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The Future Started Yesterday: a response

sprig by Posted in Blandin Foundation, Broadband, Rural Capacity Building, Vibrant Rural

2013 Warba, MN Listening Session

Earlier this month, Minnesota Council on Foundations (MCF) posted a blog about trends they’re seeing in the philanthropic/nonprofit sectors. That got us thinking about trends we’ve seen in rural Minnesota throughout 2013.

This year we took a deep dive into rural Minnesota perspectives with our Rural Pulse study. Some key findings worth note include:

  • The need for attracting new, high-quality jobs is top priority for rural Minnesotans
  • Most rural Minnesotans feel their community is vibrant and believe in their ability to make a difference
  • Both rural and urban Minnesotans believe the rural voice is not being heard
  • 37% of rural Minnesotans believe that their community’s diversity is not reflected in its leadership

In 2013, we also took more of a hands-on approach to uncovering trends in our home community by conducting five listening sessions throughout Itasca County (held in Blackduck, Cohasset, Nashwauk, Northome and Warba). Many similarities were found between our Rural Pulse findings and themes that emerged from these conversations.

  • Hope is alive: communities have a strong sense of identity, community spirit is evident. They are vibrant!
  • Jobs are needed: Every community expressed this.
  • Schools are hubs: They provide students learning and extracurricular opportunities, and are a key connection to the internet; in many cases they spearhead and drive a community’s need for broadband. Pride in student success in the classroom and on sports fields runs high and strong. Communities recognize that, without a school, they would quickly lose vibrancy.
  • Each community had unique facets. Diversity continues to be a dynamic topic. Nearly all communities mentioned a need for new and different outlets to share community information.

So how do trends in rural Minnesota translate to the trends MCF is seeing in philanthropic and nonprofit sectors?

Let’s take a look…

Better, Cheaper, Faster Technology

In our work, we’re seeing communities using technology to create new jobs, expand educational opportunities, improve the health of rural residents and project the rural voice.


Diversity of Youth

Communities are investing in their youth, who are at the forefront of redefining leadership to be more inclusive and diverse.



Young people are getting involved early on and feel that they have ownership in the direction of their community, says the 2013 Rural Pulse.

  • 93% of 18-to-24-year-olds believe they can make an impact and make their community a better place to live.
  • 78% of 18-to-24-year-olds are optimistic about the future of their community.
  • 35% of 18-to-24-year-olds would consider serving in a leadership role if asked.

With young people engaged in community work and willing to serve in leadership roles, they’re primed for going on to careers in the nonprofit field.

21st Century Foundation Leadership

Just as MCF sees collaborative 21st century leadership ushering foundations into the future, we see rural Minnesota leadership creating connections in their communities to tackle issues of diversity, equity and inclusion; economic development; and rural voice.


As we reflect on the trends in rural Minnesota, it’s clear that the same gaps present in our smaller communities are in our urban centers as well. Residents of both rural and urban are seeking solutions to sustain vibrant communities. They’re connecting with the philanthropic sector to propel their visions forward. Looks like we’re on target for 2014!

Click here to see the original MCF post.

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