For the fourth time, the Vermont Council on Rural Development is gearing up for our statewide Vermont Community Leadership Summit on Aug. 15 at Vermont State University Randolph. The Summit brings together over 500 attendees to celebrate and explore new ways to support local leadership and democracy in Vermont. It is one of the most rejuvenating and productive events of the year, and all are welcome.

Registration is now live on our website at and includes options for free or partial payments.

VCRD is an independent nonprofit dedicated to supporting locally-defined progress of Vermont’s rural communities. Through our work, we get to meet hundreds of people every year who are stepping forward for their hometowns or for their communities. Time after time, in town after town or with groups of volunteer leaders, we see people pulling together to advance projects that matter for their families, for their neighbors, for their communities.

At a time when politics at the national level can feel divisive, it is important to highlight the many markers of unity, progress and the people stepping forward all around us — despite uncertainty or hardship and without much fanfare — to build that better, more hopeful future in their community across our state.

Many of these leaders come to the Summit, and many others leave inspired to support their community in different ways. Their work represents the strengthening of that civic fabric that binds us all together as Vermonters and Americans.

This year’s Summit has a new optional structure of three “tracks” to allow participants to identify a path through the day for networking and learning that is most relevant to their work. The tracks focus on developing personal skills, advancing a specific project, or thinking about the future.

–     Skill Up: Practical skills for community builders including facilitation, communications and decision-making processes.

–     Get it Done: Project design, budgeting, community engagement and all the skills you need to take your project/idea to the finish line.

–     What’s Next? Panels and discussions about Vermont’s future.

These tracks are just a guide and participants are able to select any workshops throughout the day they are most interesting or useful to their work — whether that is learning about fundraising, thinking about whether or how to use new AI tools to help in community development work, or gaining confidence in how to run a meeting effectively.

We also benefited greatly from the insights of a steering committee drawn from across the state. Our thanks to the Central Vermont Regional Planning Commission, Community Workshop LLC, the Department of Housing & Conservation, the Office of Racial Equity, the Springfield Area Regional Development Corp., USDA Rural Development, the Town of Bennington, the Town of Brandon, the Town of Richford, the Vermont Community Broadband Board, the Vermont Community Foundation, the Vermont Energy Education Program, the Vermont Humanities Council, the Vermont Professionals of Color, and VSECU.

We want our events to be accessible to all without financial barriers. While registration is $50 per person, there are options to register for partial or no payments, if needed, by using promo code “PARTIAL” (for $25) or “FRIEND” (for no cost) at checkout. Registration includes lunch and a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream party to close.

Visit to learn more about the 2023 Vermont Community Leadership Summit and register.

Our team is looking forward to spending the day with community builders from all over Vermont on Aug. 15.

Brian Lowe is executive director at Vermont Council on Rural Development.

This Commentary, published 7/15/23 is part of a series for the Times-Argus / Rutland Herald and can be found on their website here: