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Vital Connections

Learn more about topics important to Minnesota communities through articles, videos and podcasts. Find stories and information to help you get engaged in your community. Help others better know, decide and act.

 

Community features

Improve teamwork with group development

How are your group projects going? Is everyone on your team contributing? Learn about group dynamics and well-performing teams.

 

Three steps for inclusive and effective group agreements

Good communication is necessary for successful group work. Learn how to create guidelines to help your meetings be effective and fair.

 

Wake up Minnesota with Victoria McWane-Creek on emotional intelligence

[podcast] How do you lead authentically? Listen as we explore topics such as emotional intelligence, implicit bias for and against others, hospitable and welcoming communities, equity-minded leadership, and more.

 

All articles, podcasts and videos

Find content on topics that include:

  • Community development (e.g. attracting new residents, evaluating programs and local foods)
  • Community economics (e.g. local economies, retail, retaining businesses and workforce)
  • Leadership and civic engagement (e.g. assessing and developing leaders, facilitation, building trust and engaging communities)
  • Tourism development (e.g. learning about visitors and planning festivals and events)

How does a community become more welcoming for everyone? Learn some reasons to create change and read stories from communities that are taking action to be more inclusive.
 

[video] How often do you spend time in nature? Learn how forest bathing can strengthen your well-being and help you reconnect with yourself.
 

[video] How can you increase your compassion for others? Watch and learn three tips to build empathy and connection, even with someone you don't know.
 

[video] Is there a cultural concept that is a part of your community? Learn about the Finnish concept of sisu.
 

[video] Do you celebrate your small accomplishments? Watch and learn about how our brains are wired to respond to rewards and the benefits of celebrating the small stuff.
 

Have you asked others to take a survey or participate in a forum for your organization only to never consult them again? Learn how to engage with others in more meaningful ways.
 

When our educator focused a series of podcasts on Minnesota's workforce issues, she didn't realize covering the issue would take six months — and then some.
 

As educators, we read a lot. Check out our recommendations for five books that have influenced our discussions during the year.
 

Leadership practitioners have an opportunity to reflect on ways to increase inclusion and integrate multicultural approaches.
 

[video] Do you question your talents or intelligence fearing that you don't measure up? Learn more about growth and fixed mindsets and which one aids resilience.
 

What does your community have to offer and what do you bring to it? Learn about five types of community and reflect on where you may find yourself in them.
 

It's not your grandparents' Greater Minnesota anymore. You know, the Greater Minnesota dominated by the industries of its founders - agriculture and mining.
 

For leaders, creating public value and common good can be a daunting task. Learn how to find joy and simplicity while living in leadership.
 

As we celebrate Earth Day, let's reflect on how access to the outdoors enriches visitors’ and residents’ experiences within a community.
 

[podcast] Evaluating programs and initiatives is critical. Hear how listening to community members' stories and interviews can impact your evaluation process.
 

[video] How do positive emotions help you? Listen and learn how experiencing positive emotions helps with your creativity and resilience both now and in the future.
 

[video] How can drinking a hot beverage change how you think about others? Learn about research done on how hot drinks can build trust and empathy.
 

[podcast] Communities are getting creative in how they work to understand and address child care shortages. Hear Greg Wagner from the West Central Initiative as he shares steps they are taking to increase child care capacity.
 

One in 10 Minnesota retail dollars (in taxable sales) is spent outside the state. Learn how the retail market is changing and the ways communities and businesses can adapt.
 

Good communication is necessary for successful group work. Learn how to create guidelines to help your meetings be effective and fair.
 

Questions that go beyond a yes and no response make conversations pop. Learn about the "what, so what, now what" questioning approach to better engage with others.
 

How can rural and urban communities work together? Learn about their similarities and building networks across boundaries.
 

[video] How well do you listen to others in your community? Learn about the practice of capitalization and how to see its benefit.
 

[podcast] How is COVID-19 impacting tribal communities? Listen as we speak with tribal leader Beth Drost as she talks about the pandemic and her leadership journey.
 

[podcast] Are social roots keeping people in Northeast Minnesota? Listen to members of ReGen talk about the importance of community connections and share how they became the people they'd been in other communities as Iron Rangers.
 

Like most American institutions, the rural grocery store is facing change. Read about an Extension study of the future of rural groceries and how communities can help.
 

[podcast] Minnesotans in rural and urban areas help grow our diverse economy. Listen as we discuss current challenges and opportunities facing Minnesota's workforce.
 

Politicians and corporations are now realizing they may not be able to succeed unless they understand what's in the hearts and on the minds of the burgeoning Latino population in America.
 

[podcast] How is COVID-19 impacting tribal communities? Listen to our conversation with tribal leader Robert Larsen as he talks about the pandemic and his leadership journey.
 

[video] How do you manage stress? Learn about two resiliency taglines that help you center yourself and lessen negative self-talk.
 

How are you doing — really? Your mental health and well-being are essentially your internal bandwidth. Learn how you can check that signal.
 

[podcast] Minnesota's business community is on the front line of addressing workforce issues. Listen as we explore what is happening and how companies are supporting immigrants and immigration policy.
 

What questions can you ask to help with critical thinking? Read about a definition and learn a three-step tool to help your thinking process.
 

[video] Do you say "it is what it is," especially when in a challenging situation? Learn how saying "it is as I am" instead can help you live and lead with intention.
 

Reflexive thinking is having the ability (and commitment) to look inward and to see what some people refer to as a “standpoint.” Learn how you can practice reflexivity.
 

[podcast] Listen as we speak with tribal leader Joe Nayquonabe, Jr. about his resiliency, the pandemic and his leadership journey.
 

[podcast] Listen as we talk to Dustin Burnette who shares his leadership journey and efforts to create an Indigenous immersion network.
 

Minnesota's voter turnout is impressive — almost 19 percent higher than the rest of the nation's over the past decade. Is voting all that matters for a democracy?
 

How are your group projects going? Is everyone on your team contributing? Learn about group dynamics and well-performing teams.
 

[video] What do you intentionally do to grow your well-being? Learn about four key pillars of well-being that you can practice daily.
 

[podcast] Minnesota is experiencing a child care crisis that directly affects workers and employers. Listen as Marnie Werner shares insight from the Center for Rural Policy and Development's research.
 

Learn tips for leading effective online meetings that will help you grow your skills and confidence.
 

[video] What helps you calm your mind? Learn about three ways you can cultivate your inner peace.
 

[podcast] How has COVID-19 impacted daily lives and tribal communities? In this podcast episode, we talk with Dennis Olson, Jr. about his leadership journey and navigating change.
 

[podcast] Minnesota's workforce is changing. Our workers are aging and new employees are often newcomers to our country. Listen as we discuss the impact of immigrants in our labor market.
 

[video] Do you intentionally create connections with others? Learn about creating micro-moments in your community through connections with others.
 

[video] What values help you focus on living and leading with intention? Learn about tools that may help you connect you with your intention.
 

[video] How can you handle feeling socially isolated? Watch our video and learn about oxytocin and ways to lessen that feeling and connect with others.
 

[video] Feeling overwhelmed? Watch and learn about a series of videos on stress.
 

Minnesota festival themes often celebrate food, music and culture. Besides being fun, well-managed festivals and events offer many economic and social benefits.
 

[podcast] Will Minnesota's economy continue to grow? Listen as we talk about the state's economy and workforce challenges facing employers and communities.
 

[video] How do you show compassion? Learn about cultivating compassion. Discover four steps you can apply to your work, leadership and community life.
 

If community groups are to find good answers, it is important they ask the right questions. That's why asking questions is a leadership skill worth studying.
 

[video] Is there a connection between being an introvert or extrovert and your happiness? Watch and learn more about research on extrovert behavior and positive well-being.
 

[podcast] Even as more women step into leadership roles, much work remains to reach true gender equity. Listen as we talk with Teresa Kittridge about supporting rural women in leadership.
 

You look at your calendar and there it is … your first in-person meeting. If some on your team are attending remotely, how do you facilitate the hybrid meeting?
 

[podcast] How do you discuss ideas and issues with your neighbors? Listen to Jody Horntvedt share nuts-and-bolts advice for creating healthy community conversations.
 

[video] When you start to notice your body entering a stress mode, what do you do? Learn about a grounding technique to help you stay focused.
 

The year 2013 brought improved economic news to much of Minnesota, but a few towns took some hard knocks. Crises like these create tough times in local economies.
 

Trust binds a relationship, keeps a team together, drives performance, and enables collaboration and coordination. Learn five steps to build it.
 

Five generations of Minnesotans are now living and working together in communities and challenging each other to work across differences.
 

More and more, a task of local leaders is to find the next generation of people willing to lead. This can be a challenge in rural Minnesota.
 

[video] How many times have you laughed today? Watch and explore how laughter is good for your wellbeing and your community.
 

[podcast] Listen to our inaugural podcast episode focusing on the leadership journey and resiliency of tribal leaders. In this episode we talk with Bradley Harrington, Jr.
 

[video] How do you handle being rejected by others? Learn about rejection and small actions that can help lessen the pain.
 

[podcast] What does being an involved citizen mean? It isn't always about running for office. Hear from community members who helped protect and promote a hidden nature spot in Woodbury, Minnesota.
 

In community leadership, having a good sense of self can help you relate well to others. But knowing yourself means spending some time looking inward.
 

Local food growers are working to have their day in the sun. And rural leaders are anxious to see how local food production might diversify and strengthen their economy.
 

Many organizations are looking to get back to some type of “normalcy” by bringing employees back to the workplace. What skill will help you be successful?
 

Looking beyond a conventional analysis of rural Minnesota of decline and stagnation to one of a rural rebound.
 

[podcast] Hear our conversation with Brenda Child about the legacy of boarding schools and its impact on tribal land, American Indian education, and more.
 

[video] Can smiling help you through a difficult situation? Learn about the science of how grinning and bearing it can reduce stress.
 

[video] Do you tend to fall into the trap of negative self-talk? Learn about self-compassion and three elements that can boost your resilience.
 

[video] What makes you flourish? Watch our video on the PERMA model of well-being. Learn how to reach a life of fulfillment, happiness and meaning.
 

You could travel around the world to attract new jobs to your town, but you're probably better off staying at home.
 

[video] How can you reduce burnout in your workplace? Learn about six common drivers of burnout based on research.
 

Newcomers to Minnesota sometimes joke that “Minnesotans will give you directions to everywhere but their house.” But community leaders across the state are trying to change that – in a big way.
 

[video] How do you thank others? Learn about a technique to hone your gratitude skills to increase your well-being.
 

[video] What makes something interesting? Discover two elements that make us interested or not.
 

How much do you know about the history of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders? Learn about their stories from a Minnesota perspective.
 

[video] Open your mind. Open your heart. Open your will. Learn about research that will help you be ready to listen for new possibilities.
 

[podcast] How do you plan for a successful business transition? Sharing resources and building supportive relationships can help. In this episode, hear how Spring Valley, Minnesota created a program that helps business owners.
 

[video] How does gratitude fit in your life? Learn how gratitude can boost your happiness and hope.
 

Awe

[video] How much awe do you experience in your day? Learn about the power of awe and about appreciating the goodness around you.
 

[video] What are your strengths? Watch our video and learn about using your strengths and find some tips to increase your energy.
 

Two common reasons for people not attending meetings? Not feeling valued and poorly run meetings. Learn some tips for having better meetings and questions to ask to better involve others.
 

Good intentions and investments in leadership training and education don’t always get us the results we seek. Two actions can help with your leadership education and development.
 

What does it mean to be an ally? Learn how you can support marginalized communities.
 

[video] What role does your brain have in reaffirming your beliefs? Learn about the Velcro Teflon Effect and challenging how you react to information.
 

[podcast] What does civic engagement mean? Listen to Extension educators discuss its meaning and share best practices for working with others and tools to get involved.
 

Why aren't people moving to our town? Extension is helping communities assess how newcomers are included in their community life.
 

[video] How do you center yourself? Learn about a simple practice to help you become more present in your life.
 

What would happen to the state's economy if rural Minnesota went away? Would the Twin Cities area notice?
 

50 great American towns. 25 best colleges. 10 top restaurants. Everybody seems to love lists. But are they useful?
 

[video] When do you stop "doing" to "being"? Learn about finding informal moments to meditate can help you reset.
 

[video] How do you pass the time while waiting for news? Learn how flow can help you manage stress while you wait.
 

[video] What are your top strengths? Watch a short video on using your strengths to fuel your energy. Learn about tools to assess your strengths.
 

Have you ever had a small rock in your shoe that continually irritated you? That small rock is akin to burnout. Learn about burnout and the six major drivers of it.
 

[video] How often do you give someone some slack? Learn how showing and receiving grace can strengthen your community.
 

[podcast] How can you make your community more appealing to others? Hear how conversations in Campbell, Minnesota led to big community changes in appearance and pride.
 

[video] Do your questions lead to change? Learn about appreciative inquiry and how your questions have the power to navigate change.
 

[video] Are you easily distracted or struggle to make decisions when many things are on your mind? Watch a short video and learn three strategies to help you focus.
 

[podcast] Tourism can help communities economically and demographically. Listen to a panel discussion on how people and businesses are responding to challenges due to the pandemic.
 

In communities across Greater Minnesota, graduates of Extension's leadership education programs are stepping up to make a difference in the places where they live and work.
 

[video] Can having positive emotions help you live longer? Learn about the Nun Study and research on positive emotions in this short video.
 

[video] Do you feel stress during interracial interactions? Learn three tips for building your patience based on positive psychology.
 

[video] Do you notice your everyday natural environment? Learn about nature and how it connects to well-being.
 

[video] How do you foster creativity and innovation in you and your community? Learn about the importance of playfulness.
 

[video] How can exercise help you connect with others? Learn about research on exercise and how it relates to our mental health.
 

[video] Are negative emotions and thoughts undermining your leadership efforts and goals? Learn about emotional agility and four steps that can help.
 

[podcast] Listen as we talk with Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Anne McKeig about her leadership journey, resiliency, and the pandemic.
 

[video] How can living in the moment make you a more effective leader? Learn how mindfulness with kindness can help you become a more positive person.
 

[video] Are you willing to try something new and fail fast? Learn about building confidence by failing fast.
 

Retail is a mainstay for Minnesota’s economy. It adds to our economic output and jobs. Looking deeper shows shops and retail contribution is more than economic.
 

[podcast] We often hear that small, rural communities are disappearing. Ben Winchester, senior research fellow for U of M Extension's Center for Community Vitality, joins us to talk about what is actually happening.
 

[podcast] How can we create a vibrant Minnesota workforce? Listen to a variety of speakers share insight on workforce issues and how to prepare and help those affected.
 

[podcast] What do jobs and other economic factors look like in rural Minnesota? How about urban Minnesota? Listen as we discuss their top job industries and economic success.
 

Feeling stressed? Watch the Two for You Stress Series videos to help you live and lead with intention.
 

[video] How do you stay connected with others who live or work away from you? Learn how a Virtual Coffee can help form better and deeper relationships.
 

No town is a one-stop shop anymore. We live, work, shop and play in a fairly large region. Read how rural communities are rewriting their narrative.
 

Short videos on positive psychology research to help you live and lead with intention.
 

[video] It’s time to take a deep breath. Find resources about a simple breathing practice to give you a sense of calm.
 

[podcast] Words have power. Listen as we explore topics such as oppressive civility, microaggression, advancing women and women of color into leadership positions, privilege, and more.
 

[video] During times of stress, what can help you bounce back quickly? Watch our video and learn some tips and tools around stress and resilience.
 

Are followers just 'sheep'? Learn about followers, their characteristics and how leaders should work with them.
 

Are you ready to lead and facilitate your next in-person and hybrid meeting? Start planning and get prepared by learning about the Eight Ps to consider.
 

[podcast] Many communities in Minnesota face workforce housing issues. Listen as we talk about Glenwood's housing study and how understanding existing workers' needs helps them plan for the future.
 

[podcast] Join us for a conversation with Dr. Anton Treuer. Listen as he shares stories about resiliency and how it has influenced his leadership journey.
 

[video] Do you find yourself jumping from one activity to another without taking a break? Learn how creating nano transitions can help you find more balance and avoid burnout.
 

[podcast] There are challenges with Minnesota's workforce. We hear about baby boomers retiring, fewer workers, immigrants and the proximity of jobs to job seekers. Listen as we discuss the challenges, opportunities and ingenuity within Minnesota.
 

[video] To be a great leader you need to have strong followers. Learn about the four needs of followers using positive psychology research.
 

Before a community event is a success or an economic development strategy is implemented, a community meeting takes place — or more likely, a bunch of meetings.
 

[video] Do you ever wonder what is your life’s purpose? Learn about a model to help you uncover your purpose and find more meaning in life.
 

[video] Have you ever said something that you later regret? Get ideas on recognizing and controlling how you respond emotionally.
 

[video] What type of emotions do you experience in a day? Learn how the ratio of your positive and negative emotions can help your well-being.
 

In the 1950's, most rural Minnesota communities could afford to go it alone. But in the 2010's, rural economies are growing more diverse, more regional and more global.
 

How do you evaluate your community development work? Learn about ripple effect mapping (REM) and how it tells the story of a program through maps.
 

[video] When’s the last time you did NOTHING? Learn about Boketto and why it is important for your leadership.
 

[podcast] How do you lead authentically? Listen as we explore topics such as emotional intelligence, implicit bias for and against others, hospitable and welcoming communities, equity-minded leadership, and more.
 

[video] How do you stay engaged during a difficult conversation? Learn about four steps to help you truly listen when having tough discussions.
 

[podcast] Communities have the power to tell their own story. Litchfield, Minnesota has been working to create a narrative that is optimistic and focused on the future.
 

A visit to Willmar, Minnesota's Vision 20/40 website makes creating community change look easy.
 

[podcast] Many Minnesota communities are experiencing a leadership shortage. Hear about why this is happening and what communities can do to better engage newcomers to help fill leadership roles.
 

[podcast] How do you inspire entrepreneurship in your community? Listen as we talk about a framework used to energize entrepreneurs in six southern Minnesota communities.
 

For community groups and organizations that are starting to meet regularly again, how healthy are your committees? Learn about seven common traps of committees to avoid.
 

[video] What can you do to savor your positive experiences? Learn how recalling positive events and help you live and lead with intention.
 

[podcast] Judy and Dave are back to give us an update on Make it Litchfield. The study circles finished their work, and they held a community meeting where residents discussed issues that are important to them. Hear them talk about their progress.
 

[podcast] Listen as we talk with Sarah Agaton Howes as she shares stories about resilience, heartache and perseverance.
 

[video] Why do you vote? There are so many reasons to vote. Watch and learn how voting is connected to your well-being.
 

Two out of every three businesses in the U.S. are owned by a baby boomer looking to turn over the keys to the next generation in the coming years.
 

[podcast] Selling a small business is not the same as selling a house. Listen as we discuss how business owners and buyers can prepare for this transition and how communities can help.
 

Lengthy report discussions can leave little agenda time to move from old to new business. Learn strategies to help your meetings be more effective.
 

[video] How often do you say yes to requests? Learn about improvisational theatre and how saying "yes, and ..." can lead to positive results.
 

[video] How can your subconscious mind help your community? Learn about RAS (Reticular Activating System) and how it can help focus you on the positive in your community.
 

[podcast] Workforce issues have tripled in importance, based on results from Enterprise Minnesota's 2017 State of Manufacturing survey. Listen as we talk about workforce challenges in manufacturing.
 

[video] Can stress be good for you? Learn about the benefits of stress and how to use it to connect with others.
 

[podcast] How do we address Minnesota's workforce issues? Listen to speakers from the University of Minnesota and Extension share their insight on the labor market.
 

When a Walmart Supercenter opened in Winona, Minnesota in 2003, there was definitely a churning among local businesses. Eleven years later, what has been the net effect?
 

A little trust goes a long way. In fact, scholars link trust in communities to successes such as stronger volunteerism, healthier residents, and economic prosperity.
 

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