The 2016 Compass Annual Meeting, held February 11, highlighted key trends in Minnesota's communities with a focus on equity and civic engagement.
Wilder Research Executive Director and Compass Governance Chair Paul Mattessich laid the foundation for the day with a reminder of how Minnesota Compass came to exist, and for what purpose. A source of credible, reliable, unbiased data and resources, Minnesota Compass works because it is "beholden to no one." For this, Paul recognized the vision of the Compass collaborative of funders, and particularly Sandra Vargas, whom he honored for her passionate advocacy and role as President and CEO of the Minneapolis Foundation (see sidebar).
The real outcomes we seek are improvements in peoples' lives, not simply changes to trendlines or a different set of numbers in a table. Looking forward, Paul observed, "One of the most critical things for Minnesota to do today is enhance the capacity of its young people."
Compass Project Director Craig Helmstetter provided a briefing on the latest trends related to quality of life in Minnesota, with a focus on equity.
Homelessness, poverty, health insurance top the list of severest racial disparity gaps in MN. #mncompass16— MCF (@FollowMCF) February 11, 2016
Craig revealed a revised and enhanced civic engagement topic area on the Compass website. We recognized the group of advisors that provided input on which data best aid understanding of civic engagagement: how our state fosters a climate of inclusion that encourages active participation from everyone.
Three civic engagement leaders--all of whom served in our civic engagement advisory group--shared how their organizations build on research to support civic engagement across Minnesota's communities.
"Disparities are realities" and they are more than simply data points, Abdullah said. "There are stories behind these numbers." That's why African Immigrant Services convenes a leadership academy, From Observers to Leaders, to encourage people of color to step up to create new possibilities and change the story for causes they care about. "When we expand the space for engagement and increase opportunities for leadership, those most affected by problems will discover their own solutions and make change."
Bo Thao-Urabe--recently nominated to the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders--described how the Coalition of Asian American Leaders worked with Compass to present data showing the diversity within Asian-American communities. "Asian-Americans did not see themselves in the data that supposedly represented them," Bo said. She advocated for continued disaggregation of data and for changemakers to eschew a "cookie-cutter" approach to community engagement.
Minnesota Voice, an affiliate of the State Voices National Network, supports creative ways to mobilize and empower people across the country, particularly people who make up the emerging demographic majority. Sina shared about integrated voter engagement and the ways in which political participation can inspire alliances, action, and transformation of communites.
Craig Helmstetter demonstrated uses for a brand new tool. Compass users had told us the statewide geographic profiles and Minneapolis and Saint Paul predefined neighborhood profiles are useful, but they requested a way to create profiles for custom areas – such as transit corridors, a cluster of neighborhoods, or a specified walking radius around an intersection or transit stop. The new custom tool allows users to create a custom profile to guide decision-making and better inform community action.
Compass' new gallery showcases the ways local organizations use data to have an impact. From arts for youth to a fact sheet for policy-makers and a bread oven to build community, the applications are as varied as the people who make up our neighborhoods.
Diane Tran, System Director of Neighborhood Integration for HealthEast Care System, served as co-convener for the civic engagement advisory group in 2015. Diane reprised her role by leading table discussions to provide space for attendees to apply the research to their work. Group members responded to this question:
How might the new civic engagement and equity insights inform your thinking or approach?
Responses included inspiration to consider the balance of detailed data with limited budget for a research project, an application to strengthen the work of the Tribal Nations Research Group, and a recommendation to utilize a new chartbook of data on 17 cultural groups in Minnesota.
How do the data inform your thinking and approach? Let us know.
Neal Cuthbert, Vice President of Program at The McKnight Foundation, joined MayKao Hang, President and CEO of the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, to take a look toward the future. Neal and MayKao serve on the Minnesota Compass Governance Committee.
Neal underscored the importance of research in community leadership. "People need reliable data as a basis for making informed decisions." He shared a specific way to take action to support research: ensuring adequate funding for the Census, which he called "the backbone of work like Compass'." To learn the status of investment in this source of current, reliable, disaggregated community data, visit Minnesotans for the American Community Survey.
MayKao closed with encouragement to expand our perspective to build on the data to improve quality of life. She noted that disparities in data do not reveal their causes or prescribe solutions. "That's the work we have to do together."
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To learn more about the Compass project, visit About the Project.