Designing communities as places where children and families live healthier lives requires collaboration from community members across different walks of life, but each considers this shared space a home for them in some way. Whether the community is home to their place of residence, work or education, participants in Raising Places are passionate about the design work because they feel connected to their neighborhood and each other.

Across the six design teams, Raising Places has assembled people with various connections to the area they are designing for, and in each community, the personal and professional experience team members collectively bring to the project is outstanding.

Take the design teams in North Minneapolis, Minnesota and North Wilkesboro, North Carolina for example. The team in Minneapolis is made up of people with experience in education, community organizing, journalism, social work, real estate and community development, while the team in North Wilkesboro brings together local government officials, educators, social service providers and health professionals.

Let’s take a closer look at the Plymouth Avenue design team.

Convener Adair Mosley along with design team members Lynnea Atlas–Ingebretson, Artika Roller, George Roberts and Jimmy Loyd (seated left to right) engage in dialogue about culturally conscious economic development in North Minneapolis.

Some Minneapolis team members were born and raised in the area, others have been long-time residents and built their adult lives there, and some design team members are more recent arrivals – but each chooses to participate in Raising Places because the families in North Minneapolis hold a place in their hearts. Along with their various journeys of love for Plymouth Avenue, the varying backgrounds of design team members create invaluable opportunities for new forms of collaboration between people whose work areas may not otherwise cross in this sort of teamwork.

Along with Artika Roller and Lynnea Atlas-Ingebretson, both George Roberts and Jimmy Loyd have spent the last five months working together in a small group to address the need for economic development on Plymouth Avenue that centers around the needs of its families. With support from convener Adair Mosley of Pillsbury United Communities, this group is working on a concept for a co-housing development on the Plymouth Avenue Corridor that is community-centric.  Artika, a health and human services professional for Hennepin County and Lynnea, an education consultant at Imagine Deliver, exchanged passionate feedback with Jimmy and George during the North Minneapolis Action Lab.

Jimmy Loyd is a real estate and community development professional for Thor Construction – one of the largest African American-owned companies – who plays a key role in the development of Plymouth Avenue with the construction of the new Thor headquarters. The project, which includes retail spaces along the ground floor, was developed through public and private partnerships. For this reason, Jimmy’s experience is invaluable in developing the small group’s concept for the mixed-use co-housing development that brings affordable housing, retail and services to North Minneapolis residents. Whereas, as a long-time resident, art gallery owner and former educator at North High School, George Roberts’ historical knowledge and community relationships bring a lens of community consciousness and child-centeredness to the group’s work.

“Each day I learn there are people who live on this planet, as well as in our neighborhood, whose lives are based on experiences and principles quite different from mine.  Most of what I have been learning in this project could be summed up by saying I am learning to be silent longer – a better listener, and to have compassion.” – George Roberts, North Minneapolis design team
The concept poster for the Attainable Co-Housing Development includes features such as activity centers for children and adults, rooftop gardens, access to public transportation and rents that are attainable to a wide range of residents, including market rate, affordable, senior, artist and workforce.

In an area that has seen economic growth in its past, but most recently faced barriers in attracting development projects which truly improve the experiences of families on Plymouth Avenue, these cross-pollinating perspectives bring forth development ideas which are truly representative of a multifaceted community.

"I have learned that it takes a community to shape the future. That we all have a commitment to the process of moving our society forward. Including people from different disciplines allows for us to all contribute to the process, and learn from one another.” – Jimmy Loyd, North Minneapolis design team

Now, let’s turn to the North Wilkesboro design team.

Some members of the North Wilkesboro design team are born and raised in the beautiful greenery of North Wilkesboro, while others have made it their home while building families. The concepts developed from the work of this team are representative of the kind of creativity generated through having very diverse minds and experiences seated at the table together.

A group dedicated to improving access to nutritional food in North Wilkesboro includes town native Greta Ferguson, a coordinator at the North Wilkesboro Housing Authority, and Charlotte native Sam Hinnant, a planning and community development director for the Town of North Wilkesboro. They work alongside small group members who bring a myriad of experiences: Susan Cogdill from Wilkes Community Partnership for Children, Junior Goforth from the North Wilkesboro town commission, Kathy Kelly from Broc Head Start and Jeremy Parks from Communities in Schools.

Greta chimes in about nutritional food access during group discussion with Susan Cogdill, Jeremy Parks, Kathy Kelly, Junior Goforth and facilitator Annemarie Spitz (right to left) while at the North Wilkesboro Action Lab.

Together, these distinct points of view leveraged community relationships during their research sprint to gather information on challenges North Wilkesboro families face in eating healthily. Greta’s experience working across cultures and social classes has been a crucial voice to ground the work of her group within the complex realities families face in budgeting for groceries, using unconventional or inconvenient methods for travel to the grocery store and having to ration food among the children in their homes.

“One of the most important keys I have learned is that everyone – no matter what social class they prescribe to belong in – wants to be treated with positive regard. I have found that to be one of the most important things for my success in helping others. Assuring that they know they are important simply because they are a human and deserve it. Slowly but surely the walls begin to fall and trust begins to develop.” – Greta Ferguson, North Wilkesboro design team

Ahead of the Action Lab in North Wilkesboro, Sam Hinnant shared that he has found his overall perspective broadened and work as a planner positively impacted by his learnings from other design team members during the process of Raising Places. 

“I have been lucky to be a part of a design team that brings many unique perspectives and work experiences that differ from my own. I have learned to remember a child’s perspective when planning and designing projects.” - Sam Hinnant, North Wilkesboro design team

The hope is that relationships within all design teams continue to grow beyond Raising Places as they use human-centered design practices to support future project development for residents in their communities.

With the completion of action labs, each team moves forward into pilot testing their concepts over a three-month period. At the Raising Places National Convening in April, representatives from each design team will have opportunities to share stories from their research, prototyping and piloting with an audience of professionals committed to increasing health equity in communities.