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.
New project ideas are being reviewed
In winter 2021, the Regional Sustainable Development Partnership put out a call for new project ideas. The community's response resulted in dozens of wide-ranging project ideas now being considered by Southwest RSDP's work groups and board members. Project ideas fall into RSDP's focus areas of natural resources, sustainable ag and food systems, clean energy and resilient communities. Stay tuned in spring and summer 2021 for more information about new RSDP projects.
Communities respond to COVID-19
Between July 2020 and February 2021, Southwest RSDP did another round of rapid response projects to support community resilience in the face of the challenges of COVID-19. In the Southwest region, six rapid response projects stretched from Big Stone to Renville to Jackson Counties. Southwest RSDP helped local organizations support their communities in a variety of ways, including creating environmental education totes for students at home, providing hygiene supplies for home-bound people, and organizing letter-writing programs to connect elders and young people in a time of isolation.
See all projects
Learn more about projects supported by Southwest RSDP in our storymap.
Creative community outreach
During fall and winter 2020, University of Minnesota - Morris senior Zoe DeBates worked alongside the Department of Public Transformation to research creative community outreach strategies. Zoe interviewed experts in communications and community development. Building from their insights, she explored tools and resources that small towns can use to engage local residents, communicate about events and opportunities, and make people feel welcome. This was a project of the Center for Small Towns at UMN-Morris.
Sharing stories: Growing relationships with the land
We Are Water West Central Minnesota launched Sharing Stories: Growing Relationships with the Land in February 2021.The goal of this new seminar series is to amplify stories of people who are using conservation practices that have important regenerative potential while reducing the impacts on climate change. The six-part series is scheduled Feb 16 through June 1st. Follow We Are Water West Central Minnesota for more information and details.
This project is a partnership between the University of Minnesota Morris Office of Sustainability, Stevens Soil & Water Conservation District and CURE (Clean Up the River Environment) in cooperation with the Land Stewardship Project as part of our work as a WC-WRW team, with support from the Southwest Regional Sustainable Development Partnership.
Southwest RSDP board members
- David Benson, firstname.lastname@example.org - Bigelow, MN
- DeeAnn Gieseke, email@example.com - Sleepy Eye, MN
- Sara Gronfeld, firstname.lastname@example.org - Johnson, MN
- Kathryn Kelly, email@example.com - Olivia, MN
- Arne Kildegaard, firstname.lastname@example.org - Morris, MN
- Eric L'Abbé, email@example.com - Worthington, MN
- David Lieser, firstname.lastname@example.org - Montevideo, MN
- Linda Meschke, email@example.com - Fairmont, MN
- Cheyanne St. John, firstname.lastname@example.org - Morton, MN
- Becky Yust, email@example.com - St. Paul, MN