Community Design

Minnesota Futures Pilot Project

Project Partners

  • Minnesota Design Center, College of Design, University of Minnesota

  • Southeast Minnesota Together

  • University of Minnesota Extension & SE Regional Sustainable Development Partnership

  • Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation

  • Southeast Service Cooperative

  • Selected SE/SC Minnesota Communities


A Pilot Project

Supported with seed funding from the Minnesota Legislature, the pilot is working with 3 communities in Southeastern/South Central Minnesota to demonstrate the value of Greater Minnesota Futures work in creating efforts to strengthen small, rural communities and position them for a 21st century future. The pilot will document the value added by this work and develop a replicable model to annually serve two to four Greater Minnesota communities. 


The communities selected include Grand Meadow, Wabasha and Spring Grove and work has begun with each community. 


Project Description

Greater Minnesota has a tremendous number of assets – human capabilities, economic strengths, and environmental resources – upon which to build its future. This effort focuses on how small-town communities can creatively leverage their social, economic, and physical capital to envision a path forward that supports and enhances its vitality and identity while responding to 21st century technological and demographic changes.


The project goal is to partner with local communities to engage in strategic efforts that narrow the gap between the planning and grant obtaining resources of large metro areas and the resources available to small communities in Greater Minnesota to create efforts that increase their community and regional impact, get more value from public investments, encourage private investments, and reflect 21st century opportunities and challenges.


As the state’s land-grant university, the University of Minnesota is dedicated to supporting the prosperity and well-being of Minnesota’s citizens and communities. We seek to assist Greater Minnesota communities in design thinking that includes:

  • Building community capacity with a focus on social, economic, and physical assets and resource management.

  • Identifying assets and challenges.

  • Creating strategies that leverage existing assets and address the challenges within a local and regional context.

  • Assisting communities to build upon their existing strengths and to minimize their challenges to promote:

  • Community responses to 21st century demographic and technological changes;

  • Sustainable landscapes, building reuse, and building design within communities;

  • Housing development that supports current and future needs;

  • Natural resource enhancement;

  • Healthy lifestyles that address public health issues such as obesity; and

  • Strengthened community identify.

  • Identifying potential funding sources for implementation of the strategies.

  • Supporting grant-writing to assist communities compete for the available project funding.


Greater Minnesota Futures Final Report 

Mary Vogel, Minnesota Design Center

651-433-5952 or 651-341-7971

Economic Design Days

Community-specific "economic design days" were organized by Erin Meier (U of M SE Regional Sustainable Development Partnership) on behalf of SE MN Together and as part of the initial SMIF-funded project. Events were held in Goodview (July 12, 2016) and Oronoco (September 22, 2016). These workshops were designed to bring community members and leaders together with outside resource professionals to discuss and prioritize important issues for their community and begin to plan for future community development activities.

© 2020 by SE MN TOGETHER in partnership with Southeast Service Cooperative

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