Minneapolis Green Zones Pilot Initiative

Year Complete: 2018
Grant Category: Equity Pilot Initiative
Grant Amount: $75,000
Local Government: City of Minneapolis, MI
Local Foundation: The McKnight Foundation

Project Purpose

To align and adapt sustainability and economic development programs and resources in geographically-specific disenfranchised Minneapolis communities to create measurable impact based on community identified needs.

Key Lessons Learned

Lessons learned about tools and tactics through the project that other sustainability directors could use to advance their work.

  • The structures, systems, and processes of government are difficult to understand, yet are crucial for making strategic decisions on whether to work within the system or recommend alternatives to the system. Capacity building around technical information helps to bring in community members to be decision-makers. It takes time and patience to on-board community members on different topics, and helps greatly to pair community members with agency technical experts.
  • Take time to build strong, trusted working relationships among the members of the project’s “design team”. Bringing together three “types” of partners (government, non-profit community organizers, private consultants) and the individual dynamics of each person’s working and communications style requires time to develop into a cohesive and functioning team. This structure and relationship building is rarely built into a grant or project timeline, especially for government projects. Building space for this is critical.
  • Setting a realistic pace for community participants is key. Many communities are not capable of fast paced timelines.

Lessons for developing a collaborative process between a local government sustainability director and local place-based foundation(s).

Communication between the city and funder is critical to project success. During the project period, the City and Funder (McKnight Foundation) stayed in close communication. At the end of the project, project team members met with the funder to expand project work in a meaningful ways going forward. This work is important to both parties and a relationship has been formed.

Additional Information and Resources

This process has helped to re-envision what democracy looks like, as a space where community develops policies or projects with the City. This played out in both the Upper Harbor Terminal project in the Northside Green Zone and the Hiawatha Campus Expansion Project in the Southside Green Zone.

Information on the progress of the Green Zones Initiative can be found here.