an emphasis in organizational leadership. She previously served in economic development for the City of Creighton, Neb. Abigail lives in Neligh, Neb., with her husband and four fur-babies.

She has developed a deep understanding of the opportunities and trials that young professionals are finding in rural places. With an immense support network in place, Kayla has coordinated three statewide summits and has assisted in planning two national Rural Futures Institute Conferences.

 


 

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What Meal Planning Can Do For You — And Nebraska

By Bradley Averill, Nebraska Extension Educator and CYN Steering Team Member

 

Nebraska Extension helps Nebraskans enhance their lives through research-based education. Food, Nutrition and Health include one of Nebraska Extension’s focus areas for educational programming. Delivering research and evidence based programming can have a significant impact on the health and well being for the people of Nebraska.

As an Extension Educator for Food, Nutrition and Health, my job is to increase the nutritional and physical literacy of Nebraskans. Using formal elements from my education—B.S. in Physical Education from Grand Valley State University and M.A. in Physical Education from the University of South Florida—and research from the University of Nebraska, it is my job to provide the most up-to-date information on how exercise and improved nutrition can improve the quality of your life.

Nebraska’s current obesity rate sits at 31%—14th highest obesity rate in the United States. As the chart below outlines, Millennials represent a lower obesity rate than other age groups.

Trust for America's Health and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The State of Obesity 2016 [PDF]. Washington D.C. 2016.

 

Before arranging a victory parade for having lower obesity rates than the other age groups, you might want to take another look at the chart to see your future. Obesity rates double between the ages of 26-44. There are many factors that could contribute to an increase in obesity as we age. Improved meal planning practices can have an significant impact on obesity rates, regardless of your age.

 

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”
– Benjamin Franklin

 

Properly planned meal preparation can help both your waistline and your budget. Meal preparation means:

  • Food inventory
  • Recipe research
  • Grocery shopping
  • Cooking
  • Meal portioning
  • Storage

Most families do the cooking, portioning and storage on a daily basis, but with proper planning most of the cooking that you do all week long can be done in one day. Saving money, saving time, portion control and attaining fitness goals can all be achieved by preparing meals ahead of time.

By preparing your meals in advance, you are less likely to spend money outside of the home. Fewer trips to fast food locations or convenience stores can save you hundreds of dollars each year. A carefully thought out grocery list also keeps you from purchasing impulse foods that are not healthy or cost effective. Only purchasing food you need for the week will also save you from food waste.

 


 

  1. https://www.cnpp.usda.gov/sites/default/files/usda_food_plans_cost_of_food/CostofFoodJul2014.pdf
  2. Bloom, American Wasteland, 187. The author reports a 15 percent loss in homes, with potentially an additional 10 percent loss in liquid products.

 


 

Not only does meal preparation save you money, but cooking your meals for the entire week in one day is a time saver. Two or three hours spent cooking and preparing on a Sunday, can alleviate the need to cook a meal the rest of the week. With this meal preparation plan, fixing nightly meals will only require you to reheat meals that have already been cooked. This allows more time to spend with your family, hit the gym or just relax instead of rushing home from work to prepare a meal during the week.

When you plan out and prepare your meals ahead of time, you take control of how much food you are consuming during each meal. It is important to remember that each of our bodies require different amounts of food and nutrients. For this reason, make sure that your portions are rationed properly for each member of your family. To find out how many calories you should be consuming every day, consult your physician.

Proper nutrition is just as important to a healthy lifestyle as exercise. There is an old saying that states, “abs are made in the kitchen.” There is a lot of truth to this phrase. Your body requires healthy food for endurance, strength and weight loss. With your meals properly planned and portioned, it is easier to include foods that give you energy (whole grains), muscle building proteins (lean meats and nuts) and vitamins and minerals (fruits and vegetables).

To prevent food waste and to test the feasibility of weekly food planning for your family, it may be best to cook twice per week instead of once per week initially. This will help with the identification of proper food storage needs, as well as the nutritional needs of your family.

I would love to hear how your family prepares meals. Do you go grocery shopping once per month or once per week? Do you prepare each meal individually every day? Share your meal preparation ideas with your fellow CYNers on Facebook or Twitter.

 


 

Bradley Averill

Bradley Averill

Food, Nutrition, and Health Educator | Nebraska Extension

Bradley Averill is the University of Nebraska Extension Educator for Food, Nutrition, and Health. He grew up in Holt, Michigan, and currently resides in Neligh, Neb. He pursued his undergraduate degree at Grand Valley State University and attended graduate school at the University of South Florida. He believes that Connecting Young Nebraskans (CYN) can bring together young talents from all across the state and allow young professionals to network with peers of different backgrounds.

 


 

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The Power of Positivity and Volunteerism

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Q&A with Chelsea Luthy, Central Nebraska Community Development Specialist, and CYN Steering Team Member

 

Why are you passionate about volunteerism?

Cody is a village of about 150 people, but it’s so much more than that. I have a soft spot for the people from my hometown and surrounding areas, because they collectively taught me throughout my life that I can make a difference even if it is on a small scale. Overall, my community has given and taught me so much that I feel the need to try to show my gratitude by volunteering as best as I can.

This rural lifestyle is the key reason we moved back after college, and it is how I want to raise my children. Two of my goals are to teach AND show them that we can make a difference.

 

Why is positivity so important in both volunteerism and volunteer management?

Positivity is a crucial factor in preventing burnout, which is something we want to avoid. It seems like the same volunteers are enlisted over and over again, while others are sometimes missed altogether—which can contribute to burnout. In my opinion, leaders of the volunteer efforts have to keep a positive attitude and be understanding of the volunteers’ limitations, like time and energy, and always keep the end goal in mind. These characteristics will trickle down to other volunteers and raise moral.

 

Based on your experiences, how can age affect the perspective of volunteers?

Cody is well-known for its student-run straw bale grocery store the Circle C Market. (Check it out if you haven’t already!) I was an enthusiastic high school youth working on the planning process for the grocery store. Then, after moving back home, I was the Executive Director of a non-profit called Cowboy GRIT, working on a new project from scratch. Now, I work in multiple communities across 14 counties with numerous volunteers and collaborations.

I’ve worked with volunteers of all ages, and what I’ve learned is that nothing keeps you excited quite the same as having child-like enthusiasm, staying focused with a big picture always in the front of your mind and always working to stay positive.

 

How can one stay positive and motivate others?

For me, the best ways to stay positive are by de-stressing, disconnecting and remembering the big picture. I like to work out, knit, play with my kids and go dancing! I keep my mind occupied with family things to de-stress.

Another way I can stay positive is to disconnect from work on weekends as much as I can to relax.

The final way is to always remember the big picture or the end result, instead of getting caught up in the means of getting there. Motivating others is best achieved through excitement, leadership and communication. Fold those three together for a great start.

 

Why is volunteerism important for rural Nebraska?

Volunteering and working together are the future for rural Nebraska. No one can accomplish anything great by themselves. Instead we have to work together and learn from each other. That’s how we are going to get or keep our communities moving forward. No one outside a community can create change and progress like catalysts inside a community can. Insiders already have the relationships in place to rock ‘n roll! Your input also goes further if you have boots on the ground in a project.

 

What would you say to youth or adults who want to get involved in their communities but doesn’t know how?

The best piece of advice I know is to ask. Ask community and civic groups, government bodies, schools, parents, co-workers, friends or mentors what they believe should be improved. Everyone has an opinion on something. Gather ideas. Take one that interests you or a topic you are passionate about and expand on it. Perhaps there is someone else who shares your passion, and you can move forward together. This is the best place to start.

Undoubtedly, there will be obstacles and roadblocks, but they don’t have to stall you. I applaud you for having courage and grit. Remember that volunteering with positivity can make a difference for both you and your community, and that the Connecting Young Nebraskans community is always available for support!

 


 

Chelsea Luthy

Chelsea Luthy

Community Development Specialist | Central Nebraska Economic Development District
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Chelsea Luthy is the Community Development Specialist for Central Nebraska Economic Development District (CNEDD). She grew up in Cody, Neb., and graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She hopes to share her love for community improvement through Connecting Young Nebraskans (CYN) and influence her peers to continue making a difference in our work. She believes that CYN is about motivating our young people, facilitating progress within our local community and how that creates additional impacts, and a way to bounce ideas off other like-minded leaders all for the betterment of our state.

 


 

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