Murdo’s Ripple Effect: A Community Coaching Story

It’s been said that dropping a pebble in water creates a ripple effect that emanates outward from the source. At Dakota Resources, we believe the same can be said about cultivating a thriving rural, particularly when a pebble is dropped with intention inside rural towns like Murdo, South Dakota.

Last year, the Murdo Development Corp. engaged with Dakota Resources’ Community Coaching program to spark growth and development in the city of Murdo. Dakota Resources’ Kristi Wagner, who serves as the Director of Organizational Relationships and Community Coach, facilitated the Community Coaching process in this rural town, which is home to the Jones County seat in South Dakota.

“Dakota Resources guided the Murdo Development Corp. through four pivotal phases by fostering community input, strategic planning, and transparent implementation,” Wagner said. “Their work is a testament to the power of community engagement in driving sustainable development.”

The first phase of the Community Coaching process in Murdo involved soliciting community input through a Community Stakeholders session, which was attended by more than 70 community members. Next, a board retreat was held to aggregate the results of the first phase of the project and develop strategic initiatives, according to the Thriverr Community and Economic Development blueprint.

From this strategy session, Murdo stakeholders identified the community’s strategic directions, including Growing Housing Opportunities, Supporting Daycare, Enhancing Community Unity, and Creating Career Opportunities, particularly in terms of Developing Workforce. The Murdo Development Corp. also identified board governance as a priority and has collaborated with Dakota Resources’ president, Joe Bartmann, on that initiative.

Kristi Wagner leads the community of Murdo through a Community Stakeholders session.

Like many other rural communities, Murdo volunteers identified housing as a key initiative for growth. The shared goal of these volunteers was to work on behalf of the community to make housing opportunities available, particularly by acquiring land or lots for the public at cost. From mapping current housing stock within the Murdo city limits to purchasing properties in town, volunteers sought to expand housing opportunities in the area, which can be difficult for a landlocked town like Murdo.

According to Ashley Geigle, Executive Director of the Murdo Development Corp, housing volunteers have created a roadmap of existing housing and available land/lots for the Development Corp. to utilize as a reference, with the goal of placing a couple of governor’s homes – reasonably sized, affordable housing options – within the next two years.

One contributing factor to housing shortages is a lack of childcare options in the community, and through the work of volunteers and stakeholders, the city of Murdo received a GOED Daycare Planning Grant to assist in its efforts. Work is also underway to secure a location and building for a community daycare center and to facilitate important conversations between current and past daycare providers and the rest of the community.

“The daycare team has been phenomenal in creating space for current providers to discuss needs/wants,” Geigle said. “Their work with our local 4-H group to collect gently used toys has resulted in needed donations to providers. We’re continuing our collaborative work on the grant we received as well.”

The third initiative that stakeholders in Murdo identified had the goal of enhancing community unity.

Stakeholders identified seven key strategic areas of focus for the Murdo Development Corporation to focus on.

While tangible resources like housing opportunities and daycare facilities certainly can go a long way in promoting emotional investment in a community, this group’s focus was to facilitate communication and cooperation amongst various community groups and to adopt a vision and excitement for Murdo as a hometown. From this work, strategic mixers and lunch and learn functions were held, and Geigle says that it’s been enjoyable to see community members, young and old, show up to network and to hear what’s happening around the community.

Beyond these events, a sense of renewed desire to participate in community growth is certainly evident, according to volunteer Kelsie Slovek.

“Murdo is cultivating its own definition of a thriving rural community by listening to what community members are telling us is a priority for them,” Slovek said. “We have been fortunate enough to have community members give their feedback at various meetings and gatherings since March of 2023, and we continue to ask for feedback as we make progress in the strategic direction initiatives to ensure we are heading in the right direction.”

When it comes to developing the workforce in and around Murdo, these volunteers set out to develop and support the workforce in existing and future opportunities by hosting a Career Day, in collaboration with the local school district and business in the area. In addition, Murdo stakeholders also developed a survey for business owners to identify workforce needs. Exploration of grant opportunities for both existing and startup businesses is also underway.

“The workforce group is working on the opportunity to collaborate with surrounding schools and really focusing on exposing our youth to the career possibilities that are out there,” Geigle said. “This group is doing an exceptional job and I can’t wait to see what they continue to create.”

The culmination of Murdo’s Community Coaching process will be celebrated in March 2024, where the teams will share their success and plan for future investments and commitments to continue building a thriving community. These accomplishments, while stellar on their own, are also evidence of something greater in Murdo: a renewed commitment to collaboration and growth. What’s most exciting? The impacts of such work only continue to ripple outward throughout the community.

“In Murdo, we know that so many volunteers have put in their time and dedication into making our city great and what it is today,” Geigle said. “We also know that we have to continually work towards progression while being mindful of the values our community was raised on. What we have learned through this process of coaching with Dakota Resources in the past year is the value of creating space for collaboration to happen and constantly inviting additional community members to join us.”

Published On: December 12, 2023Categories: News & Notes

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