Even before the launch of our new Community Innovations programs in May 2013, the Bush Foundation was supporting the concept. The Foundation understands that community members understand better than anyone the reality of the issues that face their communities, and they are best positioned to identify and advance solutions to them. These people understand that tough choices need to be made. And they are willing to make them.
In our efforts to help communities remain vital even with the arrival of challenging economic and demographic shifts, in the past we have undertaken several efforts to engage communities in identifying together their toughest problems and the possible solutions:
- Citizen Solutions - This engagement strategy brings together groups of citizens representing different political ideologies, genders, generations and ethnicities for civil conversation about tough issues. The Foundation has used this process on two topics in Minnesota—health care reform (more than 40 sessions between April and July 2012) and the state budget (three sessions in July 2011).
- South Dakota Systems Regional Engagement Pilot - Sponsored by the Bush Foundation, the South Dakota Governor’s Office of Economic Development, and Dakota Resources, this pilot is based on an innovative combination of the community capitals framework, systems thinking/mapping, and Art of Hosting methodologies to provide comprehensive community engagement, situational analysis, strategy development, implementation, and measurement benchmarks for long-term community vitality.
- Redesigning Minnesota - A series of eight hour-long television programs over two years examining the ways that systems in Minnesota must change to cope with the new normal, as well as ongoing discussions on InCommons to engage citizens in planning for and making those changes.
- Respectful Conversations Project - Between March and November 2012, the Minnesota Council of Churches assisted 60 congregations in hosting respectful conversations about the proposed Minnesota Marriage Amendment.
- Local Government Innovation Forums - Six meetings across Minnesota in fall 2011 that brought together local government officials and leaders to discuss opportunities to improve services while cutting costs.
- Common Cents - Thirty-six meetings in late 2010 and early 2011 to engage Minnesotans in conceiving solutions for the state's budget crisis.
- InCommons Collaboration Challenges - In 2010, the first-ever InCommons Collaboration Challenge recognized and supported innovative collaborations to solve community problems. 223 collaborations from all over Minnesota entered the Challenge, all looking for the opportunity to receive $25,000 to continue, replicate or expand their efforts. A group of evaluators, led by the Citizens League, and then an independent panel of expert judges have narrowed this group down to three outstanding collaborations.
- Prospects & Possibilities - More than 70 community conversations in North Dakota and South Dakota in fall/winter 2010 to get people talking about their shared community problems.
Solutions arise when people work together, that's why the Bush Foundation works to engage communities in solving their toughest problems, builds leadership capacity and provides access to tools for innovation.