“Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.” – Rilke
At Minnesota Rising, our mission is to build trust, relationships, and a shared vision for the future of Minnesota, while developing the collective capacity of the rising generation to lead collaboratively. Just how we do this has evolved over time, as we continue to inquire into and assess our strategic intent and impact. For those nonprofiteers who also value emergent learning and developmental evaluation, we offer a couple of our questions and answers.
The Minnesota Rising Un/Conference was our network’s first signature event, bringing together 100-150 emerging leaders each year. The daylong events featured optional AM connecting and creativity sessions, keynote speakers, breakout sessions, Open Space sessions, Show and Tell sessions, and a happy hour. Through these annual gatherings between 2010 – 2014, we built the leadership capacity of volunteer event planners, provided emerging leaders opportunities to showcase their talent and knowledge earlier than they might be invited to do so in their professional careers, and built community among our state’s emerging leaders as well as young professional groups. The most commonly cited outcomes for attendees were the ability to connect with other leaders via an energizing event as well as to gain and generate new ideas for specific projects they were advancing.
As we considered our strategy moving forward after hosting five successful Un/Conferences, we lamented the potential loss of a key event that our community had come to know and rely on and the opportunity to collaborate with a wide array of local emerging leader groups and organizations. On the flip side, planning and hosting an annual Un/Conference took a great deal of resources and we knew we could afford to let go of the five months of extensive planning required annually. So we chose to take a hiatus from the annual Un/Conference and began to explore opportunities to more directly help emerging leaders connect and collaborate in ways that could more efficiently leverage our volunteer time and organizational resources.
The IDEA GENERATION was our effort to test a more focused format that innovated on how to help emerging leaders move even further and faster in their efforts to impact Minnesota’s future. A Pro-Action Café allowing attendees to share and workshop their ideas with one another in real-time, the two events we hosted in 2015 were highly regarded and resulted in several ideas proffered gaining additional traction and/or coming to life following the events.
A1: Rather than continue to host an event, no matter how great an event, in perpetuity, we wanted to be thoughtful about what other formats or methods might help us best achieve our goals. Further, we anticipated that this move might demonstrate to the rising generation the importance of letting go and the ability to become increasingly comfortable with impermanence. Rather than end up ourselves as long-time leaders who struggle to let go of power or to make space for others, we wanted to begin to gain a comfort and confidence in letting go of things early and often as individuals and as a generation.
Our approach at Minnesota Rising is meant to create a tent large enough that anyone who connects themselves to this geography or generation (i.e. Minnesotan or Millennial) can come together beneath it. While this broad lens would seem to inherently encompass “all,” since most Millennials eschew labels and not everyone living in Minnesota feels welcome here, considers it is their primary or most visible identity, or would characterize this native land as the #BoldNorth, we miss those not in the mainstream. Indeed, the words “we” and “us” are not always as inclusive as they aspire to be.
In fact, in order for us to center those at the margins of this conversation, we have had to narrow in on who with and how to have new conversations. The two ways we responded:
An initiative of Minnesota Rising, Greater Minnesota Rising was a research and community engagement project in North Central and West Central Minnesota. From April 2015 – February 2016, the project team sought to outline the region's assets and challenges related to workforce needs and community vitality and develop recommendations for engaging local emerging leaders and community organizations in northwestern Minnesota. We conducted an environmental scan, focus groups, and a World Café in effort to engage the insights of emerging leaders in developing recommendations to ensure their local communities could offer the lifestyles, relationships, and opportunities to support them, their families, and their futures.
An initiative of Minnesota Rising founded in 2013, LOCUS works to provide space, connection, and opportunities for authentic community building, identity-driven leadership, and resource sharing – by and for people of color and indigenous peoples. LOCUS aims to host meeting grounds for authentic community building and we host regular dialogues, events, and Family Dinners. We embrace and support each other through the pursuit of stronger connection and inclusiveness. Through these practices, we strive to cultivate a pool of identity-driven leaders, ready to lead in our local communities.
A2: By spending time in communities where our network has not been as deeply engaged, building relationships and having the conversations they’re interested in, we develop a more expansive understanding of the stories and opportunities in our state. With this context, we can support emerging leaders to connect with one another, identify what they want to build in their own communities, and move to action on co-creating those assets and relationships that help us shape a stronger Minnesota inclusive of voices that are not always interested in or that do not feel invited to participate in the mainstream conversation.
What questions have been sitting with you or your organization lately? And how have you found yourself living into them?