Listening in Itasca communities

“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.”

― Bryant McGill

Warba residents value their community's identity, and would like more small businesses to come to town.

Blandin Foundation has special relationships with the 26 communities in the Itasca area. One way Blandin Foundation President and CEO Kathy Annette nurtures these relationships is to host listening meetings in each one to learn firsthand what’s on people’s minds.

Kathy just wrapped up her 2013 visits. In Nashwauk, Northome, Blackduck, Warba and Cohasset, she gathered with community members to share a meal and robust, honest conversations. Folks were glad to share their community’s strengths – schools and community pride topped most lists. They were candid about challenges like maintaining and attracting jobs that support families, how to provide learning and recreation opportunities that appeal to families, adequate housing and health care for seniors, and cultivating the next generation of community leaders. (Topics echo those Kathy heard during the 2012 listening meetings, and the Itasca area findings from this year’s Rural Pulse survey of rural Minnesota residents, commissioned by Blandin Foundation this spring.)

Residents act on these priorities in many ways: work of churches, schools and other organizations; community events, and conducting surveys. One community created a joint city/school district community facilitator position to connect community needs with available resources.

Communities welcomed the time to meet and discuss their community holisitically; some discussed plans to meet again before long. People left feeling “energized,” “hopeful,” “informed” and “proud” of their communities.

“These meetings are powerful windows into vibrant communities facing their challenges head-on, full of hope for the future,” Kathy notes. “We learn so much, and reflecting on what we hear can guide our work. These communities have resources. We have resources. What are the possibilities?”