Northside Economic Opportunity Network

Report date
April 2015

What has been most instrumental to your progress?

Meeting with Employment and Training providers
We started our work meeting with Employment and Training (E&T) providers in hopes of finding out more about the challenges they have experienced placing African American men in jobs as well as reporting. It was important for us to do this so that we could establish relationships with each E&T provider that could potentially serve North Minneapolis African American men. Additionally these meetings assisted us in learning more about the E&T providers’ efforts to work with African American men.
Meeting with additional Stakeholders
While it was important for us to meet E&T providers, we knew that meeting with other stakeholders was key to our work as well. We met with potential investors of employment and training programs for African American men, supportive allies of African American male employment, and North Minneapolis African American male residents (living in area codes 55405, 55411 and 55412). This allowed us to gain additional insight into indicators and barriers to gainful employment for African American Men. Through the meetings with E&T providers, we learned that when working to place African American men there were a myriad of things affecting their employment. By meeting with the larger group of stakeholders, we were able to develop a robust list of indicators and barriers and then narrowed the list down by selecting the most critical to be included as tracked categories on the dashboard.
Partner growth and dashboard audience
We continued to look for partnerships and determined the best audience for a dashboard that will guide progress on African American male employment. After holding several stakeholder meetings, we discovered that the Northside Funders Group was doing similar work and we knew that utilizing partnerships would allow for us to do more efficient and better work. We have since begun building partnerships with the Northside Funders Group, LISC, and CURA.

Key lessons learned

Prior to starting our project, we were unaware that we would need so many resources. If we had we estimated more accurately, we would have more appropriately aligned our proposal with NEON’s Core Strategies towards economic development. In hindsight, we could have done more to properly secure resources ahead of time in order to execute the plan of action to the best of our ability. Identifying the correct partners and individuals that could carry out the plan would have put us further along the project.
We have learned that there is a need for more collaboration and cohesion around efforts to increase employment among African American men. Each stakeholder group was invested in African American employment to a certain extent, however, whether due to lack of resources or opportunities for communication, they were not always able to connect or leverage resources, knowledge and skill sets to better serve African American men.

Reflections on inclusive, collaborative or resourceful problem-solving

Collaboration: It would have been difficult to determine the proper approach to this innovation without the ability to develop partnerships with the Northside Funders Group and LISC. We also would have developed a tool that was redundant and didn’t have an audience if we worked in isolation. This possible redundancy would’ve further perpetuated the issue in our community of more resources being spent and spread across similar initiatives garnering less results.

Other key elements of Community Innovation

Establishing Credibility: In order to get people to participate or come to the table it is necessary to establish credibility. By using our existing community relationships and working with consultants, we were able to gain quick credibility to move forward with our project and did not experience much resistance.

Understanding the problem

This process has led us to learn two valuable learnings.
1. There is a direct need to further collaborate to engage education and training organizations to share information and outcomes with each other. This will allow greater transparency as well as synergy of programming.
2. There are great partners in Northside Funders Group and LISC to collaborate with to improve outcomes. They put together not only the measurements but also the strategies to solve the problem of African American male employment in north Minneapolis

If you could do it all over again...

This project began when several other organizations were looking at the issue of African American male unemployment in north Minneapolis. Prior to me becoming Executive Director, NEON did not do enough to collaborate with other organizations to create a common thread and divide work to effectively accomplish the greater goal of improving overall outcomes. A good first step would have been to establish clear partnerships and roles before diving into the work. I believe we could have seen greater results earlier on if this were the case. Despite not starting earlier, we have effectively established those relationships in year two so we are on track to achieve our goals.