What would it look like 30 years from now if all of the high school graduates bound for four-year colleges left southwest Minnesota and never came back? If kids that were at risk of falling through the cracks didn’t get a hand up? If our new immigrant families didn’t make a smooth transition into our communities? What you could imagine 30 years from now would not feel as vibrant and exciting and good as it does today.
That was the discussion around the table with our board of directors as we tried to imagine the future of our work on the heels of our 30th anniversary in 2016. Our conversations pointed us in a new direction, toward the challenge of closing the opportunity gap for kids living in poverty as the most important thing we could do for the future of our region. While this work moved ahead with Grow Our Own, we started to realize our longstanding mission statement might not fit that new vision.
For almost our entire history the word catalyst had been in our mission, and we were proud to be the spark for getting good ideas off the ground, whether it was business opportunities, great community development programs, aging initiatives or donor ideas. This idea of being a catalyst, of playing that role of regional convener remains critical to the future, but we wanted a new way to talk about it that would inspire others with simple language that went straight to their hearts and minds.
Our board of directors and staff spent months searching for the right words. Our energy came together around “connecting, investing and building.” Those are words that have a long history with the foundation. In our refreshed mission, they’re paired very simply with this idea of community and relationships and big ideas, which are at the heart of what we do.
Southwest Initiative Foundation is connecting people, investing in ideas and building communities. Our vision, the goal of this work, is a southwest Minnesota where all people thrive.
The latest issue of our annual report, “Looking Forward, Giving Back” celebrates our new mission statement, showing how it builds on the work of the past even as it leads us forward with bold intention. We’re looking to the future from a position of strength in our communities, with all the assets in southwest Minnesota that position our kids and families and communities to do well. Let’s build on what’s good. Let’s connect to others who care about southwest Minnesota so that together we can invest in ideas that make it even better.