Leadership and Innovation

Deepening community capacity and fostering an innovation ecosystem

Together we are building networks of leaders who can collaborate across county borders and collectively increase understanding of regional issues.

Harnessing a high-impact, community-engaged teaching model, we connect IU students with local leaders and organizations. This deepens our students' experiences and understanding of professional opportunities in rural communities. As a result, students envision rewarding careers in our state while contributing additional capacity to local efforts.

We work in partnership with regional organizations—including NSWC Crane, Regional Opportunity Initiatives, and Radius Indiana—to strengthen the innovation ecosystem across the Indiana Uplands region and throughout the state.

Connect with us to expand talent development, attraction, and retention in support of a growing innovation economy and thriving rural communities.

Key initiatives

Asset-Based Community Development

In the planning process, we ask leaders and residents to first consider their community’s strengths, assets, and aspirations. By focusing on what works well, the center and its partners can identify the social, natural, cultural, human, political, financial, and built capitals (as identified by Flora and Flora) that are functioning at a high level or which are under-utilized and could be harnessed to address community challenges that require attention. This is an energizing activity for the community and an informative step in our collaborative and customized strategy for partnerships.

Strategic Doing

Strategic Doing—a process developed by the Purdue Agile Strategy Lab that builds strategy from linking and leveraging community-held assets and networks with a focus on direct and achievable actions—helps move community committees from the discussion phase to strategy to implementation. Following the 10 Rules of Strategic Doing, we facilitate positive motion towards specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely goals set and enacted by community members. The process itself is one that builds community capacity, and we are teaching communities how to use the process to maintain momentum beyond our initial engagement.

Project spotlight

Hoosier Enduring Legacy Program

The Hoosier Enduring Legacy Program (HELP) enabled local governments to optimize federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act.

Communities selected to participate in HELP collaborated with higher education institutions on four key pathways, advancing e-connectivity, enhancing quality of place, promoting community wellness and strengthening local economies. These pathways will help communities to be more resilient to future economic downturns. The IU Center for Rural Engagement lead the community wellness pathway.

Read about the project

Aligning Teams for Successful Collaboration

Featured resource

While assessing the effectiveness of a community engagement project is complicated, there is one simple indicator that tends to be more highly correlated with successful projects than any other.

Read the article

Six Lessons in Regionalism

Featured resource

Regional collaboration can yield big payoffs, but requires a thoughtful approach. Take these six steps toward stronger collaborations.

Read the article

Resource directory

Featured resource

Discover webinars, podcasts, reports, and other leadership and innovation resources to inform community and university efforts.

Explore the directory

Campus connections

Find graduate programs for employers, leadership programs, consulting services, and more within the O'Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs Executive Education unit.

Connect with IU innovators, technologies, and startups. Innovate Indiana is bringing innovation to the state’s business, industry, government, and economic engagement leaders. 

Students interested in leadership can take their degree to the next level with the Political and Civic Engagement (PACE) program, where they can develop expertise in leadership, communication, citizenship, and public decision-making.

Interested in Asset-based Community Development or Strategic Doing?

Schedule a workshop