Citywide neighborhoods plan incentivizes diversity through funding

Neighborhoods 2020 seeks to encourage representation of groups including students and renters on neighborhood boards.

Tiffany Bui

A City of Minneapolis comprehensive draft plan proposes directly tying neighborhood association funding to diversity initiatives for the first time.

The Neighborhoods 2020 draft recommends a slate of different funding levers meant to encourage more equitable representation in neighborhood leadership and outreach. Community members had an opportunity to comment on the draft last week.

As major sources of neighborhood association funding are scheduled to end within the next two years, the City has an opportunity to change how it can incentivize community organizations to align more closely with equity goals.

“It should jump-start [neighborhood associations] into doing the work that they should have been doing already,” said Marcus Mills, a plan drafter and Marcy-Holmes representative.

The draft calls for $10 million in programmatic funding for community organizations, which would originate from the City budget.

A key aspect of the proposed plan would mandate that neighborhood associations report board diversity to the City annually. Board representation should largely reflect the neighborhood’s actual demographics, otherwise the organization would be required to work with the City to create a diversity action plan. If a plan is not created, the City may terminate funding to the organization.

Along with demographics such as ethnicity and homeowner status, the plan would count students as a category in its metrics.

“I really like the way that it put some teeth behind the values of diversity that most neighborhood organizations have but haven’t been able to implement very effectively,” said Serafina Scheel, former treasurer for Prospect Park Association.

Scheel said board representation is the easiest way for the City to evaluate diversity in a neighborhood organization.

“’How can you improve internal diversity of an organization?’ … the City should be putting its money where its mouth is,” said Scheel.

Meeting the requirements will be a challenge for PPA, Scheel added, but the neighborhood should work towards it.

Karl Smith, president of Southeast Como Improvement Association, said the the board has seen a drop in student representation this year.

“A continual challenge for us is the representativeness of the neighborhood,” said Smith. “We didn’t get any new students to step up and say they would like to be involved.”

The new funding structure would also encourage neighborhood associations to expand their outreach to other neighborhood associations or cultural organizations. Neighborhood organizations could apply for more money by demonstrating their community partnerships.

“One of the things that [Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association] could most use is assistance from cultural communities,” said Mills. “They need contact with the folks that they don’t regularly reach out and gain contact from.”

David Rubedor, director of Neighborhood and Community Relations for the City of Minneapolis, said volunteer-led groups made up of neighborhood representatives from across the city are still in the early stages of drafting the plan.

“The next generation of neighborhood programming will have a heavy emphasis on equality and inclusion,” said Rubedor.

The groups will present the final recommendations to the public Jan. 14, Rubedor said.