Minneapolis starts new workshop series

The workshops are focused on engaging with communities of color.

by Christopher Lemke

Fifteen neighborhood group leaders, community members and city officials attended a new community engagement workshop series Thursday.

Minneapolis’ Neighborhood and Community Relations began a series of workshops on Wednesday and Thursday, aimed at teaching neighborhood organization members and city workers about engagement strategies and the city’s cultural communities.

Each workshop is held twice, once at City Hall and once in the community, and will focus on different topics. Six classes cover specific communities: American Indians, African Americans, people with disabilities, Latinos, Southeast Asians and East Africans in Minneapolis.

Christina Kendrick, a Minneapolis senior community engagement specialist, said the department already offers many types of training with one-on-one advising, but workshops help reach a broader audience.

The workshop aims to publicize the NCR department and to broaden people’s understanding of how engagement differs based on the audience and the purpose of neighborhood or city projects, Kendrick said.

NCR staff overviewed at the Thursday class some of the city’s work, its resources, and how to develop engagement plans. Attendees then broke into small groups to plan out case studies provided by the NCR staff.

Over the years, voluntary diversity surveys of advisory and neighborhood groups revealed participation came mostly from homeowners, older people and white people, said Ward 2 Council Member Cam Gordon.

“We started to realize there are segments of the community that aren’t really represented in our advisory groups,” Gordon said, “Maybe we aren’t getting the best, well-rounded advice and all the perspectives we could be collecting.”

Manu Lewis, a member of Minneapolis’ Neighborhood and Community Engagement Commission, said community engagement is necessary for decisions that reflect what people want.

Communities often know what they want but sometimes developers have other plans, Lewis said.

On top of reaching out to communities of color, the Marcy Holmes neighborhood has to deal with another demographic: students.

When it comes to engaging University of Minnesota students, one challenge is that the school hasn’t recently tracked which neighborhood students live in, said Marcus Mills, Marcy Holmes Neighborhood Association board member.

“It’s not like we can send a newsletter to the University, and the University can disseminate it out to all the students in the area,” Mills said.

But MHNA has succeeded in other areas, like convincing developers to meet with the neighborhood’s land use committee to get better feedback on projects, Mills said.

Carla Inderrieden, a Minnesota Pollution Control Agency sustainability coordinator who attended the Thursday class, said it was exciting to work at the event with people from diverse backgrounds and ethnicities.

Inderrieden, a University alumna, also said, “I really wanted to get clued into this region and this city and the people that I’m impacting here.”

The classes will continue into the fall, ending in November.