The Leadership Eatonville program celebrated the graduation of its inaugural class with 17 participants presenting their ideas on how to improve the historic town.
Residents outlined plans for building senior housing, renovating vacant homes, creating mosaic murals, organizing crime watch teams, beginning a community tennis team and more. In the next phase of this program, which began November 16, 2016, graduates will develop business plans for their ideas. The establishment of the Leadership Eatonville program was funded through a grant from the Winter Park Health Foundation (WPHF).
“The group learned practical community-building skills and connected to what they want to see happen in their town,” said Phil Hissom, founding director of the Polis Institute. The Polis Institute, a private not-for-profit organization dedicated to designing solutions to social problems, has focused on research, training/coaching, and community engagement in 50 neighborhoods.
WPHF, and the Healthy Eatonville Team it supports, partnered with the Polis Institute to implement a twelve-month program called “Leadership Eatonville” for the purpose of equipping resident leaders to deploy successful community initiatives in Eatonville. According to Hissom, a representative from Polis Institute, two Healthy Eatonville team members, and three residents went door-to-door to share news of the upcoming training with about 380 households, including some 20-year residents.
The Polis Institute will implement three phases of Leadership Eatonville. The program is designed to empower 100 residents to lead their community as it strives to become a more vibrant and healthy place. “So while there are very specific skill sets and modalities taught in the program, the thread that ties all of the pieces together is the emphasis on healthy relationships,” explained Hissom. “Woven throughout the program content are exercises that will increase emotional intelligence and cultural competence so participants improve their capacity to listen and learn from others. This is how conflicts are resolved, bridges are built, and community initiatives become successful.”