Initial Project

 

SE MN Together was organized by a volunteer group as an experiment in cooperative action in addressing our region’s workforce shortage. We worked to engage, encourage, and activate the southeast region through conversation and collaboration with the goal of developing action plans. In February 2015, SMIF (the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation) awarded SE MN Together an $80,000 Community Growth Initiative grant that required matching in-kind and cash contributions from sponsors. Learning to work together as a region and determining what framework will enable that to happen in the future was a core objective of the SE MN Together project.

Project Model and Methods

By hosting three community conversations in different areas of the region, as well as a community economic design team process, SE MN Together developed a framework for working together as a region on workforce and other issues related to economic development.
Key elements of the project model included the following:

  • Use of sub-regional planning committees to create and recruit participation for the three community conversations. This provided credibility, increased community awareness, and helped generate enthusiasm for the project.

  • Creating a venue/forum for information sharing. Bringing people together extended personal and professional networks, and allowed for cross-regional action to develop.

  • Conversations designed to allow participants to communicate across sectors and select specific issues, challenges, and actions most relevant to them.

  • Focus on action with tangible results. The explicit aim was to move participants beyond identification of issues and needs to creating action plans that could be implemented.

  • Use of Social Media, including YouTube, Facebook, and other virtual networks to promote the project, increase awareness, and recruit participation.


Results


In total, over 300 people participated, most attending one of the three community meetings, and two communities participated in the economic design process. The best-represented industry sectors were business, education, human resources professionals, non-profits, and government. Ten themes emerged from the conversations.


  Themes:

  • Cultural Diversity

  • Welcoming Communities

  • Transportation

  • Marketing Communities and the Region

  • Employer Incentives

  • Housing

  • School-Business Partnerships, Apprenticeships/Internships/Mentorships, Career Pathways

  • Early Childhood Education and Childcare

  • Rural Broadband Access

  • Regional Framework

© 2019 by SE MN TOGETHER in partnership with Southeast Service Cooperative

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