Community Foundation of Grand Forks, East Grand Forks and Region

Report date
March 2015

What has been most instrumental to your progress?

Aggressive Effort to Identify Opportunities For Innovation. The local BUSH Grant team is made up of a diverse group of community members each with their own distinct network of relationships. Up front the group made a conscious effort to seek out and encourage micro grant applications that emphasize innovation and change. This effort has resulted in micro grants that are more innovative and tend to be catalysts for change much than the group originally anticipated. The lesson learned is hard work tapping strategic diverse networks up front results in better micro grant applications.

Key lessons learned

Innovative marketing encourages innovation. Local media tended to cover the results and the actual innovative activities when they happened but did little to help cultivate or encourage the innovative activity. Personal contacts, social media and hard work on the part of the local BUSH grant team found and encouraged the innovative projects and approaches. Do not rely on traditional media to be a catalyst for change.

Reflections on inclusive, collaborative or resourceful problem-solving

Inclusive, collaborative and resourceful have all been critical components of this grant. The grant focused on 4 areas where our community needed attention. Each area required engagement, collaboration and much needed resources to fund the “extra” work some organizations or projects had to move the needle on a project. The strategy for our Bush Innovation grant was to strategically build new networks around shared issues, challenge groups to collaborate and offer financial resources to help them carry out the process. The starting of the Public Arts Commission is one of several examples of this work. A group of 8 was
formed, which included representation from the arts community. This has created collaborative efforts within the group which have impacted a larger community conversation on the role of arts & culture in the community, setting a vision, collaborating with the City, and ultimately creating a master plan for arts & culture in our community. Financial support for this initiative was critical to the success.

Other key elements of Community Innovation

Be in synch with your community. Look for major projects and challenges already happening and already being addressed in your community where the key doers and leaders in the community are already engaged. Use the BUSH funding to challenge them to try something innovative and creative they may have otherwise not pursued. A little micro grant seed money helps people feel more comfortable thinking and trying things outside of the box.

Understanding the problem

Information Sharing is a great example of an area where we have known a deficit exists, but lack of clarity as to what the needs really are. A group of interested citizens, library, media, city and others have gathered to clarify what the community needs are and how we may go about addressing them. The library is currently working on their plan on how to better meet the needs of the community – including a new possible building. Timing is great to have the ability to convene around information needs of a community and how the library, city and other partners may address them. Stay tuned! This has been the hardest area to tackle!!

If you could do it all over again...

Create an effective and stronger brand and marketing strategy for implementing the efforts before you start your work. This would help tie the stories of the work happening together while we are moving through the process.

One last thought

This grant has been invaluable to the community in ways the community will never fully understand. We will work hard to articulate the final impact story as we near the close of this year. It amazes me how most organizations focus solely on the needs of their organization vs the needs of the community. Bush Innovation grant supports our work to create systems change in much needed areas: Culture/Openness/Social Capital, Media/Information sharing, and Education/Workforce to attract and retain talent.
Without the financial resources to invest in the collaborative work – we wouldn’t have any leverage. This grant leveraged social capital; organizational commitments and excitement to problem solve to create new solutions. It united people and organizations, allowing them to focus and creatively problem solve developing new ways of business that improve quality of life for our region.
Thank you! We hope you will continue to work through us to do more of this fun and important work.