The Middle Georgia Regional Commission is the recipient of the 2018 Innovations in Community Leadership Award, presented by the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development at the University of Georgia.

The commission received the award for its Middle Georgia Regional Leadership Champions program, which brings a diverse group of participants from an 11-county region together to better understand the region’s issues and challenges, identify and articulate a future vision for middle Georgia and develop strategies and form work groups in cooperation with the Middle Georgia Regional Commission.

“Through its Middle Georgia Regional Leadership Champions program, the Middle Georgia Regional Commission has set a new standard for regional leadership development by focusing on skills development and new approaches to the discussion of regional issues,” said Matt Bishop, director of the Fanning Institute.

The award was presented on Feb. 23 during the third annual Community Leadership Conference at the UGA Center for Continuing Education & Hotel in Athens, Ga. It 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.

“We are honored to see the Middle Georgia Regional Leadership Champions program receive this award,” said Laura Mathis, executive director of the Middle Georgia Regional Commission. “We want this program to build a network of people throughout the region who appreciate the value that each community adds to the region and who develop the leadership skills to understand how they can play a role in building a stronger region by working together across geographic boundaries.”

Graduates of the program, designed by the Fanning Institute and launched in 2015, already have identified ways to use their training to benefit the region.

“The leadership training helps you think about your strengths and how you can apply those in helping the region succeed,” said Chrissy Miner, a graduate of the inaugural class. “I have also benefitted from the relationships I built through the program. It is a wonderful asset for middle Georgia.”

This year’s Community Leadership Conference included workshops and panel discussions on trends and best practices in adult, youth and nonprofit leadership, all centered around the conference theme, “Inspired to Lead.”

This year, the Fanning Institute also offered preconference sessions on its Youth Leadership in Action curriculum and facilitating adult community leadership programs. Conference speakers included Rodney Bullard, vice president for community affairs for Chick-fil-A, Inc. and executive director of the Chick-fil-A Foundation, and David Tanner, associate director at the UGA Carl Vinson Institute of Government.