CIVIC CIRCLE: Local leaders gather to discuss community’s future


HANCOCK COUNTY — Nearly three dozen local leaders gathered at the Community Foundation of Hancock County’s new Thrive Center on May 24 to kick off an eight-month program focused on helping local leaders collaborate to move the community forward.

The Civic Circle, as the program is called, is one of a number of Talent Pathways the community foundation has designed to “prepare and inspire community members to use their talents to elevate daily life, civic leadership, and business leadership across Hancock County.”

Thirty-four people attended the first Civic Circle, including local community leaders, elected and appointed officials, recent Leadership Hancock County graduates and others who seek to contribute to a vibrant community.

“We had representatives from all corners of the county,” said Mary Gibble, community foundation president.

Various topics are planned for each monthly Civic Circle session, including a look at the issues impacting the county and how teamwork and communication can help shape its future.

Attendee Amy Kirkpatrick, who successfully ran for the Republican nomination for Greenfield City council’s District 2 last month, said she’s looking forward to learning more about how she can work with others to make Hancock County the best it can be.

“I’m excited about the program and I look forward to learning more. The topics sound very interesting, and I hope to take what I learn and use it to be a bigger part of our community,” she said.

Gibble said networking is a huge part of what the Civic Circle is all about.

“We hope to prepare and inspire people to use their talents to elevate daily life, civic leadership and business leadership across Hancock County,” she said.

Speakers at the premier Civic Circle discussion included: Bryan Richards, an adjunct professor at Indiana University and founder of Envisioneurs, a design innovation team based in Indianapolis; Christine Owens, Cumberland’s assistant town manager, with a rich history in community development; and David Terrell, founding executive director of the Indiana Communities Institute (ICI) and the RUPRI Center for Local and State Policy at Ball State University.

Next month, when the circle discusses how money can impact the community, speakers will include a local trustee, town clerk and school board members.

Gibble said the Civic Circle concept grew out of a previous course the community foundation offered in 2019, led by the Indiana Communities Institute.

“We started processing the information that was shared at the course and recognized that we needed to provide a safe, neutral space for people to meet and form a strategic plan to shape the vision of what Hancock County will be decades from now,” she said.

Gibble said the Civic Circle is just one program of the community foundation’s new Talent Pathway initiative, which is designed to create a pipeline of talent for the growing community.

That research was done through focus groups, interviews, surveys really inform the community foundation based on feedback from commit members what they expect from the commit foundation next.

And that really has driven the programming we’re doing here as well as the decision to move to and create a physical place that has room for us to do this work.

“We really took a lot of time in the design of this to create space that people really feel we come and we’re doing our best to extend that reach far beyond those who are elected and appointed, but all the way into our county so that every person and every citizen would feel welcome here and in a position to contribute to basically as region plan for Hancock County,” she said.

“That’s ultimately our objective, it’s going to take some time to get there. Whereas Hancock County’s comprehensive plan covers land use, “I’m talking about something form a more vision standpoint of how what is quality of life look like in Hancock County, and how people contribute to what quality of life looks like now and what it will look like in the future, and how we expand on the good things already happening,” she said.