2023 Summit

Over 400 leaders from across the State attended the 4th Vermont Community Leadership Summit on August 15th 2023 at Vermont State University Randolph to build their skills, share opportunities, make new connections, and share ideas for our collective future. We also presented the Vermont Council on Rural Development’s 2023 Community Leadership Award, and closed with Ben & Jerry’s ice cream!

Participants included youth; community organizers and volunteers; people with lived experience with critical challenges facing our communities; experts and technical assistance providers; regional, municipal, state, & national leaders; and others working to improve the economies and quality of life of their communities. Nothing gets done in Vermont communities without the people who put themselves on the line for their town and for the issues they care about.

We also received the slides from Emily Heyman’s workshop on “Community Engagement for Municipal Decisions” and a 2-pager on “Lessons Learned from Irene” prepared by Windham Regional Commission Executive Director Chris Campany.

2023 Community Leadership Award

VCRD’s Vermont Community Leadership Award celebrates Vermonters who exemplify “dedication, integrity and honorable service to community and to rural Vermont,” and who have had a “transformational” effect on their communities. We present the award to highlight the work of community heroes who epitomize the best spirit of local community service, who volunteer their time, and who have made their community better.

This year, the Vermont Community Leadership Award was presented to the four members who are the driving force behind the Vermont Declaration of Inclusion: Al Wakefield, Bob Harnish, Norm Cohen, and Barbara Noyes Pulling – all community members and residents of Rutland County. All have deep roots around the state and bring humor, dedication, purpose, and integrity to those they interact with.

In 2020, Harnish and Wakefield decided to start asking every town in Vermont to adopt and implement a “Declaration of Inclusion.” The Declaration raises awareness about systemic racism, the importance of diversity in contributing to the state’s economy, and the need to be proactive in signaling that Vermont is a welcoming place. As of July 25, 116 towns across the state have adopted the Declaration. Over 70% of Vermont residents live in those towns.

It is an honor to recognize these tremendous community leaders who are using their skills and talents to build a stronger future for all of us here in Vermont.


  • Front Porch Forum


  • Community National Bank
  • Vermont Community Foundation
  • Vermont Humanities Council


  • Killington Resort
  • National Life Group Foundation
  • Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation
  • Seventh Generation
  • UVM Office of Engagement


  • Efficiency Vermont
  • Evernorth
  • Foley Services
  • M&T Bank
  • Preservation Trust of Vermont
  • The Alchemist
  • Union Mutual of Vermont
  • Vermont Economic Development Authority

In-Kind Supporters:

  • Ben & Jerry’s
  • Cabot Creamery
  • Vital Leadership Coaching