Nestled quietly among the 100+ panels and workshops offered at the 2014 Net Impact Conference in Minneapolis, MN November 7-9, the Local Impact sessions put Net Impact’s ideals and values to work. Led by The Value Web – an organization that designs and facilitates with premier organizations to solve today’s most complex and systemic issues – and the Minneapolis Global Shapers, the sessions brought together conference participants and representatives of the 5 Twin Cities Challenge organizations to solve real issues faced by these organizations and their communities.
The 5 organizations vary in scope and practice, but all have social-impact oriented missions. Tech Dump recycles electronics while providing job training for disadvantaged adults. During the Local Impact session, it aimed to figure out how to get more people to donate more goods to Tech Dump. “Every 72,000 pounds of recyclable tech is another job they can provide to people that face barriers to employment,” Minneapolis Global Shaper Taylor Larson noted. The participants were grouped into teams and ideated solutions using a business model canvas. The groups presented their ideas and voted for their favorite. The winning idea was to partner with local neighborhood associations for pick-up events at existing block parties. Amanda LaGrange of Tech Dump observed that itwas “helpful to have fresh eyes on a challenge we have been trying to brainstorm and address for many months. We heard all sorts of ideas, but it was the ideas that built on something we presently do that were the best. The participants took a current concept and added more convenience, more community, and more ability to scale.”
Hiawatha Academies is a network of high performing charter schools in South Minneapolis. They explored how to grow their schools and network. Participants brainstormed ideas for defining growth, recruiting teachers, raising money, acquiring space, determining number of schools and students, and developing a timeline. “It was a HUGE topic,” said Shaper Joy McBrien. “The format allowed us to get a lot of ideas out there for the admin team to follow up on, and I think they were grateful for our diversity of opinions.”
Buffalo by Bike delivers 100% grass-fed, sustainably grown buffalo meat and wanted to crowd source ideas on sparking greater consumer demand for their products. Chief Pedaling Officer Nicholas Heimer found that “dividing the room into teams, and having them come up with solutions to my challenge was fun. Everyone had different ideas and worked well with each other to build their solutions. It was very helpful for me to walk away with some new ideas.” Shaper Eric Sannerud added that designing the session as a competition incentivized the participants to put their best foot forward, the winners got a book about buffalo after all!
Clare Housing provides affordable housing and supportive services to people living with HIV/AIDS. Their main challenge was the decrease in public funding for their services and the general apathy around domestic HIV/AIDS. Participants split up into taskforces around marketing, fundraising, and how to use their ROI study that proved they were saving the State of Minnesota half a million dollars a year. One of the most interesting conversations was about how to make people care about HIV and AIDS in the US again without re-creating the stigmatized environment that people had to battle for many years.
Brave New Workshop (BNW) is an improvisational comedy theater and group of performance educators. “The Impact Session for Brave New Workshop was designed to generate and refine ideas for BNW to help youth in immigrant communities to use improvisation to explore their identities, find their voice, and create positive personal beliefs like self worth and confidence,” Shaper Terence Steinberg explained. The 10 participants created innovative ideas for financing programs, identifying new grassroots partnerships, and developing business models to sustain such programs.
Overall, facilitators and participants felt rejuvenated by the discussions. Sometimes, sitting in a huge auditorium and listening to a list of all of the problems in the world gets a bit tiring. These sessions created a safe space for bright and ambitious students and professionals to use their individual strengths and experiences to actually do something about these problems and come up with solutions. Taylor Larson emphasized the collaborative nature of the sessions. “The participants were from all over the country – Minnesota, Washington DC, Milwaukee, Chicago, California, St. Louis, Boston – and from all different industries and sectors… An awesome representation of what the conference is all about.”
- by Glafira Marcon