Synapse & Scryp Spark Community Conversation

Arriving at the Norway House we were greeted to a beautiful art gallery that included bright and bold colors to match our bold agenda for the night: the Equity Blueprint Springboard. 13 participants described themselves as retired scientists and lobbyists, immigrants, communication strategists, entrepreneurs, and educators who were interested in making a difference. Sharing why they decided to show up, individuals expressed an interest in “bottom-up organizing” or interest in “how I can get involved as a citizen towards a better future.” When a participant urged the group “I’m not sure we can move forward if we don’t recognize Native genocide,” it hit close to home as the community meeting was located right off Franklin Avenue and a few blocks away from the American Indian Cultural Corridor in Minneapolis.

After introductions, everyone split up into four small groups to discuss their perspective related to the Blueprint Springboard. Each table dove right into discussion after grabbing a snack at the Kaffebar. As I floated around café tables, conversations bounced from one topic to another, such as the critical need to eradicate homelessness, finding impactful communication strategies, how the digital divide affects the educational opportunity gap, an urgent need for climate action, the influence of large-scale textbook publishing on educational curriculum, and the overarching appetite to build relationships between rural and urban communities.

About an hour later, conversations continued fervently as individuals returned to the gallery space for a large group report-out. As we gathered, participants suggested the utilization of technology and storytelling as a key to empowering more engagement in the process, and the significance of placing a rural and urban lens to all issues across the board. Dialogue about relationships led to strategies for building movement coalitions. A participant expressed that the work ahead isn’t going spread at a viral rate, but will move along steadily and somewhat slowly in order to build deeper relationships and “create answers in dialogue and partnership” moving forward.

Communication

  • Need a more efficient and customized way for media to broadcast issues– use existing media: who do we know at x,y,z radio station, newspaper, blog, etc.? Who can write and share to hold our society accountable?
  • Print is back- Utilize print resources, which is resurging due to the unaccountable barrage of false internet content
  • People are investing in radio with print coming in as a close second- quarterly and yearly books are third
  • All of these ideas are worthy and needed- we need to build a “structure for fulfillment” that can “hold” all of these ideas, and make visible the relationships between each of these ideas and the ultimate approaches that will address the needs. That will allow more people to engage at any level, and provide a way for people to continue their participation over the long haul.
  • Not all communities engage in technology
  • Enhance Storytelling- creating the time and empowerment to tell stories that inspire civic engagement with others

Democracy & Civic Engagement

“Poverty is not partisan.”

  • Mass of people- realize they can level the playing field
  • Funding for voter registration

IDEA: automatic voter registration coupled with education and outreach efforts

  • Understanding who are influencers in the community that encourage people to choose against their own best interests- is it a feeling? Trust? Newness? Or change against the status quo?
  • Mindset change for everyone that we are all citizens and have a voice is needed
  • Utilize storytelling to encourage people to feel responsible to use their voice. Understand that you have to engage to make a difference.
  • Viral versus relationship building- Creating answers in dialogue and partnership- movement and change requires coalitions (Co-ops as an example)
  • Where is the problem? Who carries the ball? Is it elected official or the collective us?
  • Need holistic policy
  • Recognize that while the majority might oppose or agree, there is a minority that exists. We need to include opposite or different viewpoints.

Economic Development

  • Economics of wellness versus economics of illness
  • Small enterprise is at the center of economic transformation

Education

“Looking at the wellbeing of youth can touch many of these issues.”

  • High school staff are at capacity – we need more counselors
  • Doherty Family College– students’ chance to go to school with less than zero or minimal debt
  • Doctors leave with giant loans and so do others
  • Kids seeing entertainer or athlete as the only way to become wealthy or successful- it’s a false path for kids in poverty- need to show the value of finding a two-year education pathway and new skills for employment
  • Change from “what college do you want to go to” to “how would you like to make a living?”
  • Prioritize transformation specifically looking at attainment gaps

IDEA: Create policies that invest in the localization of textbook and test production. For example, most textbooks are published in Texas, and Texas is a large buyer of books which influences the content and curriculum of k-12 nationwide.

  • Digital divide- schools with no computers versus private schools that hand out IPads to students- contributes to the achievement gap
  • Need to lobby harder for free early education– would allow low-income parents to sustain their jobs – lead to less usage of “entitlements” which many want to see abolished- create a new economy which is currently non-existent due to the “circle of poverty.”
  • Youth and storytelling

Healthcare

  • Need more inclusion and coverage for integrative less invasive health opportunities
  • Develop a model of western medicine to be about wellness versus sickness

Housing

“You can solve a lot of these problems if people don’t have a place to live”

  • Example of St. Paul’s Lowertown gentrification
  • Addressing the number of people experiencing homelessness, Hiawatha Encampment referenced- “We should be talking about it every day.”
  • It is a crime 5 months out of the year that people are experiencing homelessness (harsh conditions of winter are unique to Minnesota’s homeless population)
  • How do we provide a mass amount of housing, keep families and communities together, and provide social services?

IDEA: Tiny House movement as a resource for people experiencing homelessness

Examples in Portland and Seattle- there are mixed results and opinions about the success of programs.

  • Utilizing volunteer work as value- Example of Prior Crossing and the resident’s volunteer requirement – encouraging people experiencing homelessness to become stakeholders.
  • We need housing now- how do we do that?
  • Getting wealth back out of housing stock.

IDEA from Alliance for Sustainability: Implementing a tax when properties change owners and put that tax revenue into a fund for new first-time homeowners.

  • People experiencing homelessness and the connection to sexual orientation (transgender youth) or mental health

IDEA: People who are living in homes that have extra rooms sharing their extra space with those who need emergency shelter

  • Making better holistic policy- “It’s not enough to only provide housing, you also need to address healthcare, transportation, and access to employment.”

Immigration

  • Need to quantify the immigrant economic impact (healthcare, education, housing) – how do we do this?
  • Create positive language related to separation ordinances and circumventing federal immigration policy

Income Mobility/Poverty

“It’s getting worse, not better.”

  • There is no longer just a lower class but an “underclass” that is in even more dire situations related to basic needs

IDEA: Look into guaranteed income or universal basic income and give value to volunteer work

  • Using a stakeholder approach- an example of foreign aid from the United States versus China’s model that builds resources and uses loans to build equity and inclusion. (Respect and engagement versus doing things for them)

IDEA: Expand social security to address senior poverty- use childcare and caregiver credits

  • Need to hear one another across socioeconomic differences

Infrastructure

  • Transportation equity- for example, Lime Bikes and scooter are available in certain communities (Edina) but not others such as Brooklyn Park. Why is that?
  • Add technology to the Blueprint, it is missing – will bring in younger people and address the digital divide and access inequity
  • Farms are technology driven and farmers are having a hard time accessing the internet for their weather/soil/etc. apps.
  • Retrofitting infrastructure for a better environment

Natural Resources

“How do we get together before disaster hits?”

  • Climate/environment affects all of us- the effects are not far away (some of us already know people who have been impacted by climate change)
  • Make issues real- choose 8 to 10 powerful stories
  • Approach economic development through restoration
  • Providing guidance on climate resilient infrastructure- “I think we can go further than just being resilient- what can we do to curb, cut down our carbon emissions? How can we connect economy to paving the way and cutting our emissions?” Agriculture is a big example related to these questions.

Rural-Urban Relationships

“Bridging the divide is necessary.”

  • Overarching component to the other issues
  • Requires coalition building and perspectives from places such as the iron range
  • Example of Sioux Falls coalition that came together to address the opioid crisis – common good to end all of our suffering- creating a common dialogue with a framework that meets people’s needs
  • Bringing back life to the main street in rural areas- use urban dollars to back those communities
  • Use a map to show economic interdependencies between rural and urban
  • All of the issues on the Blueprint Springboard can be viewed through a rural-urban lens- need to understand each other
  • Example of John Deere losing employees because they can’t relate two hours outside of the city

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