| Follow Us: Facebook Twitter Youtube RSS Feed

Coordination/Collaboration : Innovation + Job News

221 Coordination/Collaboration Articles | Page: | Show All

Booming startup scene active in TC Startup Week

This week (through September 14), the best and brightest in the Twin Cities’ booming startup scene will come out to play for Twin Cities Startup Week (TCSW). Sponsored by prominent, entrepreneur-focused local organizations like Beta.mn, Tech[dot]MN, Minnesota Cup and Minne*, the event features free coworking at CoCo, Minnesota Cup’s final awards reception and the ever-popular Bootstrappers Breakfast get-together.
 
“Twin Cities Startup Week is inspired by the growth of Minnesota’s tech startup community,” says Morgan Weber of Minnesota Cup. “Our goal is to unite the makers, doers and creators in the local startup scene.”
 
TCSW events will take place throughout Minneapolis and St. Paul, with many events finding homes at tech-friendly spaces like CoCo and Maker’s Cafe. They’ll cater to businesses at every stage of the startup process, too.
 
For instance, on Tuesday, Beta.mn 1.5 invited early-stage startups to demo their ideas, dispensing with formal pitches. It was “a lot like a science fair, but with more booze,” according to the event page. The Minnesota Cup reception on Wed evening caters to startups that are further along, awarding hefty prizes to entrepreneurs and teams with highly promising products. Rejection Therapy, which teaches participants to deal with professional rejection, offers character-building guidance that entrepreneurs can use throughout their careers.
 
While most TCSW events cater to local startups, tech entrepreneurs and investors will be on hand as well. Showcase events like Twin Cities Startup Crawl, which will tour a handful of downtown Minneapolis startups, and MinneDemo, a formal pitch event, are particularly attractive to outsiders (and local investors) looking for the next big thing.
 
Twin Cities Startup Week isn’t a first-of-its-kind event. Startup Weeks abound in other parts of the country: In May, Boulder hosted its own Startup Week, sponsored by more than a dozen local tech companies and innovation nonprofits; in June, Maine Startup & Create Week hosted an eight-day conference that showcased that state’s technology sector for the benefit of outside investors. Startup Weekend, a Seattle-based, nonprofit offshoot of Google for Entrepreneurs, hosts frequent local events at which entrepreneurs collaborate to launch a startup within 54 hours.
 
TCSW, however, is rooted in the unique, collaborative culture of the Twin Cities. Neither the Boulder nor Maine events included free coworking sessions or anything like Minnesota Cup, for example.
 

River City Revue highlights the good, the bad, the ugly along the Mississippi

The River City Revue (RCR) is “an annual summer series of river tours throughout the Mississippi National River & Recreation Area organized by Works Progress Studio, the Mississippi River Fund and the National Park Service,” according to its website. And RCR isn’t shy about highlighting the dark side of living in a river city.
 
After an August 22nd canoe trip between Hastings, Minnesota and Prescott, Wisconsin, the series returns to the Padelford Riverboat in St. Paul for “Filth on the River” on September 10. That program features “performances, participatory games, and short illustrated talks on some of the filthy, debaucherous, and unseemly aspects of life on the Mississippi.”
 
The overall goal of the series is to showcase the Mississippi River’s impacts on the Twin Cities’ economy, culture and natural environment. “To me, living in a river city means thinking about our relationship to water,” says Shanai Matteson, co-director of Works Progress Studio. “Water connects and sustains us,” adds Colin Kloecker, the studio’s other co-director.
 
According to Matteson, River City Revue began in 2011 as a public art collaboration with Northern Spark. Initially planned as a one-off, the initiative was so successful that Matteson and Kloecker pushed to turn it into an annual series. As the only National Park Service-protected waterway in a major urban area, the Twin Cities’ Mississippi River frontage is a unique asset that RCR’s collaborators believe is worth celebrating.
 
Other events have included “Purity on the River,” a get-together on the Jonathan Padelford Riverboat that featured speeches, performances and material showcases from local artists and thinkers.
 
The event was a mishmash of water-themed content, including a “water bar” with flights of local tap water and “collaborative panoramic river drawing” with the MAKESH!T Collective. Other highlights included a water-themed photo showcase, a poetry reading by Mary Austin Speaker, and a discussion of “water purity and beer brewing” – always an interesting topic – that included local author Doug Hoverson and representatives from Boom Island, Bang Brewing and Indeed Brewing Company.
 
“Purity on the River” was the third of five River City Revue events and one of two riverboat cruises in the series. The first RCR event, held at the Science Museum of Minnesota on June 27, featured riverfront walking tours (which had to be modified slightly due to high water levels) and lectures from National Park Service employees and local historians.
 
The second, which launched from the Soap Factory on July 23, explored the Twin Cities’ best “fishin’ holes” and included input from local fishing experts, chefs and naturalists.
 

Design for Good/The Common Table create food systems exhibit

The AIGA Minnesota  Design for Good initiative (#designforgood), first launched nationally by AIGA in 2011, is partnering with The Common Table for a first-of-its-kind showcase at this year’s Minnesota State Fair. The exhibit will highlight the diversity of local food systems, with input from “organic farmers, farm-to-table restaurants, nonprofits working on healthy soil initiatives and other organizations involved with sustainable agricultural initiatives,” says Sandy Wolfe Wood of AIGA Minnesota.
 
Among other things, the exhibit highlights Design for Good’s commitment to “design thinking,” an “iterative problem-solving process” that “has the power to find innovative solutions to our most challenging social problems,” says Wolfe Wood.
 
Design for Good's showcase is part of The Common Table's exhibit about local food stories in the Horticulture Building at the state fairgrounds. The Common Table enlisted AIGA Minnesota and the Design for Good initiative to design the graphic and multimedia storyboards for the 18 partner organizations. These storyboards are supported by the Storytelling Pavilion, a structure designed and constructed by The Common Table team that resembles branching trees with a canopy of airy honeycombs. The exhibit is both kid and family friendly, and will remain as a permanent exhibit at the Minnesota State Fair for years to come.
 
Many of the partner organizations are based in the Twin Cities. Notables include Red Stag Supperclub, Wedge Community Co-op and Birchwood Cafe. All of them source organic and sustainably farmed produce from farms near the Twin Cities.
 
Several producers will be on hand as well, including Homestead Gardens of Welch (an innovative plot that utilized cold-climate permaculture techniques) and Moonstone Farms. Industry thought leaders from the Institute of Agriculture and Trade Policy, Environmental Justice Advocates and the Central Minnesota Sustainability Program will participate too. 
 
Design for Good has grown into a key initiative for AIGA Minnesota, which is one of the country’s largest AIGA chapters and one of the state’s largest design organizations. According to its website, Design for Good’s ongoing programming aims to build “a core group of designers interested in design for social impact...who want to be engaged with social change, who have ideas of what issues are most salient, and who can share stories of successful collaborations that have made a difference in the world.”
 
Fairgoers who aren’t affiliated with AIGA Minnesota, The Common Table or any of the exhibit’s partner organizations can still lend their time and talents to the event in exchange for free State Fair admission on the day they volunteer. The Common Table is handling volunteer scheduling here.
 

Social Innovation Lab plans "Deep Dive" for change agents

Social Innovation Lab, a Minneapolis-based social justice organization begun in partnership with the Bush Foundation, is holding its next "Leading Innovation Deep Dive" on September 15 and 16 at the Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center on Minneapolis's North Side. The event will be one of a dozen that the organization has held in the past two years, all focused on training local employers and employees to "solve complex social challenges."

Social Innovation Lab is the brainchild of Sam Grant and Michael Bischoff, two social justice veterans who have decades of combined experience. Grant currently runs two other nonprofits, AfroEco and Full Circle Community Institute. Bischoff is Clarity Foundation's lead consultant. Bo Thao-Urabe, who is the Senior Director of Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy and runs RedGreen Rivers (an initiative that supports female artisans), is assisting Grant and Bischoff.

The Deep Dive aims to unite decision makers and role players from diverse backgrounds to talk through—and implement, at least on an experimental level—solutions to the Twin Cities' most entrenched social issues, including broken food systems and racial disparities in housing and hiring. The goal is to customize solutions to fit the needs of individual organizations, creating a graduating class of "change agents" who can apply what they've uncovered to the problems they face.

The Deep Dive walks participants through every step of the change-seeking process, from "clarifying the intent of your team" to "build[ing] prototypes that develop practical solutions" and "scal[ing] innovation for social benefit," according to the Lab's website. Participants are guided by six global principles, from "bring[ing] an open heart, mind, and will" to "honor[ing" commitments."

The ambition and optimism of the Deep Dive—and Social Innovation Lab in general—is a conscious counterweight to the sometimes-overwhelming feeling of powerlessness that can afflict people who work for positive change.

"Everybody that we've talked to is saying...the same things," says Grant in a video posted to Social Innovation Lab's website. "As hard as they work, they feel like they're facing this dynamic...where they're getting one step forward and two steps back, and they can't really sense that what they're doing is leading to the deep change that they desire."

As Bischoff puts it, it's much easier—and more exciting—to work on overcoming these obstacles as part of a team, "instead of just trying harder by yourself." The end result: a "community of social innovators" that drives momentum for positive change and "close[s] all of these persistent gaps," says Grant.
 

Southern Theater launches innovative ARTshare program

On Tuesday, July 22, the West Bank's Southern Theater publicly launched its ARTshare program with a festive gathering at Town Hall Brewery. Beginning in January, ARTshare members will get full access to all 15 of the Southern's resident performance companies for $18 per month, with a minimum commitment of 12 months. Members can reserve seats at performances on a first-come, first-serve basis, with no additional fees or restrictions. The theater is also working on a set of members-only perks, to be announced later this year.

To start, the theater is making a total of 2,100 memberships available. The Southern is already well on its way to this goal: Barely two hours into the celebration, nearly 200 memberships sold online and at Town Hall. Once the cap is reached, membership will be closed until and unless executive director Damon Runnals and his team decide to add more capacity. Memberships help fund a three-year, $11,000 per year residency for each group. The Southern won't charge residents to rent the space, though they must shoulder their own production costs.

In a recent interview with MinnPost, Runnals acknowledged that ARTshare will bring live performance to the Southern Theater for the first time in more than three years. While this means that the space won't be available for rental or other functions for the foreseeable future, it will provide a platform for more than a dozen small, local dance or theater groups. To smooth the transition, Runnals plans to "[hold] meetings with the resident companies to talk and share best practices," according to the interview.

If the Town Hall-hosted event was any indication, the initiative should be successful. Eighty attendees filled the brewery's patio. Free beer and appetizers fueled a merry crowd, many of which were members of Southern's future resident companies. People in orange ARTshare T-shirts circulated through the crowd, speaking with attendees about the initiative and soliciting membership pledges. At 4:30 p.m., the brewery patio hosted three impromptu performances from future ARTshare resident companies.

Members can expect more of the same from ARTshare's nearly untested membership model. As he noted in the MinnPost interview, Runnals and his team didn't have another example to study. Two theaters in Chicago and the Pacific Northwest also offer limited numbers of unrestricted memberships, but they both double as production companies. As a "co-presentation" facility, says Runnals, the Southern is more like Northern Spark - "a platform for artists," who have lots of say over how the theater operates, not to mention its content.

New cycling museum taking shape on Central Avenue

The Twin Cities has an entrenched biking culture and a surprising history of local cycling innovations. Soon, MSP will have a cycling museum to celebrate those achievements, as well.

Three cycling enthusiasts, including the two founders of Recovery Bike Shop, are creating the Cycling Museum of Minnesota (CMM)—"an idea that's long overdue," says Nina Clark, Secretary of CMM's Board of Directors. The museum will open sometime in 2015, in the 4,000-square-foot, second floor suite above Recovery.

The idea for a cycling museum originated with Juston Anderson, the captain of the Minnesota chapter of The Wheelmen, a national organization "dedicated to keeping alive the heritage of American cycling," according to its website.

Over the years, CMM has accumulated dozens of bikes and bike-related artifacts from sponsors, including one of the oldest bike repair stands in existence, a solid racing wheel prototype from HED Cycling and the first Surly fat tire prototype. "We want to be a repository for those seminal artifacts," Clark says.

At the moment, CMM's collection is largely made up of items Anderson has loaned out. In turn, Recovery owners Brent Fuqua and Seth Stattmiller permit rent-free use of their second-floor space. But CMM is growing quickly: According to Clark, the organization has already had some success in soliciting donations, pledges and loans from individual biking enthusiasts and companies tied to the industry.

A fundraising/open house event in late July showcased items that represent various cycling eras. "The idea is to represent all periods" of cycling history, says Clark about the museum, while "keeping the focus on Minnesota."

The museum won't just be for physical artifacts. A self-described "biker about town," Clark is particularly interested in literature and exhibits that celebrate cycling's contributions to the development of the Twin Cities' park and trail systems, as well as the manufacturing and retail businesses that profit from growing interest cycling.

CMM's founders and directors envision the space as a force for advocacy, too. "We want to be advocates for cycling's benefits for health, the environment and sustainable urban development," Clark explains, "not just a static collection."

Significant donors can earn membership in one of three "Founders' Clubs": Silver Spoke for contributions of $50 to $249, Gold Spoke for $250 to $499, and Titanium Spoke for $500 to $1,000. Since the cost of refurbishing and maintaining items in a collection like CMM's increases proportionally with its size, the organization is exploring membership and/or sponsorship models that ensure positive cash flow.

 

Made's bespoke products merge client branding, sustainability

Made, based in Uptown, takes an approach to designing and manufacturing corporate gifts, apparel and novelties that encapsulates client brands and reduces the environmental impact of the manufacturing process.

Made is the brainchild of Michelle Courtright and Kristin Hollander, two "gift industry" veterans who met through mutual friends in the late 2000s. When the bottom fell out of the economy in 2008, the pair decided to abandon their storefronts and join forces to create memorable corporate gifts—"beyond tchotchkes," says Courtright.

Made takes a bespoke approach to each product, usually designing items from scratch. The company started in government procurement. Through contracts with the Pentagon and FBI, Courtright and Hollander devised complex, multi-step solutions to clients' often-inscrutable requests.

"We gained a reputation for figuring stuff out," says Courtright.

Their approach also led to contracts with Twin Cities businesses like Target, as well as with The New York Times and pop culture icons like Pharrell Williams. In Made's nearly six years of operation, the company has relied exclusively on referrals and organic growth.

Another client, Minnesota Public Radio, still relies on Made to design and fulfill gift orders for its 120,000-strong membership base. Early on, when MPR needed a large order of red mugs, Made advised that red dyes manufactured in the United States were highly toxic, eventually finding a German producer that used a less-toxic vegetable base.

As a general rule, Made doesn't like to create disposable or single-use products, although they women bend this rule for such items as USAID's natural disaster relief kits. Made also structures its supply chain, where possible, to avoid redundant shipments.

But the company balances an earnest commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship with realism. "[Our client] Whole Foods knows that its customers won't want to pay $10 for a single tote bag," says Courtright. So Made finds solutions that incorporate low-impact materials without sacrificing affordability.

Although Made has Minnesota roots –and 13 local employees—its approach to manufacturing is a global endeavor. The company sources materials and components from all over Asia, but tries to acquire as many materials as possible from the United States. “The world is more interconnected than you would believe," says Courtright.

ArtsLab report highlights capacity building, resiliency

ArtsMidwest, an Uptown-based arts organization that forms partnerships with artists and local art organizations throughout the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes region, has released a major report to publicize the achievements of its ArtsLab subsidiary. Entitled “Capacity Building and Resilience: What Participants Learned Through ArtsLab,” the exhaustive report outlines the experience of eight organizations, including five from the Twin Cities.

According to Anne Romens, ArtsMidwest’s External Relations Manager, the report “offers key takeaways for nonprofit organizations seeking to build their resiliency and for grantmakers supporting the arts and culture sector.” The report itself is intended for “organizations looking to strengthen their adaptability, funders interested in the leadership qualities that support careful fiscal oversight, and…colleagues in other capacity building programs, both within and beyond the arts community.”

ArtsLab partners can enroll in the Peer Learning Community, an intensive, two-year “training and technical assistance program that brings diverse arts leaders together in a supportive, collaborative environment.” Components of the Peer Learning include mentorship assignments, monthly webinars, quarterly retreats, and training sessions that focus on financial management, strategic planning, community engagement and impact evaluation.

The five participating Twin Cities organizations had incisive feedback for ArtsLab—and the program’s future participants. During its first year working with ArtsLab, All My Relations Arts was evicted from its space at the Great Neighborhoods! Development Corporation, forcing the organization to hastily partner with the Native American Community Development Institute and seek funding assistance from ArtsLab. Over the subsequent two years, All My Relations found a new gallery and performance space that now anchors Franklin Avenue’s ascendant American Indian Cultural Corridor.

Mizna, a St. Paul organization that sponsors the Twin Cities Arab Film Festival, nearly went bust when its former director resigned to pursue her writing career. ArtsLab helped the organization secure much-needed funding to carry it through. But Rabi’h Nahas, Mizna’s board director at the time, is even more appreciative of the guidance and experience of ArtsLab’s staff and educators.

In addition to the report and accompanying case studies, ArtsLab released a complementary video series on ArtsMidwest’s YouTube channel, including contributions from the studied organizations.

ArtsLab was founded in 1999 with grants from six funding partners, including the Bush Foundation. According to its website, the initiative aims to “support the acquisition of new skills, tools, and habits [that enable] navigation in a constantly changing environment” through “a highly participatory process.” It’s permanently staffed by Program Director Sharon Rodning Bash, Program Manager Angela Keeton, and Program Assistant Emily Anderson, and supported by a national group of educators and arts leaders.

 

Crux Collaborative and the power of rebranding

Crux Collaborative, a user-experience consulting firm based in the southwest Minneapolis, is dramatically changing its approach to business, staff and clients as part of a bold rebranding effort.

During the past year, the firm formerly known as Eaton Golden has adopted a flatter management model, a more collaborative approach to internal problem-solving, and a culture of “trust and even friendship” between clients and employees, says co-principal Mahtab Rezai. She calls the experience overwhelmingly positive, with new clients and new staffers energized—and surprised—by Crux’s highly personal, yet results-driven, approach to its work.

Recently, says Rezai, an increasingly tech-savvy population and a growing volume of digital points of customer-vendor contact created a “sea change” in user experience best practices, from a proscriptive, top-down approach to a more user-friendly, even nurturing one.

“Almost everything we do now is complex and interrelated,” she says, including how we access and communicate information. Crux specializes in improving user experiences for “complex, data-driven, transactional experiences,” Rezai says, which “aren’t optional and haven’t historically provided a lot of choice to the user.”

Ultimately, the goal is to render these experiences—like using a health exchange, executing online financial transactions and accessing employee benefits—more “humane,” making it easier and more natural for people to complete essential, boring tasks in the digital space.

Rebranding has helped Eaton Golden/Crux Collaborative process and take advantage of this shift. Sadly, a tragedy accelerated the process.

In early 2011, principals Emily Eaton and John Golden lost their young son to cancer. Rezai, a former colleague of Golden’s who was already in talks to take a new role with the company, immediately took over day-to-day management of the firm while the parents grieved. Eaton eventually sold her interest to Rezai and left the company completely to write a book about coping with grief.

Rezai still has her operational role. Golden and Rezai are now equal partners. But Crux is no longer “two leads plus a support staff,” says Rezai. Nearly every important decision, including the company’s new name, arises through consultations with rank-and-file staffers. In a larger company, this might produce friction, but Crux is small enough to function as a single team.

So far, the experience has been transformative. Even experienced employees had never seen a rebrand go so smoothly. Morale has spiked. Clients are happy, too: Crux just posted the strongest first quarter in its 10-year history. Last year, with the transition in full swing, the company made Minnesota Business Magazine’s “Top 100 Businesses to Work For” list, a major achievement.

Will Crux’s new approach to business translate into a bigger workforce and a national client pool? For now, Rezai is cautious about such plans.

“Growth is not our objective,” she says. “Excellence is.”

The company has eight full-timers, with room for just a handful more. And since it doesn’t have a business development division or send out RFPs—“We’ve found that they’re a waste of our time”—the firm relies on word of mouth to attract new clients. Crux is picky about accepting new work, essentially “prequalifying” clients before pitching or consulting with them.
“The ability to judiciously say ‘no’ has taught us how to say ‘yes’ when it’s clearly right,” says Rezai.

By choice, Crux also focuses on companies in the banking/finance, medical device, health insurance and benefits administration subsectors—niches heavily represented by Twin Cities businesses. As Rezai puts it, “we stick to what we’re good at.”

 

New Fusion program addresses shortage of tech workers

In less than a year, a partnership between Advance IT Minnesota and Metropolitan State University has produced Fusion, an “IT residency” program that will officially launch during the 2014-15 academic year. Fusion places students in various technology degree programs with local employers—ranging from cutting-edge startups to Fortune 500 firms—that need flexible, entry-level IT labor. The program has already accepted applications for the coming year’s roster and is in the process of vetting applicants.

Unlike a traditional internship, which typically runs a single academic semester, each participant’s residency lasts 18 to 24 months—roughly tracking their last two years of college. Students are paid for their time, typically less than 20 hours per week, with projects assigned by their employers and paychecks issued by their school.

Fusion currently has 40 open spots, but Bruce Lindberg, executive director of Advance IT Minnesota, hopes to grow the program significantly in time for the 2015-16 academic year by expanding the program’s enrollment at Metro State and creating an identical residency program at Mankato State. By next year, enrollment could increase twofold, with further growth possible.

“If employer demand and participation grow beyond the capacity of those two partners,” says Lindberg, “we will look to expand by involving other academic partners” around the Twin Cities and outstate areas.

With a projected deficit of nearly 10,000 tech workers in the state by 2020, Fusion aims to accelerate the development of Minneapolis-St. Paul’s high-tech workforce while making it easier—and less risky— for employers and prospective employees to find one another. Currently, the rapidly growing and changing industry suffers from “skill mismatch,” where employers struggle to find candidates who can keep pace with changing job requirements and competencies.

“Many graduates face the frustrating reality of employers asking new grads for two to three years of experience…which they usually don't have,” says John Fairbanks, a third-year Metro State student who applied to the program this spring. “[T]hrough the Fusion program, I will graduate with a degree and have substantial experience to back it…allowing me to enter the job market more quickly and with real-world experience to solve real-world problems.”

The idea for Fusion developed out of conversations between Lindberg and Marty Hebig, Maverick Software Consulting’s founder and president, in January 2013. Lindberg and Hebig, whose company helps firms avoid offshoring by hiring low-cost, U.S.-based student IT workers for special projects and ongoing work, helped recruit other local business leaders to the cause. He also helped them build a compelling case for an IT residency program. In January 2014, Metro State approved the program and began publicizing it to students.

Employers and managers who wish to learn more about Fusion can attend an information session, hosted by Advance IT Minnesota, at MCTC’s campus on June 17 between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. RSVP through Bruce Lindberg at Bruce.Lindberg@metrostate.edu or 612-659-7228.


 

Mobile markets bring fresh produce to low-income neighborhoods

A recent city-ordinance change has paved the way for mobile grocery stores. Now the Wilder Foundation’s Twin Cities Mobile Market, a repurposed Metro Transit bus that cost the foundation just over $6,000, can distribute fresh produce on St. Paul’s East Side and the North Side of Minneapolis.

Both neighborhoods are considered “food deserts” because the corner shops and independent markets that provide residents with groceries lack fresh produce and other wholesome items.

“[Low-income] people living in these neighborhoods are already at higher risk for obesity and diabetes,” explains Leah Driscoll, the Wilder Foundation program manager in charge of the project. “Living in a food desert makes these problems worse.”

Many residents of these lower-income areas also lack reliable transportation to supermarkets in adjacent city neighborhoods or suburbs, further constraining their shopping options.

The ordinance change, which requires each food truck-like mobile grocery store to stock at least 50 individual fruits and vegetables in at least seven varieties, replaces an older ordinance that had restricted mobile grocery sales to areas around senior housing complexes.

The new law permits mobile grocery stores to set up in commercial, industrial and apartment complex parking lots between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. They can’t locate within 100 feet of traditional grocery stores and farmers’ markets without explicit permission from owners or operators. They also can’t sell certain items, including tobacco products and alcohol.

In addition to the requisite variety of fresh fruit and veggies, Twin Cities Mobile Market will also stock other staples, including bread, dairy products, meat, canned goods, and other non-perishables at costs competitive to places like Cub Foods. Before selecting sites for weekly visits—“public housing high-rises, senior buildings, community centers, and churches” will get the highest priority, according to the foundation—Wilder must secure at least 50 signatures from locals interested in using the market.

Driscoll is working closely with local community leaders to ensure that “we’re actually wanted and needed in the neighborhoods that we select—we don’t just want to show up,” she says.

Twin Cities Mobile Market, which Wilder unveiled on Monday at a “sneak preview” event hosted by Icehouse, isn’t the only mobile grocery truck set to take advantage of Minneapolis’s ordinance change. Urban Ventures, a faith-based organization headquartered in the Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis, is putting the finishing touches on a repurposed refrigerator truck that will begin making grocery sales around South Minneapolis, and eventually the North Side, later this summer. The truck, whose wares will include healthy helpings of local produce, will accept EBT and carry a nutrition specialist to help customers make healthy buying decisions.

 

MARS Lab and Google's mapping initiative for smartphones

Earlier this year, Google selected the University of Minnesota’s MARS Lab as its primary academic partner for Project Tango, a high-profile indoor mapping initiative that has been compared to Google Maps. The selection came with a $1.35 million grant and a directive to explore—and expand on—the possibilities of a prototype smartphone capable of creating 3D maps of indoor spaces. Google’s only other academic partner on the project, Washington, D.C.’s George Washington University, has a much smaller role.

According to Google, the current prototype device is a “5 inch Android phone containing highly customized hardware and software designed to track the full 3D motion of the device as you hold it while simultaneously creating a map of the environment.”

The phone can take up to 250,000 spatial measurements per second to create an intricate map of its surroundings.  While this technology isn’t yet available as an app on regular smartphones, part of MARS Lab’s charge is to create apps and APIs—mobile development platforms—that enable the app to be scaled down and included with non-specialized devices. Within a few years, some form of the technology will be available for download like any other Android app. The U of M lab will have played a central role in making that possible.

A major challenge will involve surmounting the technology’s requirement for two independent cameras. It’s unclear whether future versions will be able to work with a single smartphone camera, or whether devices that use it will need to have at least two vision sensors. A strict non-disclosure agreement, breach of which could jeopardize the lab’s funding, prevents MARS Lab director Stergios I. Roumeliotis from getting into such specifics about Project Tango.

A video released last month by the MARS Lab team shows the prototype’s capabilities. Although the current version produces a somewhat slow, abstract representation of its surroundings, future iterations will create near-lifelike interior maps. Google and MARS envision three broad areas in which 3D mapping can play a role: virtual/augmented reality video games, internal navigation in unfamiliar buildings (rendering directions in malls and corporate edifices all but obsolete), and navigation aids for the visually impaired. But innovation probably won’t stop there: In a recent interview, Roumeliotis argued that “the list of potential future applications is endless.”

In addition to Roumeliotis, two MARS Lab alums who have since taken positions with Google—Joel Hesch and Esha Nerurkar—are leading the development charge. The building blocks for the project were actually laid about a decade ago, when the MARS Lab team helped create the internal navigation system, known as VINS, for NASA’s Mars landers. A loss of NASA funding for the project proved to be a blessing in disguise, as Roumeliotis’s team found that the system worked just as well for earthbound mapping and navigation.

Corridors 2 Careers strengthens workforce development

Ramsey County’s successful Corridors 2 Careers pilot program—which connects economically disadvantaged residents of communities along the Green Line, including Frogtown, Summit-University and Cedar-Riverside, with workforce training resources and employers in the area—already has several notable successes.

According to the program’s exit report, more than 1,400 residents of Green Line neighborhoods participated in the initiative, and nearly 90 percent had no previous knowledge of workforce resources in the area. As a direct result of their participation, 65 local residents found gainful employment and an additional 47 enrolled in basic or continuing education classes.

The pilot project also encouraged local job applicants to obtain—and local employers to recognize—the ACT National Career Readiness Certificate, “a portable credential that demonstrates achievement and a certain level of workplace employability skills,” according to ACT. The public-private partnership between Ramsey County and Goodwill-Easter Seals will continue to push this certification.

Of the five-dozen employers that participated in the pilot project, more than half were unaware about local workforce development resources that connect prospective employees with willing employees in transit-served areas. At least eight hired Corridors 2 Careers participants.

Now, the project has blossomed into a larger partnership between Ramsey County Workforce Solutions, Ramsey County Workforce Investment Board and Goodwill-Easter Seals of Minnesota. At least nine workforce development organizations have already committed to support the partnership, which aims to increase the “alignment of workforce needs between the residents and employers” in the area, according to the press release announcing the partnership.

The Ramsey County Workforce Investment Board’s Alignment and Integration Committees will coordinate the activities of the participating organizations, including Goodwill-Easter Seals, which provides GED tutoring, job-specific skills training and job placement services to individuals who have been chronically unemployed, recently incarcerated, afflicted by homelessness, or who struggle with alcohol or chemical dependency.

Going forward, Corridors 2 Careers aims to connect at least 400 Green Line residents with job search assistance, and place at least 80 percent of those participants in entry-level jobs or job training programs. The goal is a “location-efficient economic development strategy” that encourages local employers to be more receptive to diverse residents’ cultural needs, refer rejected applicants to workforce development agencies, and create new, industry-specific employer clusters along the transit-dense Green Line.

With Goodwill-Easter Seals and the Ramsey County organizations acting as pillars for the initiative, local employers will be able to directly tap C2C for willing, well-trained workers, connecting unemployed residents who urgently need work and employers that require specific skill sets.

GiveMN launches enhanced fundraising system this summer

GiveMN, an online philanthropy platform launched by the Minnesota Community Foundation and based in downtown St. Paul, is partnering with Kimbia and Minneapolis-based Fast Horse to enhance its fundraising capabilities and improve the users experience. GiveMN’s new fundraising system will debut this summer, with the improved website rolling out in phases beginning later this year.

The partnership with Kimbia, announced earlier this month, comes after a rigorous RFP process that included several competing proposals. “We wanted a partner that was innovative and forward-looking,” says Dana Nelson, GiveMN’s executive director. Kimbia’s mobile-friendly technology integrates with “social media, partner websites, and personal webpages” and “enables donors to give in less than a minute,” according to its website.

GiveMN’s Fast Horse-led website redesign will build off Kimbia’s next-generation technology, with a responsive, “modern” user experience that’s consistent on big-screen desktops, tiny smartphones, and everything in between. The gradual rollout should minimize disruptions for current users, says Nelson, while encouraging newcomers to engage.

“With technology changing so rapidly, it’s hard to predict how people will access our platform in the coming years,” she explains. “We want to be out in front of that and create as many opportunities as possible for Minnesotans to engage with us.” The goal is to encourage donors to respond in real-time to “things that happen”—from unpleasant events like floods to fundraising drives for schools and churches across the Twin Cities and beyond.

“We want GiveMN to be the first place on the minds of local donors,” says Nelson, “whether they’re using their phones, tablets, desktops, or watches to give.”

With Nelson at the helm, GiveMN launched in 2009, drawing inspiration from microlending platforms like Kiva and community-focused charities like DonorsChoose. The goal was to foster closer relationships between donors and recipients, “which felt really radical at the time,” says Nelson.

GiveMN has stayed lean: It maintains its own office in Lowertown, but leverages the HR and finance assets of the Minnesota Community Foundation. GiveMN now supports a wide range of Twin Cities-based organizations, from St. Paul’s Springboard for the Arts (which uses GiveMN as its exclusive online fundraising tool) to Shir Tikvah, a Jewish Reform congregation based in Minneapolis.

The Nathan Hale School PTA in Minneapolis uses the service as well. Whereas bake sales and other commodity-driven school fundraising events can have high overhead costs, says Nelson, 95 percent of every dollar given through GiveMN goes directly to schools.

 

One Day on Earth gathers Twin Cities stories

Got big plans for April 26? Lu Lippold, the local producer for One Day on Earth’s “One Day in the Twin Cities,” has a suggestion: Grab whatever video recording device you can—cameraphones included—and record the audio-visual pulse of your neighborhood.

On the final Saturday of April, the Twin Cities and 10 other U.S. metros will host the fourth installment of One Day on Earth’s celebration of film, culture, and all-around placemaking. Founded by Los Angeles-based film producers Kyle Ruddick and Brandon Litman, One Day on Earth (ODOE) has a “goal of creating a unique worldwide media event where thousands of participants would simultaneously film over a 24-hour period,” according to its website.

The first event took place on October 10, 2010 (10-10-10); 11-11-11 and 12-12-12 followed. ODOE skipped 2013, but its organizers weren’t about to wait until 2101 for their next shot. Instead, they selected a spring Saturday—both to accommodate amateur filmmakers with 9-to-5 jobs, and to give participants in the Northern Hemisphere longer daylight hours to work with—for a bigger, bolder, slightly revamped version of the event.

For the first time, participants get 10 questions to inspire their creativity and guide their storytelling, from “What is the best thing happening in your city today?” to “Who is your city not serving?” The goal is to create a multi-frame snapshot of “cities in progress,” one that doesn’t simply answer the who-what-where of the places it covers.

As One Day in the Twin Cities’ point person, Lippold supervises local filmmakers and pitched the project to dozens of partner organizations, including the Science Museum of Minnesota and Springboard for the Arts to visual media companies like Cinequipt and Vimeo. (The McKnight Foundation and the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative are the largest local sponsors.)

The upside? “[The event] is a great way to shine a light on all the hard work that our nonprofit community does,” says Lippold.

Lippold also works with a handful of local ambassadors, some of whom enjoy national acclaim. These include noted cinematographer Jeff Stonehouse, veteran documentarian Matt Ehling, and community-focused filmmaker D.A. Bullock. They’ll be contributing their talents—and stature—to One Day in the Twin Cities’ promotion and execution.

One Day in the Twin Cities could be seen well beyond Minneapolis and Saint Paul. Along with their counterparts from other participating cities, local filmmakers may see their work incorporated into a condensed, three-part series that Litman and Lichtbau will market to PBS affiliates around the country. No word on whether TPT will air the special, but TPT Rewire has agreed to publicize the event in the coming weeks.

The real stars of One Day in the Twin Cities, though, are its filmmakers. Even if you’ve never filmed anything in your life, says Lippold, you can contribute meaningful work. Thanks to an interactive map feature on ODOE’s main site, the work will visible to anyone who visits.

“If I were just starting out in video, I would see this as a huge opportunity,” says Lippold. Since all contributions are credited by name and location, each participant “instantly becomes a documentary filmmaker,” she adds.

Source: Lu Lippold
Writer: Brian Martucci

221 Coordination/Collaboration Articles | Page: | Show All
Signup for Email Alerts