Almost a third (28.1 percent) of Seward community’s population is foreign born, compared to 15.3 percent of Minneapolis’ population (American Community Survey, 2012-2016). Kerry Cashman, Community Coordinator of the Seward Neighborhood Group talked about community building: “We came up with the idea of having meals together, ongoing. And so we set up two sets of meals, four Tuesday nights, and the request was that if you said you would come, you had to come to all four…and we would have a topic each week. And they’d be like, talking about gardening or talking about animals or food or traditions, holiday traditions and then eating together. And it was amazing.”

Seward Neighborhood Group

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Urban Land Institute Minnesota’s (ULI MN) mission is to engage public and private sector leaders to foster collaboration, share knowledge, and join in meaningful strategic action to create thriving, sustainable communities. ULI MN acts as a facilitator of idea exchange between local, national and international leaders, and policy makers. Through synergistic relationships, ULI MN is dedicated to improving housing options, transportation, communities, and the job force. The meeting space in ULI MN’s office, located strategically in downtown Minneapolis, allows for convenings where ideas are shared and critiqued.

Urban Land Institute

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Multigenerational living is common among immigrant populations and the city of Eden Prairie now has over 24% people of color, many of whom are new immigrants. As a way to engage the immigrant senior population, the city uses city buses to transport older immigrants to the Senior Center after hours so they could experience it on their own pace. Once seniors felt comfortable in the space, they felt more confident in attending activities during regular hours, participating with fellow seniors of diverse backgrounds in woodworking, card games, trips, tours, health and wellness classes, and much more. This initiative aligns with new discourses around ageing that have redirected policy discussion from economic or welfare issues to social inclusion, and engagement (Lui, Everingham, Warburton, Cuthill, & Bartlett, 2009).

Senior Center

Eden Prairie, Minnesota

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The Woodbury Citizens’ Academy is a free, eight-week program that engages residents in their community. The Academy develops future leaders, who are important to assuring a strong Woodbury in the future, by exposing residents to government, history, city works, and cultural competency and diversity. Each week the Academy takes place in a different location, utilizing existing community resources. “It’s still free [and] they get 30, 35 people a year and I’m always surprised at the diversity of the group…there are a variety of ages, backgrounds, and ethnicities,” reflects Janelle Schmitz, Assistant Community Development. The program expands the knowledge of residents in a way that encourages more involvement in the community.

Citizens’ Academy

Woodbury, Minnesota

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The Hennepin County Government Center in downtown Minneapolis offers an indoor atrium and an outdoor plaza, equipped to host gallery exhibits as well as performances. The Summer on the Plaza series runs June through August with musicians, dancers, education workshops, etc. The Hennepin Gallery exhibits are part of the county’s commitment to serve the community with a variety of fine arts and educational displays. Examples range from the Celebrating Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month to the “8030 Project,” a photograph installation that was created as a community participatory public art project to raise awareness of the estimated 22 U.S. veterans and soldiers who commit suicide every day.

Hennepin County Government Center

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Photo credit: Hennepin County Communications

The Investigation Station is the go-to place for elementary school-aged children in Landfall. Upon arrival, kids flow toward the activity spaces that offer music, games, woodworking, computers and Legos. They can read in the library and collect stars to earn books. Staff assist kids with daily homework assignments and longer-term projects. Visiting artists nurture art skills while a nutrition educator teaches youth about food groups and food preparation. Research supports that elementary school students who regularly attended the high-quality afterschool programs demonstrated significant gains in things like standardized math test scores, work habits, and social skills (Vandell, Reisner, & Pierce, 2007). The program is supported by FamilyMeans, a nonprofit agency committed to strengthening communities by strengthening families. The organization has a satellite office in the basement of Landfall city hall, offering a presence in the community.

Investigation Station

Landfall, Minnesota

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The City of Brooklyn Park is intentional in sharing resources. The city pairs its plethora of work spaces with cultural clusters that serve the community’s needs, helping build social capital and a collective identity that enhances involvement and economic development (Grodach & Loukaitou-Sideris, 2007; Stern & Seifert, 2010). If a local group needs a meeting room, an after-school project needs a play space, or a community get-together needs a reception hall, the city does its best to accommodate their needs with city space, such as the City Hall. “We…use our strengths, which is facilities, as a way to offer non-monetary support” to community groups and residents, says Mayor Lunde. This simple act of sharing space helps support the well-being of residents by accommodating the diverse ways residents in Brooklyn Park socialize, work, recreate, and exercise.

City Space

Brooklyn Park, Minnesota

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Burnsville believes in transparency figuratively and literally. As you walk through City Hall you can see into meeting rooms, offices, and chambers which are clad in glass facades. This intentional design conveys openness and ensures that “decisions aren’t being made in some back room out-of-sight of the public.” In the city chambers hang the community-defined values: a welcoming, caring, and compassionate city which offers respects to all and expects it in return. This reminds everyone, from residents to elected officials, of the city’s larger vision and that everything that is done in the city needs to work toward those values.

Transparency in City Hall

Burnsville, Minnesota

Photo credit: Marty Doll