Finding ways to thrive

Photo by Deb Gau Area residents talked about ways to strengthen Minnesota communities during a Thriving By Design meeting in Marshall on Thursday. Sarah Leistico wrote down a list of topics the group thought should be priorities to take to Minnesota legislators.

MARSHALL — They had different skills, different ideas and came from different walks of life. But the people gathered at the Marshall-Lyon County Library all had a shared goal, Ron Skjong said. They were there to find the opportunities to strengthen Minnesota communities.

“It’s about community – what can I do to ensure the thrivability of this community?” Skjong said.

Skjong was helping to coordinate an area “Thriving By Design” meeting on Thursday night. The meeting was the second one held to talk about community concerns in southwest Minnesota.

People taking part in the conversations ranged from representatives of area service organizations to members of the public. Members of the groups Growth & Justice and OneMN.org were present to collect feedback from the meeting, and use it to help shape a policy agenda “with the intent to present it to the Legislature,” Skjong said.

The Thriving By Design initiative kicked off last summer, during a conference held in Granite Falls and the Upper Sioux Community. Organizers called for Minnesotans to work together on a shared plan for prosperity — the One Minnesota Equity Blueprint.

Thursday’s meeting was a chance to examine area concerns in more detail, said Sarah Leistico, of Growth & Justice.

“You need more time to dig deeper,” Leistico said.

One of the concerns that emerged from previous discussions in Marshall was how to build connections.

“There are a lot of resources in Marshall, and a lot of organizations doing good work, but they’re disconnected,” Leistico said. Area residents were also concerned about access to affordable housing, and discussed immigration, and how to build a welcoming community.

The question of how to build connections came back as a topic of discussion Thursday night, as community members talked about local needs like transportation, access to health care, and helping overcome language barriers.

Although the conversations covered a lot of ground, community members were asked to narrow down a list of legislative priority areas.

Leistico took down suggestions like housing access, paid family leave, preserving Minnesota’s health care provider tax, and freedom to drive initiatives.

Looking over the list, Leistico said, “There’s some (priorities) that are on the radar at the Capitol, and there are a few that aren’t.”

Leistico said Thriving By Design organizers will add information from the Marshall group’s discussion to feedback from around the state. The goal will be to set policy priorities that can be taken to Minnesota lawmakers.

More information on the Thriving By Design initiative can be found online at thrivingbydesign.org.

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