Category Archives: Blog

Rebuilding Trust Through Dialogue

In the past year, common narratives about democracy have hinged on one main focal point: a severe absence of trust. We’ve heard that American trust in government fell to historic lows and that trust in the news media eroded as a result of  social media echo-chambers and partisan news outlets. Knowing this, it’s easy to feel discouraged. But, what’s actually going on in communities across the nation? Has this distrust led citizens to give up on their local governments and institutions?

Last year, we saw the opposite–sure, people were frustrated. But they were also energized to meet with their neighbors, learn more about issues that affect their communities, and do something. In a year where divisiveness and partisanship were identified as critical challenges to the health of our democracy, it was incredible to see citizens working together to create change.

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Our Energy Future: Stevens County Questions Answered

On December 6th, we cohosted the event Our Energy Future with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy in Stevens County, Minnesota. We kicked off the evening by reviewing the basics of the energy system, presented by local experts. With this information in mind, residents broke up into small groups where they discussed what excited them about the energy system, the concerns they had, and what they wanted the system to look like in the next 10 years.

The event wrapped up with a few unanswered questions, which we will dive deeper into during our next event in Stevens County on February 28th, 2018. Residents will have the chance during the evening to map out steps the community can take to make their energy goals a reality.

In the meantime, here are the questions we’ve explored so far:

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Community Energy Conversations: Working Together to Answer Complex Questions

This blog is part of an ongoing series where we interview community members, experts, and partners that have participated in our projects. Sydney Bauer, a junior at the University of Minnesota Morris and intern at the campus sustainability office, shares her experiences at “Our Energy Future: Stevens County” 

When I began my internship at the University of Minnesota Morris (UMM) Office of Sustainability two years ago I did not understand the difference between a kilowatt and a kilowatt-hour. I was new to the energy world and my limited vocabulary showed that. I spent the next two years collecting and analyzing data on the UMM energy grid. I wanted to find out where our energy came from, calculate how much it cost, graph energy demand trends, and most importantly build relationships with the people who maintained our small but complex grid. After spending two summers working full time in the office my energy literacy has improved and my passion for renewables has shifted my career goals to include sustainability and energy focused work here in rural Minnesota.

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Imagining Our Energy Future

There’s been a lot of national discussion recently about the future of our energy system. Saving coal jobs. Adding wind and solar energy. Electric vehicles. Pipelines. The list goes on and on.

Much of that conversation ignores what’s happening in local communities across the country. And it rarely includes perspectives, concerns, and ideas from community members. Folks in rural communities often get left out of the conversation entirely, unless it’s to score political points.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. If we want to achieve a more resilient future, rural communities must be recognized for the role they play in our agricultural, climate, and energy systems.

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The Need for Civil Discourse: A Participant Review of the Minnesota Community Assembly Project

This blog is part of an ongoing series where we interview community members, experts, and partners that have participated in our projects. Dave Hill, a resident of Red Wing, Minnesota, reflects on his experiences at the Community Assembly.

I chose to participate in the Minnesota Community Assembly because I believed in the objectives of the Citizens Assembly and I was interested  witnessing how the “dynamics” of such an event could evolve. I believe social discourse is a lost art, and this sounded like a unique experience, even a little bit like a social experiment. Continue reading The Need for Civil Discourse: A Participant Review of the Minnesota Community Assembly Project