Learning and Leading: Insights from Leadership Bend

By Camilla Cok, AIA

Associate principal Camilla Cok is set to graduate from Leadership BendA program of Bend Chamber, Leadership Bend is a community leadership development program that has identified, educated, trained, and connected committed citizens to leadership roles in Central Oregon for the past 30 years. Over the course of nine months, participants engage with local leaders to explore regional issues and enhance their leadership skills. The curriculum includes servant leadership topics and a class capstone project, fostering a deep understanding of the area’s challenges and opportunities. With nearly 600 alumni, Leadership Bend graduates serve as community “trustees” in various capacities, including nonprofit board members, elected officials, and civic committee members, significantly contributing to the community’s growth and governance. Here, Camilla reflects on her experiences with the program and the importance of community involvement and understanding.

During my time as a member of Leadership Bend, I attended nine monthly day-long workshops. I learned from and engaged with remarkable speakers from our region. Workshops included topics such as local history, education, news and media, natural sources and forest management, politics, and economics. Expert speakers shared insights on these subjects, encouraging discussions and addressing questions from members.

Part of my membership included a group capstone project working with local nonprofit Bethlehem Inn, a high-barrier emergency shelter that offers lodging, meals, and case management services for adults and children experiencing homelessness in Central Oregon. We developed a script for an orientation video for new arrivals at Bethlehem Inn. Previously, newcomers received a multi-page document outlining rules and guidelines that they were expected to read and comprehend in a short amount of time; our streamlined script and video made the process more efficient and less daunting. We partnered with Treeline Creative to produce the video, which we participated in as actors. The outcome is a video that Bethlehem Inn can use during intake, on their website, and share with partner agencies that refer clients to Bethlehem Inn. The video includes subtitles in multiple languages to ensure inclusivity.

I also attended various events organized by the City of Bend and the Chamber, such as city council meetings and “What’s Brewing” events, enriching my understanding and engagement in the community.

The pillars of Leadership Bend align well with Hennebery Eddy’s commitment to embracing community and renewing our environment.

The pillars of Leadership Bend align well with Hennebery Eddy’s commitment to embracing community and renewing our environment. I was able to engage deeply with the local community, and partnering with a local nonprofit removed barriers to understanding and serving parts of our community that are often overlooked. Pausing to connect, learn, and contribute meaningfully will help revitalize communities and advance our knowledge of local history and ongoing developments that affect our environment.

Participating in Leadership Bend significantly expanded my understanding of Central Oregon, our history, and how I can better serve my community. I gained valuable insights into the operations of nonprofits and how to become more actively involved. The program provided a comprehensive understanding of local governance, decision-making processes, and ways to positively impact these areas in the future. As a newer resident of Bend, I also forged new connections and friendships with community members who have unique backgrounds and knowledge, which I find immensely valuable.

I highly recommend that anyone interested in learning more about Bend or developing their leadership skills apply to this program. It’s a fantastic opportunity, and I hold it in high regard. The quality of the speakers and the people you will meet, network with, and form connections with is exceptional. This experience has made me incredibly proud to be part of this community. I was truly impressed by my classmates and the passion everyone brought to the program.