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University of Minnesota Extension

Rural Leadership symposium taken into Kenya in January

Catie Ramsmussen leads a group of Kenyans in a leadership experience involving string symbolizing networks and connections
Catie Rasmussen, U of M Extension educator, uses string and other implements to symbolize leadership networks and connections in Kenya.

University of Minnesota Extension, Center for Community Vitality supports the development of leadership, civic engagement and economies across the counties of Minnesota. With more than two decades of experience, they also reach beyond our borders. In January 2020, Extension leadership and civic engagement team members Holli Arp, Catherine Rasmussen and Tobias Spanier traveled to southwestern Kenya to hold a symposium in collaboration with Kisii University’s Division of Research, Extension Innovation and Resource Mobilization. 

The symposium highlighted leadership programming in Minnesota and presented strategies for public engagement, the impact of social capital and the importance of building shared vision.  Integrated into the meeting was an interactive experience for all the Kenyan participants to join in and deepen their understanding of the concepts.

Building social capital through leadership development has great potential in Kenya as the country continues to transition to local decision making mandated since adoption of the 2010 Constitution. Working to build the capacity within Kisii University to support the competency development of rural Kenyans to engage with their community and with community leaders is a target of this new initiative. 

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, a few Kisii faculty members had intended to travel to Minnesota to connect, observe and collaborate with Extension on leadership development theory, practice and education appropriate for the Kenyan context. This is currently on hold. However, now and in the coming months, the leadership and civic engagement team is actively developing the scope and sequence of leadership curriculum to be used with the Kisii University training team. They are also developing the structure and process for the train-the-trainer component of the program. 

Rasmussen says, "Our observations and learning from the development of the Kenya program can reveal tools and strategies that can be used in both domestic and international leadership programs, as long as they are adapted for local culture and context." 

The process expands previous experience completed in Morocco with farmers associations and cooperatives in partnership with the National School of Agriculture in Meknès. 

Minnesota is part of an increasingly connected global network, which benefits from exchanges in education, research and development. Current efforts are funded through partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, grants from other partners and donor gifts. Learn more about Extension's international work on the Global Initiatives web page.

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