Community Development

Thematic Areas


Purdue Extension aims to assist Indiana communities to have thriving and resilient economies, quality infrastructure and sustainable job opportunities for its residents. This thematic area provides evidence-based community-led programming for local and regional organizations as well as traditional programming for businesses and individuals. The ultimate goal is to assist local communities and key decision-makers to collaborate on policies and growth strategies in target sectors to drive economic growth for counties, regions, and all of Indiana.

Signature Programs


This program is geared towards current and future farm managers/owners, agribusinesses and small business owners who are looking to improve their human resource management (HRM) skills. The program includes hands-on activities to engage managers to increase management awareness and ability.

Interactive sessions aim to build skills in a wide variety of human resource management topics important to farm businesses and small businesses. Learn from other farmers and managers to take home effective and practical approaches to human resource management.

digital-ready-business.pngPurdue Extension Community Development’s Digital Ready initiative advances the capacity of small businesses to strengthen their knowledge and application of broadband strategies. Through interactive workshops and online courses led by a statewide team of Purdue trainers, participants learn about the importance of the digital economy, how to incorporate digital strategies into the workplace and build technical knowledge.


On Local Government provides local elected officials and community leaders with timely information and resources about the local government revenue system, legislative changes, the state budget and other issues that impact local government finance. The programming consists of webinars and regional programs which provide information on local and state government public finance. In addition to webinars and workshops, On Local Government provides an array of resources for understanding local government finance.

work-ready.pngPurdue Extension’s Work Ready Program is designed to teach life skills necessary to increase the number of qualified applicants for job openings in the United States. The program can be taught to youth as well as displaced adult workers who have limited work experience or education. Through this series of 10 interactive 1-hour modules, participants learn about personal accountability, career planning, time management, budgeting and money management and how to present themselves in a positive way when seeking a job.

Specifically, the Work Ready program’s goals are:

  • Increase participants' soft skills
  • Increase participants' chances of securing a job and maintaining the position
  • Resume development
  • Successful interview skills


Experience Incubator is designed to harness the power of entrepreneurial thought and action to translate 50+ years of experience into the skills and mindset needed to develop a business. Lessons are designed to demystify entrepreneurship and help participants understand how they have been acting entrepreneurial all their lives, be it managing a home, balancing family and career, running a farm, etc.

Purdue Extension will teach a series of interactive workshops to help individuals in the 50+ age range discover their inner entrepreneur and the initial steps needed to launch a business. 

In addition to the workshops, you will be connected to coaching from the Small Business Development Center after completion if you choose to move forward with your business idea.


Collaborative Projects


Remote work is any form of work in which you are not required to regularly commute to and work from a centralized location. Since 2005, remote work has grown by 173%. This means that regardless of where you live, there are work opportunities which you can take advantage of today.

To learn about other community economics and workforce development programs offered by Purdue, click here.


Health and wellness are complex concepts rooted in the interaction between individuals, communities, and the community capitals. This thematic area aims to foster health and wellness at the community level through community-led, evidence-based educational programming, technical assistance, and facilitated processes that recognize the importance of the social determinants and culture of health.

Signature Programs

enhancing-the-value-of-public-spaces.pngIn Indiana, community leaders make decisions about public spaces such as parks, trails, farmers markets, schools, and Main Streets every day that affect the health and wellness of the community. Using Purdue Extension’s Enhancing the Value of Public Spaces: Creating Healthy Communities program, facilitators coach communities through the development of a high-quality action plan for their public spaces. The plan can guide decisions and better position communities to take advantage of opportunities to promote healthy eating and active living.

Collaborative Projects

tasc.pngTaking Action to Address Substance Use in Communities has been developed by a team of health professionals and Extension professionals from Purdue University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and The Ohio State University to provide a theoretical framework for Extension professionals as they work with communities to create a collaborative approach to addressing substance use disorder. The waning and irregular access to treatment providers in rural areas, combined with a need to increase efforts to help individuals with SUD enter recovery, call for community-based approaches which increase collaboration among community organizations and individuals involved with substance use prevention, treatment, and recovery support.

To learn more about other community health programs offered by Purdue, click here.


Communities are more resilient and thriving when local leaders and community members have the knowledge, skills, and engagement to plan for the future and respond to existing opportunities and challenges. Community planning extension programs support informed decision-making and increased participation in local planning activities

Signature Programs

american-citizen-planner.pngAmerican Citizen Planner – Indiana provides training to Indiana citizen planners who currently serve or plan to serve on area or advisory plan commissions. The program features 31 topics detailing core planning theories, practices, and processes. A comprehensive assessment and four virtual training events reinforce the content learned in the units. The program is hosted by a local Purdue Extension educator for either a county or a region.

digital-ready-community.pngThe Digital Ready Community program empowers communities to increase civic engagement, trust, and local government responsiveness by leveraging digital platforms. A team of Purdue specialists and educators guides the community in forming a digital asset group (DAG), inventory digital assets, and draft a community-wide digital engagement plan. Deliverables include the formation of the DAG, DAG’s operational agreement and a community-wide digital engagement plan. The program lasts 6-9 months.


From improving access to fruits and vegetables to educating people on how food is grown, community gardens offer many benefits to the place you call home. Grass to Garden is a Purdue Extension Signature Program co-led by members from both the Agriculture and Natural Resources and Community Development Educator teams to bring Indiana residents together and teach tactics on how to start a community-based garden. Using an interdisciplinary approach, the Purdue Extension Grass to Garden Signature Program aims to provide information focused on more than just growing plants by strengthening agricultural and community development efforts, resulting in healthier communities with improved access to local food.


Collaborative Projects


Communities face several challenges and complex decisions related to natural hazards, which are increasingly exacerbated by climate change. Furthermore, the increased frequency of extreme weather events creates a widespread challenge for managing stormwater, flooding, and extreme heat. Integrating mitigation and resilience strategies into multiple community plans and policies is essential if communities are to adapt to these climate challenges successfully.


Rainscaping is a combination of sustainable landscape design and management practices that prevents polluted runoff from reaching water bodies — directing stormwater to be absorbed by plants and soils.

The Purdue Rainscaping Education Program provides training and resources on rainscaping practices that can be installed in residential settings or small-scale public spaces projects.

one-block-at-a-time.pngGreat Lakes communities experience frequent severe storms, flooding, and degraded water quality from expanding urbanization. Marginalizes communities of low income, communities of color, and those lacking access to safe and stable neighborhoods are most impacted yet often have the fewest means to adapt to water quality and quantity concerns. Three Sea Grant programs (Illinois-Indiana, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania) and key collaborators and community partners addressed the impacts of flooding and extreme weather events through paired projects in four communities, focusing on local project coordination at the scale of a city block. 


Purdue Extension Community Development is the Indiana partner for the Great Lakes Environmental Justice Thriving Communities Technical Assistance Center (TCTAC). The TCTAC’s mission is to support community organizations in successfully navigating funding opportunities to access the resources they need to lead in the transition to clean energy, pollution clean-up, and green workforce development. The TCTAC provides services to communities in the Great Lakes region–Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the 35 federally recognized Tribal nations. We seek to help communities leverage unprecedented state and federal funds to transform their communities for generations to come.


Indiana communities seek to position themselves to achieve long-term community vitality. One of the issues that emerges as a major barrier is the limited availability of a diverse stock of quality housing, especially in rural and less populated areas of the state. Purdue Extension Community Development partners with communities and state/federal agencies to seek ways to improve the mix of housing required to meet current and future housing demand.

sustainable-living-series.pngThe Sustainable Living Series aims to inform, engage and empower participants to take individual responsibility for managing Earth’s limited resources. Through a discussion-to-action format, participants of the Sustainable Living Series learn to make wise use of resources, understand the impact of individual lifestyle choices, and assist households and communities to be more resilient and financially sound.

To learn about other community planning programs offered by Purdue, click here.


Strong communities have many capable leaders and an actively engaged group of residents. Extension’s leadership programs help emerging leaders develop the knowledge, skills, and vision needed to lead effectively in 21st-century communities. In addition, its cultural competence programs expand the capacity of community practitioners to work effectively across diverse communities.



For more than 20 years, the award-winning Beginner’s Guide to Grant Writing program has been helping Hoosiers improve their communities by leveraging grants of all sizes. Participants of the Beginner’s Guide to Grant Writing workshop draft and polish a grant proposal and learn how to navigate the grant process. Both beginners and experienced grant writers learn to develop ideas into winning proposals, identify and build relationships with potential funders, and speak and write confidently about how their proposal will make an impact.

board-development.pngPurdue Extension can provide customized training and facilitation for nonprofit and local government boards and the staff who work with them.

community-leadership-program.pngConfident, skilled and knowledgeable leaders are needed to inspire, lead and foster dynamic and viable organizations and communities in Indiana. Purdue Extension’s Community Leadership Program is a locally hosted leadership development course for adults who want to make a difference in their communities. Through this series of interactive modules, participants develop their own leadership capacity and learn about the people, organizations and institutions that make up their communities and how they can engage in serving their communities more deeply.

To learn about other leadership and civic engagement programs offered by Purdue, click here.

Contact Us

Mary Komenas

Community Development Extension Educator

Purdue Extension LaPorte County

Purdue Extension - LaPorte County

2857 W. State Rd. 2, Suite A., LaPorte, IN. 46350


Our Mission

The mission of the Community Development Program Area is to strengthen the capacity of local leaders, residents and organizations to build strong, vibrant communities by using research-based resources to guide their decisions.