The Raising Places design team in North Minneapolis has been busy engaging with community members in order to learn more about their positive goals! (See here for more on those goals, which were drafted at the Kickoff Lab).

Over the past six weeks, the team learned from students, teachers, social workers and school administrators, longtime residents of all ages, living on or near Plymouth Avenue, as well as newer residents to the neighborhood; real estate developers, funders and local organizers, young people who had been involved in the foster care system as children, current foster parents and people who run programs for transitional youth, as well as people working with and for county agencies. The purpose of this work was to better understand the needs, assets, aspirations and lived experiences of these community stakeholders, so that the team could create better, more child-centered and more locally-relevant programs, spaces, policies and systems.

From the learning and synthesis came a series of powerful insights, each of which led to an opportunity statement. Starting with the phrase “How might we…,” an opportunity statement is a tool to spark brainstorming and new ways of looking at old problems.

Led by Jimmy Loyd, the small group focused on economic development shares and reviews stories from the community (left); design team member Marquita Stephens places her votes for the "How might we" statements she believes will lead to the greatest impact on children and families (right)

Insights about education

This team saw through their interviews that everyone in the community can be a resource for the education of children. They also learned that the negative narrative about North Minneapolis creates an extra burden for youth to overcome. Finally, by focusing on bright spots, they realized that true innovators recognize that centering on individual children’s needs produces the most meaningful change.

From these insights they wrote the following opportunity statements:

- How might we empower organizations and institutions to become responsive to the needs of individual children and their families on Plymouth Avenue Corridor?

- How might we create a positive narrative about our community’s past and present that will boost our children on the path to their success?

Insights about economic development and planning

This team found that there is a desire for an intentional, explicit commitment to preventing displacement and limiting gentrification, while building vibrant spaces. They also heard over and over again that this corridor and its city location and natural resources are poised for greatness.

From these insights they wrote the following opportunity statements:

- How might we prevent the current diverse residents from all having to move out, and all wealthy people from moving into this growing community?

- How might we make Plymouth Avenue a place that uses its assets - great location, slow street, and wonderful parks - to the fullest, while keeping racial and economic diversity?

Insights about the child protection system

This small group learned that for youth in transition, a little stability goes a long way. They also found that there is currently no reliable system for honoring child voice.

From these insights they wrote the following opportunity statements:

- How might we respond to instability (such as community-level trauma) with stability?

- How might we make child voice an important part of decision-making?

Design team member Makeda Zulu Gillespie evaluates ideas to make the Plymouth Avenue Corridor more vibrant and equitable, alongside convener Beau Sinchai and facilitator Kareeshma Ali (left); many sketches were created at the public event, depicting ideas for planning, zoning and development along Plymouth (right)

At the public Ideas Lab event, community members brainstormed and sketched ideas in response to these opportunity statements. Over sixty people participated in this event, and generated hundreds of ideas. The ideas ranged from new programs, campaigns and learning opportunities, to new policies and plans for local residential and commercial development, to new buildings, spaces and modes of transportation. 

The team is now gearing up for the prototyping sprint, during which they will be making, testing, and iterating on these ideas with a wide range of community members. They will present their next round of concepts at the Action Lab on February 15. Stay tuned!

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