Event led by expert lineup shows communities that kids are the key to region’s continued success.
MARSHALL, Minn. – On December 15, the Southwest Initiative Foundation (SWIF) hosted the Grow Our Own Summit at the Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall. A full lineup of experts focused on how everyone has a role to play in preparing the next generation to succeed.
In southwest Minnesota, approximately one in six kids lives in poverty; research shows that not all of these kids, no matter how hard they try, will be able to reach their full potential. This impacts not just individual families, but also companies’ bottom lines and entire communities. “Our sense of ‘we’ has shriveled,” said keynote speaker Robert D. Putnam, Malkin Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University and author of Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis. “This is a big deal for all of us.”
Additional speakers focused on state and regional information, with experts from The Carsey School of Public Policy, Northwest Area Foundation, The Minnesota Children’s Cabinet, The Aspen Institute, and YouthBuild USA.
The day’s focus was the “opportunity gap” faced by American youth, where the division of economic classes is widening and children born into poor families are unable to access the opportunities they need to become successful. Specific areas of discussion were inclusion as an economic growth strategy and how kids can be supported from cradle to career in order to prepare the next generation of workforce. The event gathered 550 individuals, elected officials, employers, community leaders, educators and students and was open to the public.
SWIF believes the region’s economy depends on the success of our next generation, and this event kicked off SWIF’s new focus on supporting all southwest Minnesota kids and the communities they call home. As these kids are the region’s future employees, entrepreneurs, community leaders, homeowners, volunteers and taxpayers, SWIF wants to work to ensure that the American Dream can stay within reach of these kids.
“Too many kids in our region aren’t getting the best possible start to their lives,” SWIF President/CEO Diana Anderson said. “We can, and must, do something to change that. The time is now, while 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.” Anderson said leaders across the state and country are watching SWIF’s work unfold.
Attendees were equipped with knowledge and a sense of urgency about this work, as well as ideas to consider in their own communities and businesses. Looking ahead, SWIF will use its resources and tools of business finance, grantmaking, early childhood and community philanthropy to ensure that the next generation has the opportunity to succeed in southwest Minnesota.
The Southwest Initiative Foundation is a single connection offering unlimited possibilities to grow and promote kids, families, businesses, entrepreneurs and communities in rural southwest Minnesota. As a regional community foundation, SWIF has contributed more than $73 million through its grant and loan programs. SWIF has helped more than 690 businesses start or expand through its business finance programs, which have created or retained more than 8,550 jobs. SWIF also established 25 community affiliates and more than 100 school, donor-advised and other funds. SWIF has also established 16 Early Childhood Initiative coalitions to support young children. SWIF has received 1,650 acres of farmland through our Keep It Growing℠ farmland giving program. The Southwest Initiative Foundation is an equal opportunity provider and employer.
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