Community engagement is core to Southwest Initiative Foundation’s mission, and it’s a place where collaborative partnerships shine. From developing a teacher pipeline in Worthington, to piloting a local government learning cohort, to promoting mental health in schools, to supporting age-friendly community projects – Southwest Initiative Foundation brings people together with innovative approaches to build vibrant and welcoming communities, one of the pillars that our kids need to succeed.
We believe our communities are strongest when all people, of all ages and backgrounds, can fully participate in our region’s opportunities, and it requires a sense of belonging. Deep divides across racial, political, religious, socio-economic, and cultural lines create barriers to all people feeling valued by and engaged in their community. SWIF is working to deepen and build trusting relationships across differences by listening to, learning from, supporting, and advancing communities that have been excluded, to develop meaningful connections and real inclusion.
This work is led by a growing team of SWIF staff focused on rural equity, youth and family, and civic and community engagement. It happens through grantmaking, facilitated conversations and partnerships, research, education and training, proactive programming, advocacy, and local community-led belonging work.
Examples of SWIF community engagement work include:
- Nonprofit capacity building
- Support of children and youth programing
- Support of Welcoming Week celebrations
- Lead for Minnesota Fellowship
- Support for community news
- And more!
Economic Mobility Action Network
In April 2020, SWIF was invited to become a member of the Economic Mobility Action Network through CFLeads, a national network of community foundations committed to strengthening community leadership muscle, sharing field innovations, and tackling the key issues of our time.
EMAN is a cohort of six community foundations: The Chicago Community Trust, Community Foundation of Greater Buffalo, Foundation for Louisiana, Greater Cincinnati Foundation, San Francisco Foundation, and Southwest Initiative Foundation. This 18-month pilot project brought together senior leadership teams from these six pioneering community foundations from across the country to develop and refine an economic mobility agenda in our respective communities and build each foundation’s capacity to advance the work. Participating community foundations also work together to reduce racial disparities in economic mobility.
Through EMAN, we created a plan with actionable efforts as the SWIF roadmap to intentionally guide efforts that increase belonging in southwest Minnesota. Focus areas include:
- Creating an Equity, Strategy and Planning Task Force to support board and staff learning
- Hosting an Anti-hate Awareness and Action Forum to share information and ideas about how rural communities can promote belonging
- Hosting the One Caring Adult webinar and promoting Social-Emotional Learning Curriculum to support kids and families
- Commissioning research and engagement studies to access local data
- Healing work and relationship building with Native communities in southwest Minnesota
- Belonging Begins with US/Welcoming Week campaigns
- Engaging a Regional Coalition of Equity and Inclusion Advocates from regional organizations
- Expanding longstanding business financing and entrepreneurship programming, which is a proven SWIF model for economic mobility