The Minnesota Environmental Education Leadership Initiative (MEELI) was a partnership between the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the University of Minnesota Extension from 2007- 2009. It was formed to support leadership development opportunities for Minnesota's environmental education community in three levels of application:
3. Professional community
The primary focus of this program was community aspects of leadership development. The resources and information below are a result of this project.
Leadership as a field of study has been around for many years. The majority of the theories and applications of leadership development focus on the individual and organization. Our vision was to support through institutional and individual approaches the sustained growth of environmental education community leaders who are prepared to encourage a strong and viable profession into the 21st century.
A community approach to statewide leadership
A lack of formalized leadership development for environmental educators challenges our sustainability as a professional community. Objective and imaginative visioning is exponentially tougher with fewer leaders engaged. Likewise, community members outside of the leadership circle may be hard-pressed to communicate their good ideas. Achieving our broad goals for EE like improving political visibility, our position in school curricula, generating new funding streams, and communicating the value of our work require a lot of creative savvy and collective hard-work. Simply, there is more leadership work than leaders to meet the need, resulting in burnout. In the words of Peter Drucker: "The lessons are unambiguous. The first is that there may be 'born leaders,' but there surely are far too few to depend on them."
Our hope was that the Minnesota environmental education community embraces this initiative to gain skill and knowledge, to take part in leading our citizens and visitors into the 21st Century. We hoped to involve all of our diverse community members in this initiative: foundations that fund EE efforts; non-profit and other organizations who teach youth and adult EE programs; federal, state, tribal, municipal, county, and regional government organizations who support EE through programming, policy, and partnerships; higher education faculty who research and train EE professionals; and school teachers who provide EE for Minnesota students.
The University of Minnesota Extension and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency conducted a needs assessment of Minnesota's environmental education community. This community is defined as "those who have a shared goal of delivering quality, balanced environmental education effectively in the state of Minnesota." This can include foundation funders, program managers and administrators, board members, various levels of government agents, naturalists, teachers, and non-formal educators. To our knowledge, this has never been done in the United States on a statewide level.
The results suggest relative agreement among members of Minnesota's EE community, although there are some elements that are perceived as limiting purposeful group action.
MEELI hosted several professional development opportunities to learn more about effective leadership in the environmental education community. These program offerings included guest speakers, discussion sessions, workshops, cohort learning groups, and other opportunities. Discussion sessions were short group dialogs (usually two hours) that focused on a specific topic of interest to our community; learning typically took place through one-on-one interactions and small group work. Workshops were typically 3/4 or full day activities designed to teach skills to apply in your personal leadership and workplace. Guest speakers were invited to speak about leadership issues in the environmental education arena and varied in length. Cohort learning groups helped achieve sustained action in our environmental education community and could be developed for small and large groups of professionals who meet a consistent basis to co-learn.
Mike Kennedy (email@example.com), Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, for more information about MEELI.
Nathan Meyer (firstname.lastname@example.org), University of Minnesota Extension, for more information about the survey "Analyzing Leadership Elements in the Minnesota Environmental Education Community."
Barbara Radke (email@example.com), University of Minnesota Extension, for more information about leadership tools and leadership development process design.