Collaborative Crop Research Program Looks Back

September 25, 2015, 11:17 am


andes Stand Mistura 2012 Peru Comm. Quilcas -Stef de Haan Yanapai

Potato farmers of Grupo Yanapai, in Lima, Peru (Photo: Stef de Haan)

New report reviews three decades of strengthening food security

Since the early 1980s, The McKnight Foundation has funded agricultural research around the globe with the goal to help farmers feed their families and communities. A recently completed history of the Collaborative Crop Research Program (CCRP) delves into the origins of the program from the early 1990s to the present. The Foundation’s commitments to innovation, sustainability and collaboration are clear themes that emerge from  the report.  The CCRP seeks innovations in both the “what” and the “how” of agricultural research. The “what” focuses on generating agricultural knowledge, concepts, and technology that farmers can use on the ground and that promote economic, environmental, and social sustainability. The “how” of the program has grown and matured over time yet one key ingredient includes crossing boundaries of all kinds, including by discipline, geography, and sector. This kind of cross-boundary collaboration is recognized as an essential element of innovation, and it is at the heart of the program. Read the rest of this entry »

Mississippi River Program Navigates New Currents

September 16, 2015, 11:53 am

Shifting water quality issues

Bald Eagle perched along the Mississippi River, Maurepas, LA (Photo: Bill Stripling)

Bald Eagle perched along the Mississippi River, Maurepas, LA (Photo: Bill Stripling)

Over the past few months, I have had the good fortune of engaging with several McKnight board members and staff members to examine new ways of focusing the Mississippi River program’s strategies. Mississippi River water quality is one of those glass-of-water issues that can look half-empty or half-full depending on one’s perspective. A lot of the news over the past several months – from southern Minnesota’s algae-filled lakes to Iowa’s heated lawsuit about nitrates in the Raccoon River – provides convincing evidence that the glass is half empty. But then you can also read about the remarkable comeback of Mississippi River mussels, the return of bald eagles, and the substantial progress that farmers have made in reducing nitrate loss and instead be convinced that the glass is half full.

I’ve learned to live with that duality, but these changes also demonstrate that Mississippi River water quality challenges are constantly evolving, and McKnight’s Mississippi River program needs to shift its grantmaking strategies based on emerging opportunities. We are in the thick of the process of considering various opportunities of refreshing the program. I thought it would be worthwhile to share some of my reflections on recent trends and issues. Read the rest of this entry »

Climate Change and Art Collide in The Visible Air: Recent Innovations from the Gymnasium

August 10, 2015, 2:58 pm


Aquaminous | ah-KWA-mi-nuhs | adjective

The quality of air just before a rainfall; origin: the Latin aqua, meaning water, and ominous, meaning foreboding.

-Mo Perry

Excerpts from The Language of Air

Excerpts from The Language of Air, on view at The McKnight Foundation

“Aquaminous” is just one of dozens of new words created for The Language of Air, a crowd-sourced dictionary comprising invented terms to describe qualities of air. It is part of the new exhibition The Visible Air: Recent Innovations from the Gymnasium at the Cynthia Binger Boynton Gallery. The dictionary is meant to expand the ways in which we can think about and discuss air, asking participants and readers alike to ponder the question, “If we were more equipped to describe air, would we take better care of it?” Read the rest of this entry »

Elizabeth McGeveran: Fighting Climate Change One Step at a Time

June 18, 2015, 2:00 pm
Completed Community Solar Garden outside of Denver International Airport. (Photo: SunShare)

Completed Community Solar Garden outside of Denver International Airport. (Photo: SunShare)

On Thursday, the Minnesota town of Cologne (population 1,500) signed a deal making it our first local government to go solar. This town will host a SunShare community solar garden, which will save $40,000 a year by fueling city buildings and sending electricity into the grid.

The municipality looked at its assets, identified a partner, and took action. This is the fundamental formula for fighting climate change.

Forty miles to the northeast, The McKnight Foundation is trying to do the same thing through our grantmaking, but also through our $2.1 billion endowment. Like Cologne, we are looking at our assets, identifying partners, and taking action on climate — in both big and small ways. Read the rest of this entry »

Neal Cuthbert: Reimagining Southeast Minnesota

June 9, 2015, 8:45 am

Below is Vice President of Program Neal Cuthbert’s foreword from the McKnight-commissioned Small Towns, Big Ideas: Reimagining Southeast Minnesota, an essay by Jay Walljasper that explores innovative examples of economic resilience in Southeast Minnesota that could serve as models for the entire Midwest.

Jay Walljasper’s Small Towns, Big Ideas: Reimagining Southeast Minnesota was commissioned by The McKnight Foundation as part of our “Food for Thought” series — a collection of independent essays to help inform our understanding of the fields in which we operate and our related program strategies. This is the first in a four-part series examining the opportunities and challenges in Minnesota’s countryside.

Since 1986, The McKnight Foundation has invested over $270 million in the Minnesota Initiative Foundations — six independent regional philanthropic organizations with priorities defined by the people in its own region. They offer grants and loans to support prosperous and diversified local economies, protect natural resources, cultivate strong leadership, and offer innovative social services. Read the rest of this entry »