Help solve some of Minnesota's greatest challenges
The Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships (RSDP) bring communities and the University of Minnesota together on behalf of shared sustainability goals. Starting in 2019, RSDP began collaborating with the University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment (IonE) to connect community-driven projects to academic and applied research. Consistent with its strategic plan, IonE posted a request for proposals to address three impact goals (safe drinking water, carbon neutral Minnesota, and sustainable land use) to target resources and inspire collaboration on critical environmental issues facing our communities. We provide opportunities and resources to more widely test and share sustainability solutions. As part of this collaboration, we invite you to submit ideas in the following three areas:
Safe drinking water
To ensure access to safe drinking water for all people into the future, Minnesota needs to protect and enhance its water sources. Doing so requires everything from technical solutions to community changes, regulatory efforts, investment and public education. Community innovation can help University researchers understand practical local solutions to protect source water in a changing climate.
Examples of recent RSDP projects promoting safe drinking water include:
- Partnership with We Are Water MN (Northwest RSDP)
- Southeast Minnesota wastewater treatment videos (Southeast RSDP)
- Water-protection effort of ranchers and recreationalists in Cass and Crow Wing counties (Central RSDP)
- Nutrient reduction BMPs for cold climate (Northwest RDP; report pending)
Building a carbon-neutral Minnesota requires innovative technology, pricing and policies that reduce emissions and store carbon in energy, transit and agriculture. RSDP community partners bring the real-world experiences and expertise needed to explore workable strategies for supporting our communities in this transition.
Examples of recent RSDP pilot projects for promoting carbon neutrality include:
- Case studies on adaptive reuse of historic buildings in rural Minnesota (Northeast RSDP)
- Exploration of nonprofit solar partnerships with Habitat for Humanity (Central RSDP)
- Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) projects achieving nearly 434 billion BTUs of energy since 2010
- CERTs information and resources on electric vehicles
Sustainable land use
Protecting our land for future generations requires improving agricultural landscapes to maintain farmers’ livelihoods, while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving water quality for Minnesota. RSDP projects provide real-world ways to test new and scalable solutions.
Examples of RSDP projects promoting sustainable land use include:
- Soil health case studies (Southwest RSDP)
- Roseau River water trail master plan (Northwest RSDP)
- Market feasibility study of intermediate wheatgrass (Southwest RSDP)
- Study of the economic impact of paved trails (Central RSDP)
- Master plan for the Fertile Sand Hills (Northwest RSDP)
When submitting an RSDP Idea Brief, project applicants are invited to indicate whether their idea relates to any of the IonE impact goal areas. The RSDP regional executive director and board will work with you and IonE to determine best next steps. This could take the form of joining a team applying for a competitive grant through IonE, or engaging in partnership discussions with RSDP and IonE. An IonE request for proposals will be posted in mid-January 2020. If you have questions, please reach out to Linda Kingery (Northwest RSDP executive director and chief liaison in the impact goal partnership with IonE) at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In fall 2019, RSDP and IonE staff engaged in a strategic-planning retreat to identify opportunities for each organization to contribute its unique strengths toward shared goals. In its 2019-22 strategic plan, IonE identifies three impact goals (safe drinking water, carbon neutral Minnesota, and sustainable land use) to target resources and inspire collaboration on critical environmental issues facing our communities. For each of the three impact goals, staff identified work unique to each organization as well as potential areas for collaboration for greater collective impact.
The partnership builds on longstanding collaboration between RSDP and IonE. A number of RSDP staff serve as IonE affiliates and lead projects supported by IonE mini grants. RSDP and IonE also have a longstanding co-staffing arrangement supporting engagement of University of Minnesota students on RSDP community projects.
Together RSDP and IonE can connect community members with opportunities to more widely test and share their innovative solutions. While some RSDP projects fall outside of the environmental impact goal areas, partners working on these issues have opportunities to connect their local projects to broader research.
RSDP exists to advance the environmental, economic and social sustainability of Greater Minnesota through authentic community-University partnerships that co-create innovative solutions and fulfill the University's land-grant mission. Since our inception in 1997, the program has been “driven by citizens engaged in an active citizenship participation process” (RSDP Green Book, 1998). One of our founding charges is to help direct University of Minnesota resources toward addressing “locally identified agricultural and natural resources issues in a manner consistent with sustainable development principles.”
Throughout our more than 20-year history, RSDP has forged strategic partnerships that help advance our mission and provide opportunities for local community members to shape how University resources are shared. This includes long-standing partnerships with the Center for Small Towns, Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA) and College of Design. Working together has brought additional resources and interdisciplinary expertise to projects supported by RSDP boards. Individual boards work with applicants to build project teams and identify resources based on the specific needs of individual projects.
The IonE collaboration helps RSDP advance its founding goal of empowering citizens to help direct the resources of the University. In doing so, community and University members of RSDP boards can inform IonE’s research on sustainability impact goals through their community-driven expertise. Whether to apply for these resources is at the discretion of individual RSDP partners and boards.
Across our community and University partnerships, RSDP values shared expertise, mutual learning and deep regard for the respective missions of each partnering organization. We believe that our work is stronger when we work together, bringing diverse ways of knowing to bear on complex sustainability issues for the greater good.
Do you have an idea to make your Greater MN community more sustainable?Submit an Idea Brief today!
Reviewed in 2019