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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

Use allyship to support communities: Six ways to get started

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

 

Check your well-being bandwidth using the PERMA model

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

 

Stories of adaptation, resilience and compassion: Celebrating Asian American History Month in Minnesota

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

 

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)

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

[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.
 

[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.
 

[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.
 

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?
 

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.
 

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

[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.
 

[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.
 

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.
 

[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.
 

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

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.
 

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.
 

[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.
 

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

The last full-service grocery store in Duluth's Lincoln Park neighborhood closed more than 30 years ago, leaving residents stranded in a "food desert."
 

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

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] 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.
 

When visitors recall a memorable trip or vacation, they talk about three things: What they saw; what they did; and the people they met.
 

[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.
 

[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.
 

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

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

"Jobs, jobs, jobs." It's a common refrain at political rallies, and some variation is often heard at community meetings.
 

[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.
 

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

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

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

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

[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.
 

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.
 

Most in the Minnesota tourism industry agree there are advantages to applying sustainability practices to the business, but the implementation is slowed by the perception of high costs.
 

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

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

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

[podcast] Feeling overwhelmed or stressed due to the pandemic? Listen to our conversation on why we experience these feelings and ways to calm our minds.
 

[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.
 

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

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

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

Think you don't live in a tourist town? Think again. Every town has visitors. Most visitors spend money that helps the local economy, similar to tourists.
 

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

[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.
 

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

[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.
 

[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.
 

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

Visitors come to your community with expectations about what they will do and see in your area. But what are those expectations exactly?
 

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.
 

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.
 

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.
 

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

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

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

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.
 

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

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] 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.
 

[podcast] COVID-19 has impacted businesses differently. Listen as we discuss the impacts of COVID-19 on retail and the implications for business succession.
 

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

[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.
 

[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] 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.
 

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] 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.
 

Rural Minnesota continued to attract new residents aged 30 to 49 between 2000 and 2010, according to a new study of U.S. Census data from University of Minnesota Extension.
 

[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.
 

[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.
 

What do you do for fun around here? When visitors come to your town, replies to this question can make or break their impression of your community.
 

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

[podcast] Festivals and events around the state and country have seen many changes in 2020. Listen as we discuss how organizers and community members can weather the storm.
 

[podcast] Our world is constantly changing; now more than ever before. Listen as we discuss strategies for leaders to help themselves and their communities navigate change.
 

[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.
 

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

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

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

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

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

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] 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.
 

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

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

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.
 

[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.
 

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

[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.
 

As we celebrate Earth Day, let's reflect on how access to the outdoors enriches visitors’ and residents’ experiences within a 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] How often do you spend time in nature? Learn how forest bathing can strengthen your well-being and help you reconnect with yourself.
 

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

Feeling stressed? Watch the Two for You Stress Series videos 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.
 

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

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

[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.
 

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

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.
 

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

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

Minnesota State Economist Tom Stinson is bullish on Minnesota. "Minnesota has been very successful — especially for a cold weather state at the end of the road."
 

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

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

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.
 

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.
 

[podcast] The tourism industry has been impacted by the pandemic. Listen as we discuss the state of Minnesota’s tourism sector and how they are looking towards recovery.
 

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

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] 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.
 

[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.
 

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?
 

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

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

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

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

[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.
 

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

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

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

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

From bass fishing to biking and skiing to snowshoeing, rural Minnesota offers tourists opportunities for fun and relaxation.
 

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

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

[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.
 

[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.
 

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.
 

Xinyi Qian took three trips to three regions in Greater Minnesota during fall 2021. Four key themes arose from her discussions with different community groups.
 

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.
 

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?
 

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?
 

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

[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.
 

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

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

[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.
 

[podcast] You may be dealing with new emotions as we transition to more social lives and lose daily patterns and routines. Listen as we discuss strategies to help overcome uncertainty.
 

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.
 

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

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

Awe

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

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

[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.
 

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.
 

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

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

[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.
 

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

[podcast] Today, the dial is moving, and businesses are reopening. What can communities do to support business now? Listen in as we share thoughts from Extension educators.
 

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

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.
 

[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.
 

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

[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.
 

[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.
 

[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.
 

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.
 

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