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Rochester Horizons Index

Horizons Project

Horizons is about movement and change: From waiting to leading ... from talk to action ... from poverty to prosperity ... from a few to many ... from despair to hope ... from indifference to pride.


Communities where families and neighbors with wide-ranging perspectives and ideas once struggled in isolation ... now plan collaboratively for their future.  They have come to recognize the importance of a single voice, as well as the strength of community decision making.

After holding  a "funeral" to bury negative attitudes and behaviors, a community moved on to creating a shared vision, setting goals and taking action.

Many small towns are addressing their communities' need for access to healthcare, especially by those with very limited means.

Three communities joined forces to push for a statewide communications policy to bring in wireless technology.  The much-needed cell tower now makes these towns attractive to new businesses.

People involved in the Horizons program increasingly show up and speak up at important community deliberations around needed infrastructure, improving school district budgets and developing municipal sewer systems.  Many participants have built the skills, run for - and won - positions for mayor, school board or city councils.

Small rural cities are starting their own community foundations; locally-grown support for actions plans that will help low-income families.

Does Horizons accomplish all this?  No, People do - people who care deeply about their communities and want them to thrive.  Horizons provides ideas, resources, support and inspiration - fertile ground where optimism can thrive.


The Horizons Project in Rochester is about helping our community thrive.  It is a community leadership program aimed at reducing poverty in small rural and reservation communities with populations under 5,000 faced with economic decline and demographic change.

Horizons explores perceptions about and sources of poverty; it isn't always just about lack of money.  Horizons builds stronger community leadership; leadership is as important as good roads, great schools and clean water.  Horizons embraces the entire community; everyone is needed and everyone has something to give.  For communities to thrive, everyone must thrive.

Who funds it?
Horizons is funded by the Northwest Area Foundation, whose mission is to help reduce poverty in Minnesota, Iwoa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon.  The Foundation invests in - and relies upon - experienced regional instutions to provide training, consulting and technical support in each Horizons community.  It also directs the two grants that come to communities during the program, totaling up to $10,000 to help them sustain their poverty reduction work.

Who facilitates it?
Seven organizations deliver the Horizons program.  They helped design Horizons and have coached nearly 200 rural and reservation communities through the process since 2003.  They provide communities with coaching and training but have assembled a vast network of other partners who help Horizons communities.

How long does it take?
Horizons is an 18-month program with four required segments.  Communities must meet the thresholds for each segment within defined timeframes before they can move forward.  Each threshold is connected to skills and achievement that help strengthen a community.

What does it involve?
All Horizons communities get the same foundation of program resources and tools during the first three activities.  The delivery organizations then select additional program resources customized to address each community's unique needs.  For one community, it might mean economic development training; for another, conflict resolution counseling or technical skill courses.

All Horizons communities take part in:


Community conversation and action ideas focused on poverty.  This segment requires 12 hours during a three-month period and the involvement of at least 30 people.  The goal is for the community to learn what poverty looks like and what they can do about it.  Momentum grows as the community builds skills, involves more people and becomes increasingly strategic.


Leadership building using LeadershipPlentytraining.  At least 20 people give 30-40 hours of time.  This is a popular segment because it's practical and assumes every community member can provide leadership.


Community visioning and planning focused on leadership growth and poverty reduction.  This involves the whole community.  Some communities get competitive, seeing who can involve the most people.


Idea implementation.  The delivery organization and others provide the community with support, coaching and additional resources as they put their plans into action.

The Horizons program is exciting and gratifying, yet challenging.  The community must invest time if it is to achieve long-term results.


Rochester Horizons Index
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