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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 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.
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