During the past year, the Southwest MN Sustainable Development Partnership (SWP and formerly West Central Partnership) has expanded its operating territory from 12 counties in WC Minnesota to include about 14 additional counties in the SW area of Minnesota. The SWP Board of Directors has identified a need to:
- Increase the organizational knowledge of the SWP about this new broader region as a means to increase its capacity for coordinating and leveraging the resources of the U of MN and other partners to further sustainable development activities in the region and to better inform SWP long-range organization planning;
- Engage citizen/organization leaders and residents in activities that designed to share thoughts and ideas surrounding sustainable development, nurture and encourage a sense of community and regional connection and provide a venue for meeting potential new partners;
- Increase the knowledge of and resources for sustainable development in the region;
- Develop and train local leaders and support leadership initiatives at the community level;
- Increase the visibility of the U of MN and more specifically the RSDPs/SWP;
- Establish and maintain effective partnerships with other public agencies and organizations;
- Provide updated information regarding the current status of sustainable development activities in Southwest Minnesota to SWP partners.
This project focuses on engaging an inclusive representation of citizen/organization leaders and residents of Southwest Minnesota along with members of the SWP Board of Directors in a series of UM faculty-led forums across the region from January - April, 2013. Generally, the forums will focus on the sharing and collection of participant comments regarding individual and collective thinking, ideas and experiences in working toward sustainable development. The initial structure envisioned is for each forum to last 6 hours and include a lunch. Dr. John Wallace and an associate will lead in the design and facilitation of these forums. The SWP Board of Directors will assist with reviewing the forum design and plan, identifying forum participants and participating in the forums. The SWP Executive Director will assist with coordination of project activities and manage financial activities. Both quantitative and qualitative data will be collected.
- general forum information including: #, dates, locations
- # of participants at each forum
- participant demographics
- Assessment information: current status, future trends, perceptions, assets, needs
- Key concerns and opportunities - what do we already have and what is still needed?
- Common themes in a vision for the future and priorities especially as they relate to SWP focus areas
- Benefits of regional approaches to development
- Relationships with other regions and state
- Value and role of U of MN, SWP - research, education, other
- Personal benefits/observations resulting from participation
- Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships - statewide office
- Extension - Center for Community Vitality
- Regional Extension directors
- UMM Center for Small Towns and Office of Sustainability
- Bush Foundation
- MN Rural Development Commissions - Appleton, Willmar, Slayton, Mankato; Economic Development Authorities
- Local units of government
The direct outcomes anticipated for forum participants and those that read the resulting report or press release about the project include:
- An enhanced sense of connection among citizen/organization leaders and residents across the region
- A better understanding of common themes in a vision for the future and priorities surrounding sustainable development
- A better understanding of regional approaches to development
- A better understanding of the value and role of the U of MN and the SWP
Conceptually, the public will indirectly benefit from a SWP Board of Directors and staff that are more knowledgeable about the region they operate in i.e. one result of this project is an increased understanding of the Board and staff for engaging the right people at the right time in SWP sustainable development activities.