The University of Minnesota Extension Southwest Regional Sustainable Development Partnership (Southwest RSDP) is a community-driven board of directors working with community members across the region to create and sustain healthy ecosystems, strong local economies and vibrant, self-reliant rural towns.
Southwest RSDP launches education and research that help people understand and achieve sustainability across southwestern Minnesota. We support projects that demonstrate public purpose and build partnerships with residents of the region, and link these projects to local assets and University of Minnesota research and educational resources.
The Southwest region includes the counties of Big Stone, Brown, Chippewa, Cottonwood, Douglas, Grant, Jackson, Kandiyohi, Lac qui Parle, Lincoln, Lyon, Martin, McLeod, Meeker, Murray, Nobles, Pipestone, Pope, Redwood, Sibley, Renville, Rock, Stevens, Swift, Traverse, Watonwan and Yellow Medicine, and shares geography with the Upper Sioux and Lower Sioux sovereign Native nations.
Southwest RSDP has been serving rural Minnesota for two decades. From 1998 through 2011, the West Central RSDP operated as a 12-county region. The geographic region was expanded in 2012 to include all counties in the southwest part of Minnesota, and the program renamed Southwest RSDP. New members of the board of directors were elected to represent the newly included counties.
The Mary J. Page Community-University Partnerships Fund honors former Olivia Mayor, Renville County Commissioner and University of Minnesota Regent Mary Page for her contributions to community-driven sustainability projects across Southwest Minnesota and beyond. Mary helped create, and then served on, the founding board of the West Central RSDP from 1999-2007, and gave statewide leadership to RSDP until 2009.
Southwest rapid response fund supports Dakota Community Artists-in-Residence
Three Dakota artists are responding to the COVID-19 crisis this summer. Their work includes artist MahpiyaWin (Lisa Nez) developing a step-by-step guide for indigenous mothers to create beaded moccasins with and for their children. See photos and learn more on their Facebook page. Artist Fern Cloud is creating a hide painting that speaks to the impact of the pandemic on her community. She shared a video of her process. The Dakota Community Artists-in-Residence (CAIR) is facilitated by the Department of Public Transformation in partnership with many others.
New projects summer 2020
In summer 2020, Southwest RSDP is launching new partnerships with community partners from around the region. New partners include Operation Prairie Venture in Slayton, the We Are Water team in west central Minnesota, the Southwest Hmong Association, and the Southwest Regional Development Commission.
In addition, Southwest RSDP is collaborating on several new multi-region projects. For example, the Minnesota Office of Soil Health is working with Soil and Water Conservation Districts to collect photos and other information about cover crops, in order to better inform farmers about what to expect when planting cover crops at different locations across Minnesota.
Stay tuned for stories about new RSDP projects as they unfold in coming months.
See all projects
Learn more about projects supported by Southwest RSDP in our storymap.
Creative Community Development Resource Guide
Vacant and under-used properties in small towns present challenges -- and opportunities -- to community leaders. A team of community members in Southwest Minnesota is encouraging small towns to turn these spaces into community assets rather than viewing them as liabilities, and a new resource guide offers strategies to engage residents and reimagine what is possible.
This interactive guide, “Creative Community Development: A Resource Guide for Artist-led Development of Vacant Spaces in Southwest Minnesota,” was released in summer 2020. The how-to guide provides examples and resources for engaging local artists and community members in a process of redesigning and reactivating empty Main Street buildings.
Murray County solar mapping project
Murray County is working with the Southwest Regional Development Commission and University of Minnesota to map “sweet spots” for potential future solar energy installations. The project will consider financial feasibility, appropriate scale, local water quality, pollinators, and other possible benefits. This project is focused on mid-sized solar development (1 megawatt to 10 megawatt, 10 to 100 acres) paired with facilities where a similar amount of electricity is consumed. In December 2020, the project team will meet with local stakeholders to understand community perspectives and priorities. After gathering community input, the team will use GIS (geographic information systems) to create maps and tools for future decision-making.
Soil health case studies expand to Southeast region
For several years, Southwest RSDP has helped produce soil health case studies that illuminate the positive environmental and economic impacts of centering soil health principles and practices. In 2020, this project expanded eastward through the help of Southeast RSDP. Jared Luhman, soil health lead for Sustainable Farming Association (SFA) of Minnesota, interviewed nine farmers who are demonstrating emergent soil health practices on the unique landscape of Southeast Minnesota. Luhman says, “It is our hope that these case studies serve as an important resource and facilitate discussions between farmers on the successes and challenges of adopting soil health practices."
Project ideas are submitted to one or more of RSDP’s regional boards based on the location of the project. These project ideas are reviewed based on the following shared criteria. Southwest RSDP encourages idea submissions by February 10 for the following fiscal year period of July 1 to June 30.
- Community members identify project goals in one or more of the four RSDP sustainable development focus areas.
- The project involves meaningful roles for both local community members and University of Minnesota faculty, staff and/or students.
- The project engages diverse populations and advances new community collaborations.
- The project supports environmental, social and economic sustainability for public purpose or benefit. Project learning or actions will be shared.
- Community partners provide leadership and support throughout the life of the project.
- Priority may be given to projects that leverage funds or other contributions.
Southwest RSDP board members
- David Benson, firstname.lastname@example.org - Bigelow, MN
- Jodi DeJong-Hughes, email@example.com - Willmar, MN
- DeeAnn Gieseke, firstname.lastname@example.org - Sleepy Eye, MN
- Sara Gronfeld, email@example.com - Johnson, MN
- Kathryn Kelly, firstname.lastname@example.org - Olivia, MN
- Arne Kildegaard, email@example.com - Morris, MN
- Eric L'Abbé, firstname.lastname@example.org - Worthington, MN
- David Lieser, email@example.com - Montevideo, MN
- Linda Meschke, firstname.lastname@example.org - Fairmont, MN
- Cheyanne St. John, email@example.com - Morton, MN
- Sean (Xiong) Yang, xyoojyaj3D@hotmail.com - Walnut Grove, MN
- Becky Yust, firstname.lastname@example.org - St. Paul, MN