Groups explore ripple effects of equity work | Local News

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MANKATO — A virtual summit last fall looked at how to make rural Minnesota more equitable and inclusive, and a follow-up session Tuesday suggested it ended up helping expand social justice work in communities.

The summit was organized by the Greater Mankato Diversity Council, Region Nine Development Commission, St. Peter Community and Family Education and the University of Minnesota Extension. They reconvened with participants in early May and again Tuesday to gauge what impacts the event had.

The process was called ripple effect mapping, which resulted in a huge layout of what work came out of the event, what challenges participants still face, and other impacts on participants.

One of the organizers, Julie Hawker, said the feedback collected Tuesday will help in planning this year’s summit, set for Nov. 30-Dec. 1. It’ll again be held virtually so people from across the state can attend.

“We just really thank you all for being engaged with us today,” she told participants Tuesday. “We do plan on using this at the summit in November.”

One of the summit’s positive outcomes for the group was how it made people working on rural equity projects feel supported by connecting them with others doing similar work. Participants shared how they gained friendships, widened their network of resources and felt more encouraged to continue working toward making their communities more inclusive and equitable.

Ongoing challenges, meanwhile, included time constraints and the lack of support for diversity, equity and inclusion work in some communities. One participant noted their white-majority area generally has difficulties believing systemic injustices exist, while another said the pandemic made face-to-face learning opportunities harder to organize.

Scott Chazdon, an evaluation and research specialist at the University of Minnesota Extension, said he’ll write up a report based on the ripple effect mapping the group did Tuesday. He specializes in the mapping tool, using it to explore what impacts development programs have on communities.

In the six months leading up to this fall’s rural equity summit, he said participants can keep working on strategies to strengthen on the map’s themes. They can then look into further ripple effects from this year’s event.

An upcoming event in the St. James area will be one of the latest examples of work arising from last year’s summit. The Uniting Cultures community organization, or Uniendos Culturas in Spanish, organized its own equity summit in June called “Building Bridges for Thriving Communities.”

The June 9-10 summit will feature keynote speakers on how to engage communities on equity work and the impacts of unconscious bias. Breakout sessions will bring Watonwan County residents together to talk about the topics, although the event is open to people who live outside the county.

Pat Branstad of St. James, who participated in Tuesday’s session, called the event a spin-off from last fall’s equity summit. Speaking about the mapping session Tuesday, she said it helps lay out what people can do to move forward equity work in their communities.

“This list of things gives some real possible action steps and things that can pull people together, give them an idea and eventually work toward that collective action,” she said.



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