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Extension > Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships > Southwest > Southwest Initiative Foundation- Youth Energy Summit! (YES!)

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Southwest Initiative Foundation- Youth Energy Summit! (YES!)


YES! (Youth Energy Summit) empowers youth to partner with their community to create economic and environmental vitality through hands-on learning and team-based projects. This project will help YES! increase our capacity to foster relationships and mobilize resources as we are intentional about building a sustainable model to support YES! into the future. As ever-increasing demands on our limited energy resources tax our ability to meet those demands, communities in greater Minnesota face the challenge of locating bright and talented individuals to provide alternative energy solutions and advance new ideas for conservation and waste reduction.

YES! is a unique experiential learning program where students take on action projects that not only lead to dramatic demonstrations of renewable energy technology and conservation practices, but also build skills that will directly impact the future like creativity, innovation, problem-solving, communication, teamwork, and project management. Through YES!, students are learning by doing – building solar panels, doing energy audits, designing and building composting bins and small wind turbines, growing local food for their cafeterias and more! Students are the impetus for catalytic change in these communities; changes in the way communities use energy, consider buying choices, adopt renewable technologies, and most of all in the way they view their youth. As one YES! student said, "Youth are going to be the people to make the change." With your support, YES! teams will initiate youth led action projects in up to 30 communities in Minnesota (at least 15 in southwest) while program partners, Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center and the Southwest Initiative Foundation, foster relationships and mobilize resources to build a sustainable model for the future of YES!

The purpose of the project is to foster relationships and mobilize resources that promote the greater good within YES! communities. PWELC and SWIF have begun an intentional effort to build a sustainable model and prepare for the future of YES! in greater Minnesota. This work will not only position existing partners to continue offering YES! as a successful model in southwest and west central Minnesota, but also provide a strategy and framework for sustainability than can be used for further expansion through additional partnerships across the state.



The development of this model for sustainability will involve 4 phases:

  1. Implementing an Appreciative Inquiry Process in up to 9 YES! communities with coaches, students and community advocates to: Identify what YES! has provided for the school/community; Prioritize the best practices and key success stories YES! provides and that they do not want to lose; Develop a deeper sense of local ownership of YES!; Better understand and access expertise available through the University of MN and other resources; Create a sense of urgency about ensuring the future of YES! in their community
  2. Working with select communities, pilot sustainable methods such as First Fuels Oil Recycling and other ideas that surface through the Appreciative Inquiry Process
  3. Working with the selected communities, develop and initiate a focused plan that will sustain and enhance the things they value most about YES!
  4. Using the lessons learned from past experiences of PWELC and SWIF, combined with the information from the selected

In addition, YES! partners will engage in facilitated discussions among key stakeholders working on complementary efforts such as the Clean Energy Resource Teams, Green Schools Coalition, YEA MN, and MN STEM Network. These discussions will allow these groups to share best practices, discover opportunities for further collaboration, and possibly leverage resources.


The goals of YES! are to engage youth and empower them to take positive action in their communities; develop leadership, community building, and problem-solving skills; increase awareness of career, economic, and entrepreneurial opportunities; increase knowledge about energy issues & opportunities; and create sustainable communities.

The goal of this project is to foster relationships and mobilize resources within communities that build a sustainable model for the future success of YES! The University of Minnesota would be associated with inspiring students and communities to work together on important projects. This is an opportunity for the University to become directly engaged in real projects in at least 15 communities in southwest-west central Minnesota during 2013-2014 and to connect university resources with real world needs and applications, as well as perhaps inspiring new areas of research to address emerging challenges and opportunities.

Success will be measured both quantitatively and qualitatively through:


Last updated 12-10-2010
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