Tasks Unlimited

Report date
November 2022

What has been most instrumental to your progress?

Research, assessment, and reflection—all leading toward future innovative action—were instrumental components this year. Through community engagement with Envision Leaders and Street Voices for Change, we completed a study based on interviews with 62 individuals with lived experience of homelessness.

The report, “Strategies for Safety, Conflict Resolution + Social Connectedness,” offers a clear picture of the conditions people face when they lack stable housing, and lays out a roadmap for helping future Envision residents build a support network that leads to a living environment founded on trust, safety, and healthy relationships.
Building and deepening relationships among Envision Leaders, team, board of directors, and partner organizations continued to be instrumental in our ability to collaborate.

Key lessons learned

Envision was reminded that organizational values offer guideposts when making important and difficult decisions. During challenging conversations, Envision and Tasks Unlimited could refer to their values to guide and ground discussions. For Tasks, that meant avoiding risk that would endanger its ability to achieve its mission. For Envision, it meant creating the infrastructure needed to support the grass-roots mission and endure the long process of securing land, engaging communities during the COVID pandemic, and handling the inflated construction costs that required Envision to revise its financial model.

Reflections on the community innovation process

As part of the community innovation process, Envision identified “increasing collective understanding of the issue” as a critical piece of our work. For example, early on we focused on “tiny homes” as a key part of achieving our vision for Envision’s housing community, but over time it became clear that building an intentional community of peer support and shared values was more essential to our journey.

As we move into the next stage of our evolution as an independent nonprofit, Envision plans to intentionally revisit the “collective understanding” element in the diagram to ensure we are moving forward in collectively around our shared understanding of the issues in front of us.

Progress toward an innovation

Envision Community knew, going in, that our innovative approach of empowering people with lived experience of homelessness to lead our work would be a learning process. Given that our vision was designed to redefine leadership structures that have traditionally governed affordable housing solutions in the Twin Cities, we understood that our progress would necessarily not follow the straight line of existing models.

One decision that put us closer to achieving an innovation was to reserve several seats on our board of directors for Envision Leaders. Currently, two Envision Leaders have become established board members, bringing lived experience with homelessness to the board table. While this moves us closer to truly weaving lived experience into everything we do across staff and board, the dual role also led to reflection on the potential conflicts that can exist when someone is serving in both staff and board member capacities.

What's next?

Envision is finalizing the step of becoming its own independent 501(c)(3) entity. From there, key next steps include
• Developing Envision’s own organization structure (independent of Tasks Unlimited)
• Building the collaborative organizational relationships needed to achieve the goals of Envision led by Envision leaders
• Recruiting and engaging new Envision Leaders; building capacity of Envision leaders to achieve their goals
• Pursuing public sources of funding and other fundraising efforts
• Operationalizing our plan for the intentional, self-governed community of our first residents at the Penn Avenue site

If you could do it all over again...

One piece of advice we would give is to consistently remind ourselves the journey of launching innovative initiatives—especially in the complex environment of land use and building—can be filled with unexpected roadblocks. In this setting, delays are essentially a given, and when trying new things we need to anticipate that we do not have all the answers.

Linked to this, it would have been important to know that we would need to explore creative ways to keep people and partners engaged in our vision when major pieces of the effort—such as land acquisition—were delayed by forces out of our control.

One last thought