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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Central and Northwest RSDPs Seek Idea Briefs


The Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships (RSDP) connect greater Minnesota communities to the University of Minnesota in order to help solve problems and take advantage of new opportunities.  RSDP works to connect knowledge, resources, and seed funding to drive sustainability in its four core areas of agriculture and food systems, tourism and resilient communities, natural resources, and clean energy.  There are five regional partnerships within Minnesota.  At this time the Central RSDP and Northwest RSDP are seeking idea briefs for seed funding they have available to support projects in their areas that leverage community participation and build strong partnerships with University of Minnesota.  Individuals, organizations, and groups are encouraged to apply.

The Central RSDP serves Central Minnesota including Becker, Benton, Cass, Crow Wing, Hubbard, Kanabec, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Otter Tail, Stearns, Todd, and Wadena Counties.  Idea briefs are due by March 31, 2017 and implemented in the summer of 2017.  To discuss your project contact Molly Zins at zend0007@umn.edu or 218-828-2332.


The Northwest RSDP is not defined by county boundaries but generally serves Kittson, Roseau, Lake of the Woods, Marshall, Pennington, Red Lake, Clearwater, Beltrami, Polk, Norman, Mahnomen, Clay, and Wilkin counties as well as Ottertail and Becker for food system work.  Idea briefs are due by April 3 for request of $1500 or less.  Project requests larger than $1500 can also be submitted but require a full proposal.  Contact Linda Kingery at 218-281-8697 or kinge002@umn.edu to learn about submitting a full proposal or with questions on idea briefs.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Minnesota's Township Day is March 14, 2017


Minnesota is made up of 1,790 townships and represent a key piece of our state's history.  The township model is a carryover from Europe but was used as Minnesota’s original form of government dating back to the Northwest Ordinance of 1787.  Townships were originally plotted to represent 36 square miles but this has changed as cities have grown and areas have been annexed and merged.  Despite these changes the democratic process and leadership shown at the township level are important.  The work done at the township level has been described by the Association of Minnesota Counties as a way to experience democracy at its purest form.

The second Tuesday of March offers citizens the opportunity to participate in this grassroots form of democracy.  Every township must hold an annual meeting on the second Tuesday, which in 2017 is March 14.  The meeting will include election of one or more supervisors who serve a three year term.  Even if you did not meet the filing time for township office, there is generally a write in line on all township ballots that allow a write-in candidate.  The meeting will also include reports on various committees and a review of the audit.  Township members that are present have the opportunity to ask questions on the reports and information shared as well as vote on the tax levy.

Participating in government at the township level is an opportunity every Minnesotan has to lead.  Although many think townships are only in rural areas, townships are in urban centers as well.  To find out what township you live in visit your county’s website or contact your county Auditor’s office.  You can also find out the meeting location and time by checking your local newspaper.  Each township is required to post this information for the public.


The Association of Minnesota Townships can help you  learn more about the work done within townships and how to be involved.  They also have a great resource to answer questions you may have about serving on your township board.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Alumni Impact: McLeod For Tomorrow's 5th Annual WinterFest


Do you or your family have a case of cabin fever?  Do you want to find something different to do this weekend?  Alumni from McLeod For Tomorrow have just the event to get rid of those winter blues and celebrate all that winter has to offer.  McLeod for Tomorrow’s 5th Annual WinterFest will be held this Saturday, February 4 at the McLeod County Fairgrounds in Hutchinson, MN.  This event features dogsled rides, alpacas, ice skating, the U of M Rapture Center, the opportunity to meet the characters from Frozen and much more!  The day runs from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and admission and most activities are FREE!  They will have food and beverages available for a small cost.  All money raised from the event benefits the McLeod for Tomorrow leadership program and was created by the program’s alumni.  

McLeod For Tomorrow (MFT) is a county bridging leadership program that began in 2008 in central Minnesota.  Over the course of nine months, participants visit the various communities of McLeod County to develop leadership skills, learn about the different communities and county as a whole, and build relationships with fellow participants.  Christy Christensen, Class of 2011, shared that getting to know people who want to do things in their community was one of the highlights of the program.  Those relationships and networks have led people to join the program such as Al Koglin, Class of 2013.  Al said that he had heard good things from others who went through the program and was not disappointed when he joined the class.  He has actually sent his own staff through the program and plans on sending more in the future.

Both Al and Christy found that through the program they built relationships that helped them want to do more for their communities.  This desire to help strengthen their communities led them to work with others to create WinterFest, an annual day of fun that celebrates the fun that Minnesota winters have to offer.  Now in its fifth year, the event continues to grow.  “There is nothing better than seeing 150 people one year and then 2,500 people the next,” said Christensen who serves as the Chair of the WinterFest Committee.

As WinterFest has grown, alumni from MFT continue to join in the work and help support the event.  Koglin said that working on this event has allowed he and others to use many of the skills that they learned during the program.  “There are so many things that I have taken away from the program and used in my day to day life.”  Christensen feels that alumni continue to be engaged with WinterFest because "there is something about being part of an event that means something to the community.”  He shared that it can be powerful to see all members of the community regardless of their background coming together to enjoy the day.

If you are in the Hutchinson area this weekend check out this great event!  Stay up to date with event details by checking their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/McleodForTomorrow/.   If you would like to learn more about the McLeod for Tomorrow Leadership Program visit their website.

Do you have an event or story to share?  Contact Christy Kallevig, Alumni Program and Cohort Coordinator at kallevig@umn.edu.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Read to Lead


Community: The Structure of Belonging by Peter Block
4 part ONLINE book discussion
March 7, March 21, April 4, and April 18
12:00 - 1:00 p.m. (CST)
Register here

We are excited to offer a new opportunity for alumni and friends of the Center for Community Vitality.  The Read to Lead Series gives participants the chance to explore books that are discussed during our various Extension programs.  Over the course of four online gatherings you will explore sections of the book and discuss ideas with others who are excited about making things happen in their community.  The final session will feature a presentation by an Extension Educator on a specific idea of topic from the book.

Our first selection is Community: The Structure of Belonging by Peter Block.  We have all seen our communities become divided or fragmented based on specific issues or work.  We have also seen people become more disconnected from their community.  When this happens we lose out on new ideas and the gifts that those individuals bring.  Peter Block explores how to build community by seeing the possibilities that exist.  He helps us look at ways to create openings for authentic communities and gives real strategies for how to make this happen.

Beth Kallestad, Leadership and Civic Engagement Educator, will join the fourth session to lead a discussion on the power of the invitation.  She will provide strategies to help you open the door to working and learning with others in your community.

Participation in the book discussions is FREE!  You can find Community: The Structure of Belonging by Peter Block at your local library, book store, and through online retailers.

Make sure to register today!  Registration closes February 21, 2017. 

Friday, January 6, 2017

Vibrant Economies, Vibrant Communities



Economic development in communities does not happen because one person says that they are going to “do” economic development.  It happens because many community players come to the table to work together to strengthen the local business economy.  University of Minnesota Extension’s Business Retention and Expansion (BR&E) Strategies Program is here to help community leaders understand the needs and concerns of local businesses.  By understanding and addressing common business concerns, the community ensures a healthier future for itself.  The BR&E Strategies Program focuses on short term and long term objectives that help your community address issues today while planning for the future.  Extension offers BR&E courses online and in person to help community development professionals and community leaders understand the principles of BR&E and the processes involved.  This course will prepare you to lead a BR&E effort in your community and provide you with access to valuable resources.  You can currently register for course offerings in 2017 by visiting http://z.umn.edu/1bjd!  An in person class will begin on January 31 and the next online class will start on April 5.  Register by January 13 to take advantage of this great program!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Exploring Communities Using Minnesota Compass


The 2017 calendar presents us with 365 days to make a difference in our communities.   A great tool to help us on this journey is Minnesota Compass.  Minnesota Compass is a project led by the Wilder Foundation that gives everyone in Minnesota common information on a variety of social topic areas.  The information is not just statewide data, but is broken down into regional and county specific data.  Data is also presented for larger cities.  Minnesota Compass provides the opportunity to look at data and trends within your county and region to better understand what is really happening and how you compare to other areas of the state.  The data and trends analysis available to users can help you work with elected officials, write grants to support work in your community, or engage leaders in conversations about changes happening in your area.  Take some time to explore the great data that is available through their website as well as following @MNCompass on Twitter and MN Compass on Facebook.  It is a resource you won’t want to ignore as you do your work in 2017.

Photo credit: Flickr user Noga

Friday, December 23, 2016

Season's Greetings from the Center for Community Vitality


All of us at University of Minnesota Extension's Center for Community Vitality wish you a happy holiday season!  We have enjoyed the opportunity to work with you in 2016 and look forward to what is yet to come in the new year.
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