The Brushy Fork Community Leadership Curriculum

“Leadership cannot exist in a vacuum but must be for something. So we connect leadership directly to making a difference in communities.” — John B. Stephenson, former president of Berea College and founder of Brushy Fork Institute

For nearly three decades, Brushy Fork Institute has worked to expand leadership capacity throughout the coalfield regions of Central Appalachia. These efforts have grown our understanding of what it takes for a community to move toward what we call community transformation.

Our founder, John B. Stephenson, observed that the people of the region themselves have the wisdom, vision, and commitment to guide the development of their own communities. This principle continues to guide our work: you can’t transform someone else’s community.

Transformative work must be locally driven. It requires a critical mass of engagement by local citizens working toward a shared vision.

The Brushy Fork Institute Community Leadership Curriculum provides a tool through which communities can build this local capacity. We’ve designed our curriculum so that it can be adapted to meet the needs of individual communities and implemented with ordinary financial resources.

Locally Driven Leadership:

  • Designed for groups of 15-20 participants
  • Designed to be run by local volunteers. Detailed instructions provide guidance for local coordinators.
  • Local coordinators recruit participants, create program schedule, facilitate sessions, book special presenters, secure materials, and oversee communications. 

Program Objectives:

  • To provide high-quality workshop sessions that will increase leadership skills and offer valuable perspectives, insights, and examples of success
  • To increase the pool of local leaders directly involved in community development
  • To stimulate community improvement projects that show visible results
  • To connect with local strategic planning efforts and help turn those plans into reality

Elements of the Curriculum:

  • Consists of 8 flexible learning modules that can be used individually or restructured as needed
  • Offers a unique opportunity for community-wide input on a strategic planning process
  • Provides for application of developing skills through self-selected community projects
  • Incorporates hands-on exercises, supporting media, and reflective notebooks to assist in project development and implementation and to reflect on skills acquired during program sessions
  • Includes resource listings for additional information, supporting texts, relevant websites, and online publications to extend development beyond the sessions Learn More about Our 8 Learning Modules (PDF)

Online Access and Registration:

To support implementation of our leadership curriculum, all our program materials are accessible online. These online files make the curriculum more portable and are accessible wherever one has an internet connection.

For more information, contact Brushy Fork Program Coordinator, Jacqueline Corum, at or call 859-985-3858.