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University of Minnesota Extension

Addressing workforce and economic development through regional collaboration

Researching regional collaboration efforts for Southeast Minnesota Together
Southeast Minnesota Together | Photo credit: Peter Schuneman/Pocket Watch Photo

Key findings for communities

Research doesn’t give one single best model for regional collaborations. What works in one region may not work in another. Within Southeast Minnesota, many examples of functional collaboration exist.

To move forward with complex regional collaboration, groups should:

  • Define their geography and purpose. Set priorities.
  • Build trust by demonstrating impact and value. Communicate across a region to build momentum.
  • Engage a broad range of stakeholders. Find ways to build connections among those who don’t usually connect.
  • Consider creating a structure and governance model that facilitates progress but allows flexibility. Identify a network manager.
  • Collaborative efforts typically evolve and are fluid. The structure used, the issues addressed, the players involved and the approaches used can evolve.
  • This work isn’t easy. But the rewards can be mighty.

About this study

In 2015, a group of concerned citizens in Southeastern Minnesota began a conversation on the topic of collaboration to address workforce issues. This group, called Southeast Minnesota Together, is now considering how its work might evolve.

Many issues related to economic development, such as housing, transportation, employment, education and childcare are not constrained by political boundaries or organizational constructs. These challenges are dynamic and intersectional, and effective solutions often emerge from cross-sector and cross-border collaborations.

To inform the group’s next steps, Southeast Minnesota Together engaged University of Minnesota Extension to perform research on regional collaboration. What follows is a report generated from that research. It aims to inform the efforts of Southeast Minnesota Together, as well as other groups’ attempts to address issues related to regional workforce and economic development. The report draws on academic literature, insights, and lessons learned from other regional efforts in the United States. It also includes interviews with local stakeholders to provide local leaders with ideas and information to consider as they decide how to structure their efforts moving forward.

Read full report

Author: Jennifer Hawkins, Extension educator

Reviewed in 2018

Page survey

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