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Grassroots Community Leadership


How do we get people to get involved in their communities? The question is asked more and more frequently amidst theories about the decline of civic participation in U.S. society and the increase of the ‘bowling alone’ phenomenon, and as it becomes clear how challenging it can be to create meaningful roles for everyday people in making important decisions about their communities–whether neighborhood, city, state, or country. This Think Tank takes a unique approach to the question of how to encourage grassroots community leadership: students will work side by side with residents of the west side of Salt Lake City who are participating in the Westside Leadership Institute (WLI). The WLI is a partnership supported by University Neighborhood Partners (UNP) that takes an innovative approach to encouraging residents of all different backgrounds (cultural, political, socio-economic, and educational) to become catalysts for positive change in their communities. By working on ‘on-the-ground’ community problems with the WLI participants, students will investigate questions such as: What does it mean to be a community leader? How do leaders mobilize residents to make progress on tough community issues? How do leaders work across cultural differences to address adaptive challenges? What process management tools make a difference when engaging residents in community work? These questions will be answered while collaborating on a community project with real impact.

Grassroots Community Leadership Final Report

Final Project Videos
The Westside Leadership Institute
The Jordan River Community Initiative
Latino Behavioral Health Services
I Heart Rose Park
Polymovement: Empowering the Pacific Islander Community in Utah


Sarah Munro
Sarah Munro is Research Director and Partnership Manager for University Neighborhood Partners and Assistant Professor (Research) in the College of Architecture and Planning at the University of Utah. She received her Ph.D. in Anthropology in 2002 from the University of Michigan. Her research focused on community organizing, leadership, and gender relations. She has spent time in Italy, India and Nepal working with community development organizations, and before that worked as a journalist in Italy. Sarah began working for UNP in 2002, shortly after its inception. Her current work focuses on partnerships in the areas of resident empowerment and community leadership, capacity-building, and collaborative community-based research. An anthropologist by training, Sarah is particularly interested in community development and leadership in multi-cultural settings. She speaks Spanish and Italian fluently, and spends much of her time meeting with partners to strengthen partnerships between University and community resources in a way that creates positive change in west side neighborhoods while at the same time strengthening the community engagement mission of the University. She received her BA in History from Harvard University, and her MA in Anthropology from the University of She grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and now loves to hike and camp in Utah’s beautiful mountains with her husband, Claudio, and sons, Powell and Nico.

Ken Embley
Ken Embley is an Associate Instructor and Director of Outreach for the Center for Public Policy and Administration (CPPA) at the University of Utah. His primary responsibility at CPPA is to work with his team and provide outreach programs tailored to meet specific needs of public organizations. His areas of expertise include the facilitation, consultation, instruction and administration of leadership, management and organizational development programs and services.

Mr. Embley is the author of The Road to Community, a how-to workbook for engaging residents, developing neighborhoods and improving community. Over 250 residents from the Salt Lake City Westside now employ new skills to build community by performing community service; forming not for profit organizations; and serving in various leadership positions ranging from parents who are active in developing schools, to mentors and counselors, and elected officials, including one SLC School Board member and a member of the Salt Lake City Council.

Mr. Embley is also adept in the practice of adaptive leadership and exercising this work to the benefit of numerous governmental organizations and to the satisfaction of Honors College and graduate students at the University of Utah and many Salt Lake County and Utah State employees who have completed his Adaptive Leadership course.

Mr. Embley is an accredited Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR), Human Resources Certification Institute; Alexandria, Virginia. He has a Master in Human Resource Economics and baccalaureate degrees in both Political Science and Management, all from the University of Utah.

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