Putting up a tent while blindfolded may not seem like an enjoyable activity, but Kerryn Lee found it to be rewarding.
Ms Lee and 23 others who graduated from Alpine Valleys in 2018 tackled the tent challenge during their initial "ice-breaker" retreat.
"We had to work as a team with one person telling everyone how to put up the tent blindfolded," she said.
"It's developing trust and communication.
"It became a close-knit group because we all shared the same experiences.
"But I think everybody gets something different out of it."
For Allan Thrum, project manager at Wangaratta Council, networking with the cohort of 2016 was a good outcome.
"One of the biggest things I got out of it was the community networking," he said.
"All the alumni come from various towns and getting to know those people has created long-term friendships and contacts."
Emma Williamson said her management role at an aged care facility in Shepparton benefited from her experiences in the program.
"Developing my confidence with public speaking, conflict management and those sorts of things, certainly helped in my professional role," she said.
Participants are selected carefully to ensure a diversity of genders, backgrounds and skills - because the learnings not only come from mentors and speakers, but peers.
The program runs through fortnightly sessions from July to the following May and includes mentoring and study trips to parliament.
Ms Lee, at the time working for then-Indi MP Cathy McGowan, facilitated the first trip to Canberra for the program in 2017.
One of the best pieces of advice she received as a participant the following year, was from executive officer Anthony Brophy.
"He said 'Here's your agenda for the day, have a look at it and then put it to the side'," she said.
"'Just be there for the day, don't anticipate what's going to be next, and stay focused on who is there in front of you now and what you can learn from that person'."
Mr Brophy said he and the board were proud to be contributing to the community in such a way.
"Every time you make a decision, you're having an impact one way or another on other people," he said.
"They're the aspects of leadership people learn through the program that are harder to articulate.
"How much richer is the North East two decades later, than what it was before the program started?"
From natural-born, to learned leaders
Three of six candidates making their case to represent Indi at an election forum earlier this year had something in common; they were all graduates of the Alpine Valleys Leadership Program.
Helen Haines, Steve Martin and Helen Robinson are among 416 AVLP alumni, who range from policymakers to police officers.
This type of mentorship traces back to Gippsland in 1996, which was followed a year later by the Fairley Foundation's course in Shepparton.
Anne Shaw, who became involved in the movement in the 2000s, said locals like winemaker John Brown had spurred the North East addition.
"The first group was in 1999, and the second cohort was ready to go, but there just wasn't enough funding," she said.
"They had to pull the pin for a little while, and some of the board members and alumni that went through in 1999 decided it was too good a program for the region to lose.
"It went through a re-invigoration and that's how I got involved.
"It ran on a pretty tight budget for quite a number of years after that."
There are now 10 initiatives like it across the state.
"Victoria is now covered by community leadership programs - the state leads the way in that," Ms Shaw said.
A 2001 Fairley graduate, Anthony Brophy, is today the executive officer for the Wangaratta-based program.
"We don't just take people from Wangaratta, Albury or Wodonga, so they go back to their communities and employers with this additional capacity for leadership," he said.
"We're looking forward now to the next couple of decades, hopefully, of making that even stronger."
When the state budget was released, there was no mention of funding for the 10 leadership programs, let alone the $11 million over four years sought by the programs' secretariat.
In parliament that week, Regional Development Minister Jaclyn Symes confirmed an additional year's funding.
Ovens Valley MP Tim McCurdy said the government needed to provide better security.
"As far as I am aware, the funding for Victoria's Regional Community Leadership Programs has been extended for a period of 12 months," he said.
"This has created uncertainty for the various programs throughout Victoria."
Mr Brophy said government was not their single funding source, but was still important.
"Participants pay a component, sometimes employers pay, we have sponsors, and for nearly a decade all the leadership programs have received funding through Regional Development Victoria," he said.
"We do rely on funding because we're a not-for-profit, but I think people put money into it because they can see the returned value."
Thanking the supporters of the program will be a focus of the 20th anniversary celebration taking place at Brown Brothers next Friday.
Karlie Langdon, who has been the Alpine Valleys Leadership Program facilitator for nearly five years, said hundreds would also reflect on its growth.
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"Each year we're becoming more over-subscribed with applicants, and the diversity of applicants based on geographic location and industry is becoming more and more extensive," he said.
"It's a really exciting time for us at the moment."
Joining Mr Brophy and Ms Langdon at the anniversary next week will be Ms Shaw.
"As far as my role went, it was the best role you could ever have," she said.
"It was quite unique to meet positive, amazing people every day of the week, from the board members to participants and speakers, who are all there to increase the capacity of our region.
"It's very good to be a part of."