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Big Idea Forum  – Think and Act Long Term – for Equity.  Community Leaders Offer Strategies



A multiethnic group of community leaders gathered at Metropolitan State University for the’s Big Idea Forum to focus on a topic of critical importance to Minnesota. To Think and Act Long Term when we are working to address racial disparities and social and economic inclusion. Very often our actions are short term, focusing on the two, four or six year election cycle and not the policy cycle that at the minimum is a 5 year perspective.

To help set the stage, Minnesota’s State Demographer, Dr. Susan Brower made the case that the ALANA (African Latino Asian and Native American) communities are in integral part of Minnesota’s current and future workforce because Minnesota’s population is ageing and major growth in the workforce is occurring in the ALANA communities. So in order to ensure we plan well for our current and future workforce needs we have to think and act long term, especially to close the racial skills and income gaps.Big Idea pix

Tasha Byers, who with the Saint Paul Chamber of Commerce and GreaterMSP identified another connected long term trend. Minnesota cannot retain its diverse talent at the high skilled level, partly because there is an inadequate multi-cultural infrastructure in Minnesota that appeals to these young workers. She shared some long term strategies GreaterMSP is putting in place to address this challenge.

Dr. Shaun Williams-Wyche, of the Minnesota Office of Higher Education (OHE) shared recent research on the ALANA skills gap in higher education. He offered data and a strategy for long term closure of this education gap. To attain the universal higher educational attainment goal of 70 percent in Minnesota by 2025 as established by the Minnesota Legislature, the OHE has identified numerical goals for each of the ALANA communities. For example, we w
ould need to assist 7100 American Indian individuals in the age group 25-44 to attain a career level certificate or higher degree. This is a specific goal that Minnesota could mobilize around to close the racial gap in higher education. For each of the communities in Minnesota we now know how many people need to be assisted to cross that line and policies and strategies should be coordinated and funded to achieve that goal.

Dr. Bruce Corrie, economist at Concordia University, offered a micro level strategy to think and act long term. By focusing on political units such as a precinct or a ward or a legislative or congressional district and compiling data on the economy within each of these units one can then tie economic growth to political representation. For example, in a precinct in Saint Paul in Ward 5, the total income of the ALANA communities is $70 million, there are 5 businesses, one school, 200 children in the school system and 300 workers. In 2 or 4 years at the next election cycle local residents could ask their elected officials what they did to grow these economic assets. This way the political base is empowered with data and elected officials are held accountable to provide tangible results.

The community leaders present shared their insights on the Big Idea. In these discussions, specifically identified by Siad Ali and Roy Taylor, an important question and concern was raised: Who is looking out for the people with low skills and opportunities? How could long term strategies include them?

This will be the theme of the Big Idea Forum in September – Putting People First. At this forum state agencies and nonprofits receiving equity funding will be asked to share how their strategies and programs are going to reach the person on the street, especially the ALANA person in need.

The event was moderated by Brett Buckner with assistance of Pamela Standing and Keith Baker.

The Big Idea Forum was hosted by in partnership with the Political Leadership and University Service (PLUS) Club at Metropolitan State University.