Northfield’s longtime Utne Reader connection alive and well

Soren Walljasper, Tessa, Harriet Barlow, David Morris, David Morris, co-founder of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, stopped by the GBM on Friday morn. He and his wife, Harriet Barlow, were accompanying their granddaughter, Tessa, and her friend, Soren Walljasper, on a visit to Carleton College (left photo).

I got to know David in the 90s while working at Utne Reader, as he was a frequent contributor to the magazine and a regular at our staff salons. Soren’s dad, Jay Walljasper, was the magazine’s editor during that time. Jay has been frequent presenter here in Northfield (see these Locally Grown blog posts tagged with his name).

Griff Wigley, Jay Walljasper, Curt Johnson, I’m now collaborating with Jay and longtime client Curtis Johnson, Citistates Group, on a project (right photo). While I was at Utne, Curt was executive director of the Citizens League and was instrumental in finessing funding for the Neighborhood Salon project.  It was a 1991 salon here in Northfield that was instrumental in the birth of Northfield.org.

all-that-we-shareJay has a new book out titled All That We Share: A Field Guide to the Commons ("How to Save the Economy, the Environment, the Internet, Democracy, Our Communities and Everything Else that Belongs to All of Us").

One of the organizations profiled in his book is Northfield’s Rural Enterprise Center (REC). Another former Utne staffer, Jon Spayde, recently interviewed Jay about his book for The Line which included this blurb about Northfielder Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin (Regi!), and his work with the REC:

Reginaldo Haslett-MarroquinAnother of the stories in the book is about a guy named Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin, who lives down in Northfield. He’s an entrepreneur, one of the founders of Peace Coffee, and a Guatemalan immigrant. He wondered what he could create to boost the prospects of immigrants in Northfield, and also show other people that immigrants aren’t taking something away from the community, they’re contributing something. What he came up with was a chicken co-op.

Everybody understands that local food is healthier for people and for the economy, but local food is also really expensive. Yet here are all these immigrants who were farmers back home, working in jobs that don’t use those skills. So he created this co-op where they raise delicious chickens that are less expensive than the local, organically raised chickens you find in the grocery store. The community benefits and the immigrants benefit. And it’s a cooperative, so there’s not a single owner; but it’s part of the market economy and it’s not getting government funds.

See Jay’s article in the December issue of Yes! magazine which includes this great PDF poster titled 51 ways to spark a commons revolution:

51 ways to spark a commons revolution

Budget cuts: an opportunity for local government to deliver services WITH citizens. Social media can help.

@Ross Currier, my Locally Grown co-host, tweeted on Monday, “As citizens increasingly challenge politics as usual, is it no longer left vs. right, nor faith vs. reason, but individual vs. institution?”

Listen Participate TransformThen Steve Clift @democracy retweeted this from @72prufrocks today, a report titled Listen, Participate, Transform: A social media framework for local government from the UK-based Young Foundation. It’s part of their Local 2.0 project (see the Local 2.0 Blog here), funded by the Department of Communities and Local Government

The report’s emphasis on the importance of public officials building relationships with citizens, using social media in part, is encouraging and is the best writing I’ve seen thus far on the topic.

In Northfield, this is more than a little timely because:

  1. Significant budget cuts have to be made soon and the process is receiving some criticism
  2. Citizens are being asked to support a referendum for new police and fire facilities
  3. The Northfield City Council has a goal of improving communication with staff, citizen advisory groups and community

From the report’s introduction:

Continue reading Budget cuts: an opportunity for local government to deliver services WITH citizens. Social media can help.

What Northfield can learn from the Citizens League about citizen involvement

MN Journal sshot The July August issue of the Citizens League’s monthly newsletter, MN Journal has an article by evaluator Bill Johnston titled The final analysis: What MAP 150 taught us about citizen involvement and engagement (p. 7). It includes this startling statement: "Dialogue is more important to citizen perceptions of authentic involvement than the effect on outcomes." He explains why… and I’ve excerpted some other interesting findings. (continued)

Continue reading What Northfield can learn from the Citizens League about citizen involvement

Hey Northfielders, the National Civic Summit comes to Mpls next week. It’s free.

bg_nlfbNorthfield is full of civic-minded folks so I thought I’d alert y’all to the National Civic Summit which is being held in downtown Minneapolis next week, July 15-17. The two-day conference is free and open to the public, though there is a charge for the pre-conference party and National Tweetup at the Mill City Museum on Wed. night.

The key questions for the conference:

  • “How can we increase civic imagination and capacity to solve today’s challenges in ways that serve the public interest?”
  • “How do we use technology to move from isolation and overload to effective collaboration and solutions?”

The folks at the Citizens League, one of the event’s co-sponsors, will be unveiling CitiZing!, their new online civic collaboration utility, at the Summit. Sometimes Northfielder Lars Johnson, Sunbeam Digital, has been one of the key developers of CitiZing!. I’m eager to see what it might offer us here in Northfield.

If you’re interested in attending, attach a comment here or contact me. It might be fun to have a civic gang from Northfield there.

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