Planning for the Future: Community Coaching in Lennox, SD
Community Coaching with Dakota Resources looks different for each community, and so it should, as each community has distinct needs and priorities. For the City of Lennox, who engaged Dakota Resources in June of 2021 as a partnership with the Lennox Area Development Corporation (LADC), the priority for this growing community was to develop a comprehensive strategic plan to support Lennox’s future.
“The LADC was already doing important work, and when combined with our model that allows for both granular and broad-scale data to be generated in order to advance the priorities in a community, the process empowers community leaders to use this information for strategic doing,” said Paula Jensen, Vice President for Program Development and Community Coach for Dakota Resources.
The Community Coaching in Lennox process began in August 2021 with a variety of self-assessments and in-person visioning sessions in order to determine what was working well in Lennox and what aspects of community and economic development could be improved. As part of this process, Dakota Resources used their community and economic development blueprint that, according to Jensen, plays a crucial role in both assessing the current reality of a community’s assets and activities as well as how those assets and activities align with the city’s and LADC’s priorities.
At the first in-person visioning event, business owners, stakeholders, and residents gathered together with city officials and the LADC board of directors to engage in conversation about Lennox’s blueprint for community and economic development – public policy, quality of life, leadership development, and more. Then, at the second visioning event, ideas and wish-list amenities were generated in order to propel the community forward. From a dog park and a coffee shop to housing and business development, the energy of engaged participants at this meeting helped to identify feasible and focused goals from which city and LADC officials could act on over the next three years.
“Something that we accomplished was eliminating what I call ‘board lag,’” said Ryan Solberg, economic development specialist with Sioux Metro Growth Alliance. “When working with volunteer boards, there’s often a delay for economic development professionals between when they identify a problem and when they get buy-in from the board to provide the resources and authority to create a solution. The community coaching experience was great in helping myself and the LADC board get on the same page about what issues Lennox is facing and what we can do to help.”
What’s exciting for the community of Lennox is that some of these ideas found success quickly. In November last year, two brothers, Jarren and Devin Saxon opened Maple Drip, a food truck coffee shop that offers everything from lattes and americanos to delicious brunch staples like caramel rolls and breakfast sandwiches. According to Solberg, it’s unique for a coffee shop owner to roast their own beans, particularly in a town the size of Lennox, and that’s certainly proven true based on the traffic from the community, which has embraced this new business in town.
“The community response has been positive,” Solberg said. “Opening up the traditional strategic planning process and asking for input not only helped us learn what the community wanted to see in the future, but also helped the community learn what we collectively can do for them.”
At the end of their work with Dakota Resources in December 2021, the Lennox City Council and the LADC generated a twelve-month work plan and a three-year list of priorities to continue investing in their future. And while each community’s goals are unique in a Community Coaching process, what remains the same is the focus on communication.
“Our goal in any Community Coaching process is to open the lines of communication and to allow all voices in a community to be heard, and I commend Lennox for being willing to engage their community members in this process,” Jensen said. “We’re just beginning to see the fruits of a sustainable, positive and exciting outlook for the Lennox community.”
TAKE ACTION: If your economic development organization is looking to boost community engagement, the Dakota Resources Community Coaching program can help you. If you’re interested in getting your community or organization involved in our Community Coaching program, email [email protected].