Otsego County Community and Economic Development Network

Several Otsego County organizations start network to work together for strategic growth and quality of life

Imagine a network of people representing government, business and non-profit organizations from across Otsego County investing in a cooperative effort to encourage community growth and solve community problems. This group would function with as little organizational overhead as possible, in order to be nimble and able to focus on and attack issues quickly.

That desire was the genesis of the Otsego County Community and Economic Development Network, referred to locally as the Community and Economic Development Network. A dozen individuals, representing nearly as many organizations, and sponsored by the Otsego County Community Foundation (OCCF), launched the Community and Economic Development Network in 2016, initially to enhance communication between their organizations.

As they spent time building relationships, they felt a need to clarify their roles in this new network and to actively engage in efforts to make the Gaylord area an even better place to live than it already is. They asked Michigan State University Extension to help.  OCCF Executive Director Dana Bensinger, and Extension Educator John Amrhein developed a facilitation process designed to clarify the purpose of the Community and Economic Development Network. Amrhein facilitated two subsequent discussions.

The first step in the process resulted in a clear statement of purpose, and also identified a need to define a structure for operation and discussed some opportunities for action in the community.

Step two yielded a strong consensus that the network needed to be nimble, with an informal and minimal structure to keep their focus on positive action, rather than spend their time on organizational overhead. The result of the second session was a one-page bylaws-like document that defines membership, outlines a few specific roles and responsibilities for all, and a meeting structure focused on action to make positive contributions to an already growing northern Michigan community.

The Otsego County Community and Economic Development Network is ready for action, and housing is the first topic they have chosen to address. Stay tuned for further success stories from Otsego County.

Otsego County Community and Economic Development Network’s Purpose:

  • Proactive about Growth
  • Maintain and Grow Quality of Life
  • Build Shared Community Mission and Vision
  • Think Tank and sounding board for community organizations
  • “Proactive about strategic growth to maintain and grow quality of life”

Michigan State University Extension provides, through the Government and Public Policy Team and the Center for Local Government Finance and Policy, educational programs and meeting facilitation for  government officials and citizens regarding many aspects of local and tribal governments in Michigan. Please contact the author at amrhein@anr.msu.edu for more information.

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