The Lynda Brannen Williamson Foundation, based in Statesboro, Georgia, received the Innovations in Community Leadership Award from UGA’s J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development during its annual leadership conference in February.

The foundation was recognized for its focus on developing more female leaders in southeast Georgia.

“Following the vision of Lynda B. Williamson, the foundation created a unique program that empowers women in leadership and community engagement,” said Matt Bishop, director of the Fanning Institute. “Women who graduate from the academy are paying it forward and making a difference in the Statesboro area, and we proudly recognize those efforts with this award.”

The Innovations in Community Leadership Award recognizes individuals or programs that have moved beyond traditional community leadership programming through innovative practices, partnerships and activities that better serve participants and their communities.

“Through our partnership with the Fanning Institute, we have seen the positive effects of servant leadership training being carried out by our leadership academy participants wanting to make their community a better place by giving of their time, their gifts and their talents,” said Lisa Lee, president of the Lynda Brannen Williamson Foundation. “Receiving the Innovations in Community Leadership Award is both rewarding and humbling.”

Launched in 2015, the Lynda Brannen Williamson Foundation Women’s Leadership Academy, designed in partnership with the Fanning Institute, aims to encourage and prepare women to take leadership roles in southeast Georgia. The academy addresses leadership development through a woman’s lens, examining issues such as individual leadership styles, career development and work-life balance.

The award was presented during the Fanning Institute’s fourth annual Community Leadership Conference, held Feb. 28 – March 1 at the UGA Center for Continuing Education & Hotel.

This year’s conference drew a record attendance of 150 people to Athens, Georgia, to participate in workshops and panel discussions on innovations, research and best practices in adult, youth and nonprofit leadership, centered around the theme “Engaging Leaders, Engaging Communities.” In addition, the conference featured sessions focused on rural community leadership.

“It was great to be surrounded by people who are just as passionate about leadership as I am,” said Molly Jackson, who represented Leadership Lumpkin and the Dahlonega-Lumpkin County Chamber of Commerce at the conference. “We’re going home rejuvenated with new ideas to use in our communities.”

Doug Hooker, executive director of the Atlanta Regional Commission, speaking at the 2019 Community Leadership Conference (Photo by Shannah Montgomery/PSO)

In the conference’s keynote address, Doug Hooker, executive director of the Atlanta Regional Commission, said the world is changing rapidly and substantively, and effective leaders must fully engage with their communities to discover new perspectives, resources and connections necessary to adapt.

“Community engagement is a contact sport,” Hooker said. “You have to get out of your comfort zone, your natural places of doing things, your usual ways of meeting people in order to gain their trust and get a wider and broader set of data and information.”

According to Hooker, that means leaders must visit new places in their communities and speak with different groups of people.

“You must be willing to risk your view of the world and how it works if you want to learn other ways of seeing the world,” he said. “You have to be willing to push past your personal boundaries if you want credibility in leading your organization to push its collective boundaries. Making the effort to meet people where they are makes them more willing to join you where you are.”

Along with the conference sessions, the 2019 CLC included pre-conference events on the Fanning Institute’s Youth Leadership in Action curriculum and coordinating adult community leadership programs.

“In order to respond to a constantly changing world, communities must establish a core of leaders committed and prepared to act to shape their futures,” Bishop said. “We were again honored to host the conference as a venue for attendees to engage with colleagues and experts and gain tools to build and sustain strong leadership development programming in their communities, and we look forward to continuing and expanding these efforts moving forward.”

Writer: Charlie Bauder; 706-542-7039; charlie.bauder@fanning.uga.edu