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Thursday, October 29, 2015

Opportunity - Grants for rural and greater Minnesota

The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits recently highlighted a number of grants available through their Grants Alert email (if you would like to receive it, you can sign up for it here).

Two grants specifically targeted rural areas and small towns across Minnesota. They include:

Monday, October 26, 2015

Event Recap - Southwest and Southeast Minnesota Water Quality Summit on Civic Engagement

On October 15, 39 water quality professionals from across Southeast and Southwest Minnesota gathered together in Mankato to go deeper into their civic engagement practice. Examining civic engagement as defined in Extension's model, the two facilitators for the day provided examples of participatory practices that have worked to engage the public in improving water quality.

Dr. Ryan Atwell, currently with the National Park Service at Yellowstone as their Social Science Coordinator, shared his experience in using social science and civic engagement techniques to change land practices to improve water quality. His research highlights the layers of social complexity that layer on top of the ecological complexity, necessitating an engaged approach. He advocated for a style of work that allows community members to build a dream together rather than being forced to adopt a pre-determined plan.  Dr. Atwell posed the question that if research suggests adoption of new practices is based primarily on subjective values and social norms diffused through interpersonal networks, what does that mean for the work of water quality specialists?

Extension educator Tobias Spanier reinforced those lessons with an overview of different levels of participation, referencing the Spectrum created by the International Association of Public Participation. He led participants through an activity to depict their engagement with people in their watershed and place it on the spectrum. He wrapped his time by providing participants with a Strategic Doing tool for use with community so that the community can collectively own the work that needs to be done to improve water quality.

At the end of the day, participants left the event with a vision for what civic engagement might look like in their watersheds. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Learn - Tips for Effective Online Participation

Going Viral presentation - 7 minute highlight reel from IAP2 2015 from MetroQuest on Vimeo.

When embedding civic engagement into your approach to work, it is important that the public can participate through a number of avenues. Dave Biggs here lays out eight practices that have led to successful participation. The video is only seven minutes long so check it out!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Learn - Non-Traditional Leadership: Pictures of Impacts

This post is the third in a series of three detailing the learning and reflections I experienced during Creating Space XII - a conference focused on learning from non-traditional leaders. The first can be found here and the second here.

Only so much can be said about the work of non-traditional leaders. The impacts and tangible results of non-traditional leaders' work speak for themselves. This last post includes pictures from different parts of Detroit, showing the changes and impacts non-traditional leaders are making across their community.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Learn - Non-traditional Leadership: Support

This post is the second in a series of three detailing the learning and reflections I experienced during Creating Space XII - a conference focused on learning from non-traditional leaders. The remaining post in this series will arrive next week. The first can be found here.

Passion drives non-traditional leaders to work collectively to create impact from the grassroots up. They frequently face challenges to their work. Several non-traditional leaders at the conference spoke confidently that they and their communities have the inner capacities and resolve to be successful. At the same time, the question lingered - What kind of supports do non-traditional leaders self-identify as wanting and needing?

As conversations continued throughout the event, the responses sorted into internal and external responses. Non-traditional leaders were quick to share that many of the passions and emotions that drive their work like anger, a desire for justice, and pride leave them feeling burned out over time. The need for self-care came up as a response. This didn't mean better work-life balance or time with family. For those that have faced transgenerational or  historical trauma and still deal with the effects daily, non-traditional leaders spoke about self-care in terms of healing. Jah'Shams Abdul-Mu'mim describes healing as a chance to transform the pain and hurt from trauma into strength. So "it is not healing versus pain; it is healing through our pain." Healing emphasizes the need to acknowledge and process emotions.

Allen Frimpong, an organizer for #blacklivesmatter nyc, talked about how healing is essential for him because the personal is the political. The healthier he is the healthier his leadership is and the healthier his community is.

For external support, non-traditional leaders were clear about the number one interest - connections and networks. Some spoke about this as being able to access the influence not available in their own networks. Others discussed the desire to have a community of other non-traditional leaders to be present to one another in mutual support. Non-traditional leader Billy Hebron saw connections as an access to resources. He and his partner Jerry started a community garden to provide healthy vegetables to neighborhood residents when the local groceries left their neighborhood. They were able to triple the size the of the garden when grant money provided them the opportunity to build two greenhouses.

Samantha Magdaleno, an organizer and educator, talked about the needs for funders or institutions to loosen up if they want to work with non-traditional leaders. "If you want non-traditional leaders, you have to be prepared for mistakes and you have to be prepared to let go." Other non-traditional leaders echoed this in the conference. On a panel talking about measuring the impacts of non-traditional leaders, Dr. Ebony Roberts said it was key that the communities get to define what success is.

Another external support that non-traditional leaders were unified in desiring external partners and funders who encourage non-traditional leaders and communities to exercise their own voices. Where issues of race were concerned, non-traditional leaders of color spoke of tension with white allies when the white allies wanted to insert their voices in places where voices of color should be present.

So what will support look like in your community?

Come back next week for the third part of this series examining some additional reflections and learning regarding non-traditional leaders.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Learn - Non-Traditional Leadership: The Who and The What

This post is the first in a series of three detailing the learning and reflections I experienced during Creating Space XII - a conference focused on learning from non-traditional leaders. The remaining two posts in this series will arrive in the next two weeks.

Who are non-traditional leaders? And how do non-traditional leaders define themselves? What are the hallmarks of the work of non-traditional leaders?

Throughout the three-day Creating Space XII conference put on by Leadership Learning Community, the assembled group dug into these questions. Why ask these questions? Because non-traditional leaders are catalysts. Non-traditional leaders are people on the ground responding to opportunities and needs that are present in communities. Non-traditional leaders spark change, sustain efforts, and fight for those who are often overlooked or forgotten. And frequently, non-traditional leaders desire a brand of relationships and resources that are not associated with dominant culture conceptions of leadership.

So how does a non-traditional leader self-define? Throughout the conference, some described themselves as indigenous leaders. Others used the language of grassroots leadership. Some rejected the notion that they were leaders at all. Mary Luevanos, the director of Detroit non-profit Community of Latino Artists, Visionaries, and Educators, sees herself as a "type A personality who gets hot-headed about issues."

From the assembled voices of non-traditional leaders from Detroit and other Michigan communities, some common themes emerged:
  • non-traditional leaders work from the bottom up,
  • non-traditional leaders are passion driven,
  • non-traditional leaders are primarily concerned with the well-being of others and community,
  • and non-traditional leaders cannot afford to fail given the nature of the issues being addressed.
And how do non-traditional leaders work? One emergent theme was that it happens outside of the traditional 9 to 5 and workplace settings. Non-traditional leaders draw upon who they know, what they know, where they live and what they make to be successful. Importantly, non-traditional leaders work within the will of their communities.

The unfortunate flip-side for non-traditional leaders is that they and their efforts are frequently overlooked by traditional leaders and institutions in spite of the talents, wisdom, connections, skills, and success non-traditional leaders have. "Leadership" in the traditional definition is no longer acknowledging all the layers of leadership in community.

Across Minnesota, Ben Winchester has shown the increasing need for leaders in our rural and small communities. So who are the non-traditional leaders in Minnesota's communities that are being over-looked? Who are the catalysts that are making things happen after caring for their children all day or getting off of a double shift?

Come back next week for the second part of this series examining the supports non-traditional leaders desire.
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