Still Thriving: The Changing Face of Southwest and South Central Minnesota

December 5, 2016, 10:00 am
View of Milan, Minnesota.

View of Milan, Minnesota.


Below is Vice President of Program Neal Cuthbert’s foreword from the McKnight-commissioned “Still Thriving: The Changing Face of Southwest and South Central Minnesota,” an essay by Jay Walljasper exploring opportunities and challenges in Albert Lea, Morris, and other small communities in the southern half of Minnesota.

The regional treatment center in Willmar was shuttered more than a decade ago, but the death knell we’ve come to expect when a small community loses a big employer never sounded. Instead, Willmar redeployed one of its best community assets, converting the 1912 state hospital’s historic lakeshore campus into a bustling business incubator now home to more than 30 companies employing nearly 570 workers—nearly as many as the hospital had in its heyday. In fact, as Jay Walljasper reports from his recent visit, Willmar’s creative co-working space showcases the low-cost quality of life and dot-com credibility that are helping to lure growing numbers of millennials and Gen Xers back to Minnesota’s small towns. Read the rest of this entry »


The Path to Climate Solutions

November 28, 2016, 10:00 am



Today, we are living on the edge. “The edge” is one of Will Steger’s favorite expedition terms, as it refers to moments of great challenge and great potential breakthroughs. The edge is where growth, learning, and character-building occur. The challenge confronting us is clear: With 2016 poised to surpass last year as the hottest on record, climate change is not slowing down. But this moment is also filled with opportunity, as momentum for climate action and a clean energy future is growing. The future of climate action is in our hands, and we believe in our collective power to move beyond the edge, and towards the future we want to see. Read the rest of this entry »


Learning from the Lives Along the River

November 10, 2016, 4:12 pm

A woman carries what belongings she could save during the 2008 flood of Cedar Rapids, IA. The region experienced major flooding again in September of 2016.


Given the intense election coverage of the past few months, you would be forgiven if you missed the news of some big environmental catastrophes. Several weeks ago, Cedar Rapids endured a massive flood. In the month prior, flooding in Baton Rouge caused the area’s largest natural disaster since Hurricane Sandy. Simultaneously, rising levels of unsafe contaminants in drinking water plague the city of Des Moines and other communities that rely on rural wells. It’s as if the Mississippi River and its tributaries are shouting “Pay attention!” Disadvantaged communities tend to disproportionately bear the brunt of these environmental consequences, and they want to be a part of the solution. Read the rest of this entry »


Twenty-five Years of Philanthropic & Private Sector Partnerships in Minneapolis-St. Paul

November 7, 2016, 8:54 am


The following blog post first appeared in Living Cities’ “Closing the Racial Gaps,” a compendium of essays highlighting ongoing efforts across the country that show promise of contributing to closing opportunity gaps.

Throughout The McKnight Foundation’s 63-year history, we have always held that strong partnerships across sectors are at the heart of creating lasting change and critical to addressing complex challenges. Even as our guidelines evolve and areas of focus sharpen, this has been at the core of what we do. Efforts to create opportunity and assets in our “people, place, and possibilities” strategic framework require perseverance, collaboration, innovation, risk-taking, and continuous improvement that adapt to the changing fabric of our region. Read the rest of this entry »


Building Communities of Practice in Crop Research

October 17, 2016, 10:18 am
CCRP blog CoP

Kandela, the president of a women’s group belonging to the farmer federation FUMA Gaskiya (Niger) is marking her preferred pearl millet panicles during participatory pearl millet selection. (Photo credit: Bettina Haussmann).


To spur change at the systems level, it is critical to involve many individuals and institutions that work within that system, facilitating the sharing of information and knowledge. This has been a core belief of McKnight’s Collaborative Crop Research Program (CCRP) for many years. Our assessment, however, is that cross-sector collaboration, learning, and networking have historically been sorely lacking in agriculture research and development systems across the world. Read the rest of this entry »