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Thursday, September 28, 2017

Vital Connections on Air Episode 6: Minnesota's Workforce


Minnesota has a variety of workforce challenges. In Vital Connections on Air Episode 6: Minnesota's Workforce, Laura Kalambokidis discusses how the state's tight labor market presents challenges for both employers and community members searching for creative solutions. Today's guest blogger, Michael Darger, shares his insights on this issue, as well as information about Extension's Business Retention and Expansion program.

Businesses need many resources to succeed, but which resource matters most? Strong management? Raw materials and supplies? Customers? Local support? Each is important, but most business leaders would agree that a talented workforce is crucial to success. To survive and thrive in today’s workforce environment, Minnesota businesses need skilled employees.

Quality workers—and a plentiful supply of them—are a strength of Minnesota’s economy. Despite the cold climate and perception of a higher tax environment, business has thrived here. As a result, Minnesotans benefit from above average incomes and a high quality of life. These advantages stem from our investment in education  and a quality work ethic. Still, there are, warning signals flashing about our workforce, both present and future, and we need to pay attention.

For many years, Extension has helped Minnesota communities survey local businesses through its Business Retention and Expansion (BR&E) program. In recent years, BR&E survey data reveals that local businesses see a tightening availability of a skilled workforce as the most important issue. This finding is backed up by local Minnesota economic development officials (EDOs) who were interviewed this year for a BR&E research project. “If you go to a business, they're all talking about the same thing—there's not enough workers,” said one EDO. Another stated, “We are in desperate need of more employees. For all of our businesses, the struggle to find employees is getting harder.”

As Laura Kalambokidis explains, the workforce shortage in Minnesota is real and likely to grow since we have a large group of people (baby boomers) leaving the workforce. People are also moving from northern states like Minnesota to the South and West. (For example, Florida’s population increased by eight million people since 1990.) In a time of monster hurricanes, such as Harvey, Irma, and Katrina, however, these migrations might slow down or even reverse themselves. Still, it is clear that immigration to Minnesota is, and will continue to be, an important source of new residents and workers. And workforce issues will certainly continue as major news stories because of public policy implications at the federal and state levels.
What can communities do to prepare for—and respond to—the current workforce situation? Laura Kalambokidis explains that a good place to start is learning about your local economy and retaining what you are already good at. This is a smart and time-tested approach. Minnesota DEED has a wealth of information online, as well as labor market analysts who can help you navigate resources. Extension also has a number of programs that help communities. If you want to learn directly from businesses already in your community or region, conducting BR&E visits provides valuable insight.


To learn more about BR&E or related resources, contact Michael Darger at darger@umn.edu or 612-625-6246.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

2017 Community Leadership Series - Succession Planning for Community Leaders


The 2017 Community Leadership is bringing a new webinar to you in October.  Our FREE webinar "Succession Planning for Community Leaders," will be on October 19, 2017 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. (CDT).  This webinar will address a topic many organizations don't think about on a regular basis, planning for the people who come behind them.

Community groups get good at planning...they focus on marketing and promoting events, coordinating fundraising activities, and getting the word out about their projects.  Those same groups, regardless of how successful they are at planning, often overlook the importance of succession planning.  Many never think about this type of planning until they realize that the person(s) holding specific leadership roles or those who have the working knowledge of the organization are ready to leave.  Succession planning is one thing leaders can do to focus on an important piece for the overall success of organizations.  

Jody Horntvedt, Leadership and Civic Engagement Educator will explore the topic of planning for changes in leadership within community groups.  Join us for this 90 minute webinar where Jody will share tips and tools for assuring that your organization is ready for changes in leadership.

Register at https://z.umn.edu/successionplanningforleaders by October 10, 2017 at 5:00 p.m. (CDT).

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Vital Connections on Air Episode 5: Minnesota's Economy 101


Minnesota’s economy is diverse. That diverse economy provides resiliency. State Economist Laura Kalambokidis joins Vital Connections On Air to explain Minnesota’s current economic situation.  We welcome Brigid Tuck, Extension Senior Economic Impact Analyst, to tell us more about Minnesota’s economy and Extension’s Economic Futures Workshops.

Minnesota’s economy, in general, looks a lot like the economy of the entire United States. This diversity helps Minnesota  weather economic downturns with fewer job losses than other states. And, the state can recover those lost jobs sooner.  Following the Great Recession of 2008-2009, Minnesota started recovering before the nation as a whole.

Extension researchers examined both employment and output in each of 12 Minnesota regions.  Read the findings and look, specifically, at your region’s economic strengths.

Is all this information intriguing to you?  Want to learn more about your own, local economy? Could your community use a deeper understanding of your local economy to make important decisions that are on the horizon. Then consider one of Extension’s Economic Futures Workshops.

The workshop helps community groups explore the local economy – what are the current strengths? What areas are growing?  What areas might be declining? How can communities help support businesses?

The workshop leads groups to understand the economic impact of 7-10 different industries on local economies. The analysis explores how much the expansion or contraction of one business in each industry would affect jobs, as well as the revenue of other businesses in the area. A facilitated discussion helps the community apply this knowledge to local discussions. As a result, the Futures Workshop helps communities look objectively at the state of their local economy.

Communities that have brought Community Futures Workshops to their area say that they walked away with a stronger understanding of their economy and increased awareness of the need to work together to grow industry. Some communities have discovered that investments they made a few years back really made a difference. Others redoubled their efforts to support their local businesses, with a fuller understanding of their importance.

If you are interested in learning more about your own economy, contact Brigid Tuck at tuckb@umn.edu or (507) 389-6979.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

2017 Community Leadership Series - Who is the next generation of leaders?


Summer might be coming to a close, but the 2017 Community Leadership Series continues with our upcoming FREE webinar, "Who Is the Next Generation of Leaders?"  Join us September 21, 2017 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. (CDT) to learn more about this interesting topic that explores the new generational cohorts who live and lead in our communities. 

We have been hearing a lot about millennials in the media but what do we really know about them and their impact on our communities?  It is sometimes hard to distinguish facts in all of the reports about this generational cohort that is larger than the Baby Boomers.  As community leaders, it is important to understand the new generation of leaders who will be working beside us in organizations and leadership.

Join Brian Fredrickson, Leadership and Civic Engagement Educator, as he explores the unique characteristics of the millennial and digital cohorts.  This webinar will present research and insights on key factors such as community involvement, communication styles, and motivation to help you welcome the next generation of leaders.

Register at https://z.umn.edu/nextgenleaders by September 12, 2017 at 5:00 p.m. (CDT).

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Vital Connections On Air Episode 4: ReGen


Vital Connections On Air Episode 4 features ReGen, a grassroots organization located on Minnesota’s Iron Range. This group of motivated millennials help young newcomers, and those who are “young at heart,” develop social roots on the range. Social roots are the connections that make a community feel like home to its residents.   More important, they inspire you to make the community stronger.


Char Conger, Jessalyn Sabin, and Desiree Yourczek arrived in the Iron Range for different reasons. Char was relocated for work but ended up staying. Jessalyn and Desiree grew up on the Range, left for school, and then returned. What ties their stories together is that each of them wanted to build relationships when they arrived on the Range—to  connect with other community members.


Scholars refer to the connections that we make as social capital. Social capital is gaining more attention, because  it is critical to the health and vitality of communities. Social capital is made up of bonding networks and bridging networks.


Bonding networks refer to strong connections built among people who have similar backgrounds and everyday experiences, such as family, friends, and neighbors.  Bridging networks refer to weaker connections among people with diverse backgrounds, such as members of organizations, or associations outside a person’s inner circle. Although both types of networks are necessary, bridging networks help people meet bigger challenges and take advantage of opportunities. Social roots grow from these networks.


ReGen, and other groups and organizations like them are addressing  a need that has always existed in communities—our emotional need to create a life beyond work.  Millennials, the generation born between 1981 and 1995, place a higher value on work-life balance. Ben Winchester suggests it is necessary to show millennials the entire community— not just production or office areas—to get them to live and work in your community. Groups such as ReGen are an asset to businesses and communities because they build the necessary connections to recruit and retain the next generation of citizens and employees.   

Showing people what you love about your area, sharing its history and story, and connecting them with other newcomers is a powerful way to strengthen a community. Helping others to put down social roots impacts their personal narrative as well as the narrative shared about your community. It can also help you explore your own narrative. For Char Conger, becoming involved and learning about the region changed how she viewed her life on the Range. Char decided “to be the person that I’ve been in other communities.”  She became involved in organizations, she attended community gatherings.  She became an iron ranger.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Vital Connections On Air Episode 3: The Leadership Gap


We have all received the phone call or had the conversation at the grocery store. One of the community groups in town needs a board member, a volunteer, more people to bring bars.  If you are like me, you say that of course you will do what you can, but as you walk out of the store or hang up the phone all you can think is:  "Isn't there someone else who can help?"  


If you think this is happening more often in your small community, you might be right!  According to Ben Winchester, senior research fellow for University of Minnesota Extension's Center for Community Vitality, we are facing a leadership gap. In his recent analysis, he found that 1 in 16 people must serve as a leader in rural Minnesota counties. Urban and metro areas are also seeing a need for leadership but because of the size of their communities, their leadership demand is more like 1 in 51 people. Ben shares his research on this topic in our new episode of Vital Connections On Air.


This need for leadership is not due only to changing demographics.  According to Ben it is because Minnesota is a leader in the number of non-profits available to meet needs in our communities.  The growth in the number of nonprofits throughout Minnesota leads to more people needed to serve in leadership roles.  Between the years of 2000 and 2010, Minnesota saw a 19.3 percent increase in the number of nonprofits.  This is compared to an 8% increase in population during that same time period.  With this type of nonprofit growth, Ben estimates that we need 1,700 new leaders each year to fill the demand seen across our state.


There are many things communities can do to address the leadership needs they see in their communities.  One of the first things community members can do is engage with newcomers who are moving to their communities.  This does not mean introducing yourself and then abruptly asking them to join the board of the local organization. t means taking time to build a relationship.  Engaging in community work is a personal decision that is encouraged through relationships and connections.  By taking time to visit the new person who moved in down the street, learning about their interests, and connecting them to the right group or person, you build social capital that will strengthen your community.  


You might even open up one night of your overflowing meeting schedule somewhere down the road.


Communities can also facilitate connections among newcomers.  Ben shared in Episode 1: Not Your Grandpa's Rural that the best $150 dollars a community can spend is on a newcomer dinner.  This gathering encourages people who have chosen to join your community to create connections with each other and with the rest of the community  If you create these opportunities, you benefit from meeting newcomers, and they benefit because they learn who else is in their community and begin to build social roots.


Extension has also helped communities address the leadership gap by co-creating community and county-based leadership programs.  There are a variety of types of programs throughout Minnesota. Leadership programs  are led by community members and groups that are committed to helping prepare the next generation of leaders.  These leadership programs build upon Extension’s model that brings the same group of people (i.e., “cohorts) together over multiple months to explore different leadership topics.  The programs are created by a local Design Team. Extension Leadership and Civic Engagement educators design and deliver an educational program that  meets the unique goals and outcomes desired by that community, county, or region.  

Learn more about the unique aspects of the various programs and how to become involved if one is in your area. If you are interested in finding out how to bring leadership development opportunities to your community, contact Holli Arp, Program Leader for Leadership and Civic Engagement, at arpxx001@umn.edu.

Photo Credit: Flickr user pantin5

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Vital Connections On Air Episode 2: Make It Litchfield

Communities have the power to tell their own story.  Litchfield, Minnesota has been working to create a narrative that reflects their community and tells a story that is optimistic and focused on the future.  We are joined by Judy Hulterstrum and David Krueger who share how they have implemented a program called Make It Litchfield that has brought together the entire community to write a narrative for this generation.

Make It Litchfield is a local program that was developed using the Making It Home program that is now available through University of Minnesota Extension. Thank you to our guest blogger, Neil Linscheid, who has contributed information about this great program.

What is the Making It Home program?
The Making It Home program is a new program from the University of Minnesota Extension. Making It Home is focused on supporting local people as they make intentional efforts to market their community and make their community a more attractive place to live. The program is designed around the idea that people from your community know which assets are worth promoting and which areas of the community need to be improved.
The process works by mobilizing a small group of people to lead a series of conversations that explore the motivations for people considering your community and the assets they love. The conversations are led by local people, explore local topics, and produce a resident retention and recruitment plan. We believe that the best spokesperson for your town is everyone.
Why have a program?
Proclamations about the death of small towns are everywhere. However, almost half of Minnesotans move every five years. Communities are not dying they are changing. People are choosing to move to our rural communities for what they are and what they will be, not necessarily what they have been.  It’s a vibrant future for your community that will make it irresistible for potential new residents, not a nostalgic past.
Community leaders across the state have expressed interest in taking action to rewrite the narrative of their community. This program is a direct response to that interest. It encourages and supports people that want to prepare and position their community for the demographic changes that are coming.
Our approach developed as a result of research at the University of Nebraska. In the past year, we have trained our staff in facilitating this program and have successful completed our first efforts in Litchfield.

If you’re community is interested contact Neil Linscheid at lins0041@umn.edu or (507) 476-1068

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

2017 Community Leadership Series - Let's Talk about Race: Becoming Reflective about White Privilege in Civic Leadership



There are more great programs coming from the 2017 Community Leadership Series.  Our August webinar explores a topic that is challenging but important to help leaders working in our increasingly diverse communities.  Let's Talk about Race: Becoming Reflective about White Privilege in Civic Leadership will be presented online from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. (CDT) on Thursday, August 17, 2017.  
How do our patterns of thinking and our shared history influence the way we lead? Using personal stories and case studies, we will introduce and examine race, white privilege, structural racism, internalized racism, bias, color blindness, intersectionality, and white fragility to foster a personal reflection and collective conversation about race as a key element in civic leadership. 

How we lead, whether through influencing public policies, shaping organizational practices, or sustaining cultural beliefs may yield inequity among diverse community members and be informed by unconscious/unrecognized bias. This webinar will present research to help you understand how these systems have developed throughout history and discuss strategies to foster a genuine conversation about race that works towards equity for all community members.

This session is presented by Fernando Burga, Assistant Professor at University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs, and Eriks Dunens, Statewide Extension Educator in Leadership and Civic Engagement.

Register HERE through August 3 to be a part of this great learning event!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Vital Connections On Air Episode 1: It's Not Your Grandpa's Rural

The Center for Community Vitality is proud to introduce Vital Connections On Air, a podcast that brings you information and research from University of Minnesota Extension and stories from communities around Minnesota.  This podcast will feature some of your favorite Extension educators and researchers as well as new voices from within the University of Minnesota.  We are also excited to introduce you to great people from around Minnesota who are doing the same work you are within their communities.

In our first episode, we are joined by Ben Winchester, Senior Research Fellow with University of Minnesota Extension's Center for Community Vitality.  Ben has done extensive research in the area of rural migration patterns, which is referred to as the "Brain Gain."  In his visit to our podcast he is discussing the way we choose where we live, work, and play as well as how the narrative of communities impacts those decisions.

The Pew Research Center, as reported by Winchester, Spanier, & Nash (2011), has found that 51% of individuals prefer to live in small or rural communities.  This is a surprising number to individuals who live in these communities and might think "they aren't here!"  But they are coming.  Ben has seen in communities across Minnesota small population changes each year.  Theses changes don't necessarily always indicate growth but the changes are enough to keep small communities moving forward.  The reason they are continuing to come to our small communities is because of the unique things that are offered that enhance their overall quality of life.

"People aren't necessarily moving to your community because of a job," according to Ben.  He indicates that it is the narrative of your community and really the region that is bringing people to communities.  Due to the increase in people who work from home, or what is sometimes referred to as 1099 workers, there is more flexibility in where people live.  As newcomers are coming to your community they are looking at all of the things that are available to them within the region and so it is important to support a healthy and positive story for not only your community but the entire area.

So how do you write a good narrative for your community?  It starts with a conversation.  Ben encourages us to get to know the new people in our communities.  This might be by going and introducing ourselves to new neighbors or the creation of a newcomers supper.  As you meet these newcomers find out what drew them to your community.  This information will help you to start to develop the story you tell others.  It is also important to talk with our youth and tell them the narrative that we want others to know about our communities.  If all we tell our kids is that they need to get out of the area to succeed, that is what they will believe.

The biggest thing that Ben encourages communities to do is not think about what you were, but think about what you are and want to be in the future.  No one is moving to your community because of what it was in 1950.  They are coming now because you offer something that is of value and interest to them.  Be proud of that and share it with the world.  That is YOUR new narrative and not your grandpa's.

Click HERE to listen to Vital Connections on Air Episode 1: It's Not Your Grandpa's Rural.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

2017 Community Leadership Series - Leading with Intercultural Competence


The 2017 Community Leadership Series continues with its July webinar "Leading with Intercultural Competence."  This webinar will be held on Thursday, July 20, 2017 from 11:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. (CST).

Our communities are becoming increasingly diverse.  When leading in diverse communities, leaders must be aware of their own beliefs and views of different cultures as well as how that impacts their ability to work across cultures to benefit a community.  Leaders who have an awareness of these issues are able to contribute to the creation of thriving and welcoming places.

This unique webinar offering allows participants the opportunity to complete the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) online.   The IDI provides you with information on your own "orientations toward cultural difference and commonality."  The profile that you will receive can help you to think about your experiences around cultural differences and similarities.  

As part of the online webinar, Toby Spanier, Leadership and Civic Engagement Extension educator, will discuss the importance of intercultural competence in building community.  He will also provide information and insights into the assessment tool that will help you to better understand your individual results.  He will also discuss how to take the information from the assessment and build action steps to further your understanding and personal development.

The cost of this online experience is $30 for the cost and processing of the assessment tool.  Registration is open at this LINK through June 23, 2017 at 5:00 p.m. (CST).  To learn more about other upcoming learning opportunities visit the 2017 Community Leadership Series page.

Monday, May 8, 2017

2017 Community Leadership Series - Strengthening Trust in Communities


Join us for the first webinar of the 2017 Community Leadership Series on June 8, 2017 beginning at 11:00 a.m. (CST) as we discuss the impacts of trust in our communities.  Research shows that trust is closely correlated to positive benefits such as increased efficiency and effectiveness.  We also see through research that the lack of trust leads to disengagement and loss of creativity.  The presence, or lack of, trust has even greater impacts on relationship in communities with diverse cultures.

Leadership and Civic Engagement Educators, Eriks Dunens and Dawn Newman, will explore the types of trust and the three most common places where trust is built or lost.  They will also discuss the challenges and opportunities that exist in diverse communities to strengthen networks and build trust.  This 90 minute webinar is FREE and can be enjoyed from the comfort of your home or office.  Invite a fellow community leader or colleague to join you for this informational and interactive webinar.   Register today at http://z.umn.edu/2017trust.  Registration closes May 25, 2017.

The 2017 Community Leadership offers a ninety minute webinar each month, June through November.  Take time for yourself to learn about new topics, deepen your understandings, and connect with other leaders around the nation who are working to strengthen their communities.  To learn more about the series visit the 2017 Community Leadership webpage and watch this blog for registration announcement.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Advance Your Leadership Skills with YouLead 8


We are excited to announce the upcoming 2017-2018 leadership cohort, YouLead: leadership for you and your community, formerly the U-Lead Advisory Academy. As passionate members of Minnesota communities we invite you to register for and join YouLead.

YouLead is an opportunity to build leadership skills while connecting with others who are working on complex community issues. Through the program, you will have the opportunity to:
  • Expand your leadership through community site visits, discussion,interactive lessons, hands-on learning, a national tour and reflection.
  • Explore thought-provoking topics such as powerful communication, unconscious bias, successful teams, motivations, strengths, conflict, well-being, and decision-making - all built on a foundation of Core Leadership Competencies™.
  • Discover Extension’s innovative programs and partnerships.

You can read more about the program at z.umn.edu/youlead. This site provides the schedule, program background information, registration costs and instructions, and highlights from past participants. We welcome you to also share this information with your connections throughout the state.



Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Minnesota Council of Nonprofits Hosts Advanced Grantwriting Workshop


Have you sat in committee meetings and someone suggests applying for a grant and the entire room moans?  Grantwriting can be a complex process but it can also help you to define the story that you are trying to tell not only a specific funder but your entire community.  The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits is offering a two part advanced grantwriting workshop on April 20 and May 18, 2017.  Participants in this workshop will have the opportunity to learn strategies and techniques to write sound grants that enhance an organizations marketing strategy.  This workshop also offers you the opportunity to submit a proposal and get immediate feedback to help you learn and better understand the grantwriting process.  Click HERE to learn more or register for this opportunity.  Make sure to visit their Events and Training page for more learning and networking opportunities.

Photo Credit: flickr user 401(K) 2012

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

New Program to Support Distressed Farmers


Less than one percent of Minnesotans work in the agricultural sector yet we all feel its economic impacts.    As Minnesota’s farmers prepare for the 2017 planting season many of them are also facing financial struggles due to on-going low prices and other factors.  University of Minnesota Extension has announced that it will begin offering one-to-one financial counseling to farmers in serious financial stress. 

The Extension program is expected to run for two years and will augment other services currently available in Minnesota such as the Farmer-Lender Mediation program and the Minnesota Farm Advocates assistance program.  Farmers who participate in the new program will have the opportunity to work with retired agricultural business professionals, who have updated training, and are available across the state.  All of the professionals will also work closely with current Extension educators and Extension's Agricultural Business Management program. 


To learn more about the program and set up a confidential appointment call the Farm Information Line at 1-800-232-9077.  

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
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