When we thought about who would be drawn to this message, we set an audacious goal of bringing a couple hundred people to learn together. There were 550 people with us representing every sector – public, private, and nonprofit – and reflective of the changing demographics that will shape the future of our region. Thank you
to all of you who joined us!
As speaker Kathy Moxon so eloquently noted, the kids we’re talking about are not their behaviors. And we must work together to ensure these kids realize their full potential.
I’ve spent more than 15 years with the Southwest Initiative Foundation and even more here in southwest Minnesota, and I’m constantly struck by how deeply people care for each other and their communities. I also see how Southwest Initiative Foundation has balanced our enduring mission with being nimble enough to respond to our region’s changing needs.
Today, we see a need that is too big to ignore, and true to the core values that our founder The McKnight Foundation instilled in us, we know that local communities are best positioned to make sure all their kids realize the American Dream.
Our bold 10-year vision is that by 2026, Southwest Initiative Foundation will position itself as the regional champion and inclusive partner to close the opportunity gap for all our kids. We are calling this work – Grow Our Own.
One in six southwest Minnesota kids lives in poverty. These kids sit in our classrooms, will come to work in our businesses, and will need to fill the many roles that keep our communities strong and vibrant.
Too many kids in our region aren’t getting the best possible start to their lives. We can—and must—do something to change that. The time is now! We heard Beth Mattingly talk about it—we are working from a position of strength with the ability to preserve and protect our precious assets rather than reacting to an impending crisis.
We’ve been calling Grow Our Own our “new work” but in truth, we’ve been doing this for a long time. We’ve championed children ages birth to 5 through our statewide Early Childhood Initiative for more than 13 years. When Robert Putnam mentioned the impact of early childhood investments yesterday, our summit audience erupted with cheers!
We have also supported or delivered programs that promoted strong families, inclusive communities, intergenerational understanding, and youth mentoring and enrichment.
It’s more accurate to call it a “new focus” as we continue what we do best—business finance and entrepreneurship, early childhood, grantmaking and community philanthropy. We’ll align this work to support all southwest Minnesota kids.
There’s an African proverb inscribed on the wall of my office that has motivated me these past 18 months whenever I began to feel overwhelmed by the work ahead. “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
It’s my daily reminder that together we can create a future where all children in southwest Minnesota reach their full potential.
This is just the beginning!