Orlando, Florida and iLead Program
Orlando, Florida and iLead Program
By: Ryan Henderson
September 11, 2014
A couple of months ago myself and a few City of Fort Lauderdale staff gathered to begin discussing our plans for a “Citizen’s Academy.” The City had developed and conducted an educational workshop some years back and the time seemed right to bring the academy back to life. The academy would familiarize our neighbors with the new leadership, new departments, new programs, and new initiatives that had come about in the past three years. We also wanted to create something that would help us increase public participation in the programs and initiatives that we were moving forward at a rapid speed. Our thought was simply that the more our neighbors learned about what was happening in city hall, the more they would want to become engaged and become a city ambassador.
Academies are widely used throughout local governments of all different sizes. They consistently remain a popular initiative for bringing citizens into city hall and exposing them to the roles of all the departments. It was easy to find examples, and even templates, of how we could organize and structure our academy. As I began laying out a schedule of courses for our academy, I was sent an email from a friend on what the City of Orlando was doing in way of creating an academy for their citizens. By clicking on a link provided in the email, I was sent to the webpage for the City of Orlando’s iLead campaign. What Orlando was doing was innovative, inspiring, and something I immediately realized was worth trying to emulate.
Orlando has taken on the academy concept only to disregard how it has traditionally been executed. Innovatively, they’ve created a website that could be accessed at the leisure of their citizens and that would expressly address a citizen’s desire to take on a leadership role in their community. Orlando’s intent is to increase civic engagement and public participation by creating neighborhood leaders. Their online academy, entitled iLead, has a mission of instilling leadership abilities in all of its citizens. According to the website:
iLead is a comprehensive program that provides YOU with the tools to inform, connect and involve your neighbors through a series of guides, videos, webinars and workshops. These tools cover topics such as how to effectively hold meetings, how to utilize a variety of communication tools and how to engage the next generation of leaders.
When I first visited the website I found it to be quite awe-inspiring. The iLead web portal had everything that an Orlando citizen could ask for if they were interested in becoming civically engaged. The video page is incredibly expansive with YouTube clips on how to make a motion, how to grow your neighborhood organization, how to cultivate new neighborhood leadership, how to engage next generation leadership, and how to create and sustain a successful neighborhood association.
Orlando and iLead has turned the conventional academy on its head. Rather than inundating its citizens with stale information on the functions of departments and program they have in place, iLead provides practical and useful tools that allow their citizens to become leaders of their community. iLead makes the experience more about the citizen than the city. They’ve also gone away from the tradition of having academies that meet weekly at a central location and with a set number of attendees. By putting iLead online, anyone can access materials at any time.
What Orlando is doing has made me reflect and reconsider what the true purpose of a local government academy should be. Is the traditional academy, with informational lessons on the role of city hall’s departments, an effective way of increasing public participation? Do these classes REALLY engage citizens? Will citizens be able to take what they learn and make their community better? Should academies be online?
The more I’ve thought about the academy, the more I’ve come to believe that Orlando has it right. Orlando provides an education that is all about giving something to their citizens. It has left me with a desire to create an academy that provides a similar educational experience for our neighbors. I still see value in the classroom type structure, and I’m still desirous of creating an academy that values meeting as a group and sharing as a group. However, iLead has inspired me change the instructional component of the academy and tailor it towards a “leadership academy.” With this idea we’ve already brainstormed which established community leaders from the private, public, and non-profit arenas would be invited to teach a course. We’re excited about the direction our planned academy is going in and we owe it to the City of Orlando and their iLead campaign.
To learn more about the iLead Campaign visit: http://www.cityoforlando.net/ocnr/ilead/