Have a project idea?
Do you have an idea to improve sustainability in your community? We'd love to hear from you! Ideas can be submitted at any time. Funding decisions for the year are made between March and May.
We hope you’re encouraged to share your ideas. Start the conversation by reaching out to the Executive Director in your region, or by submitting an Idea Brief below. A regional Executive Director will follow up with you soon.
Don’t know which region you’re in? Learn about our regional service areas below.
Each region determines its funding priorities for the year. Learn more about the priorities identified by each region:
We are here to help you with the process and want to make it easy for you to share your ideas. If you have difficulty with the form, please let us help you.
Please note that this is a competitive process. RSDP regional boards make decisions based on available regional project dollars and are not able to support all project ideas submitted. Even in cases where a project is not supported by the RSDP regional board, we hope your idea will benefit from our early conversations and this application process.
The University of Minnesota Extension Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships (RSDP) 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.
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. Individual regions might include additional criteria reflecting regional priorities.
- Project goals address a community-identified need or opportunity related to one or more of RSDP’s focus areas: sustainable agriculture and food systems, clean energy, natural resources and resilient communities.
- The project supports environmental, social and economic sustainability for public purpose or benefit.
- The project involves meaningful leadership roles for both community members and University of Minnesota faculty, staff and/or students.
- The project expands community collaborations.
- Projects from, led by or that include meaningful participation of historically underrepresented communities, which includes but is not limited to Native communities, people of color, immigrants, people with low incomes, LGBTQ+, people with disabilities, women and geographically isolated communities, are welcomed and encouraged.
- Project proposals that include funds or contributions from other sources are encouraged.
We’re all about partnership. Project partners receiving support from RSDP are asked to work in partnership with the regional Executive Director and board. We’d like to work with you to help your project succeed!
We’ll also ask you to provide information on your project’s goals and outcomes. We think that’s important to your project’s success, and we’re here to help you with that.
We bring a meaningful University of Minnesota contribution to all of our projects. What that support looks like, and how it fits with other project resources, can vary. In some cases, we may be able to offer partial funding for a project. There may also be cases where we request additional information, such as letters of support from other organizations, to help us make a decision.
RSDP is also collaborating with the Institute on the Environment to connect community projects to University research on three environmental impact goals. You are invited to indicate whether your project idea addresses any of these impact goals when you submit an RSDP Idea Brief. RSDP regional directors can help connect interested applicants with applied research opportunities in these areas.
RSDP partners with the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA) to administer the Community Assistantship Program (CAP) by hiring students to support community-based projects during the fall, spring or summer terms. Community partners can apply for students to work on projects through the RSDP Idea Brief process.
RSDP’s five regions serve all of Greater Minnesota as a result of a legislative mandate to the University of Minnesota. Our service area does not include the 11-county metro area of Anoka, Carver, Chisago, Dakota, Hennepin, Isanti, Ramsey, Scott, Sherburne, Washington and Wright counties.
The Central RSDP serves Becker, Benton, Cass, Crow Wing, Hubbard, Kanabec, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Otter Tail, Stearns, Todd and Wadena counties and the White Earth Nation, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe sovereign Native nations.
The Northeast RSDP serves Aitkin, Carlton, Cook, Itasca, Koochiching, Lake, Pine and St. Louis counties and the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa, Fond du Lac Bands of Lake Superior Chippewa and Grand Portage Bands of Lake Superior Chippewa sovereign Native nations.
The Northwest RSDP serves Kittson, Roseau, Lake of the Woods, Marshall, Pennington, Red Lake, Clearwater, Beltrami, Polk, Norman, Mahnomen, Clay and Wilkin counties and the Red Lake Nation and White Earth Nation.
The Southeast RSDP serves Blue Earth, Faribault, Dodge, Freeborn, Goodhue, Houston, LeSueur, Mower, Nicollet, Olmsted, Fillmore, Rice, Steele, Wabasha, Waseca and Winona counties and the sovereign Native nation of Prairie Island Indian Community.
The Southwest RSDP serves 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 counties and the Upper Sioux and Lower Sioux sovereign Native nations.
RSDP Idea Brief
1. Help us get in contact with you.
Name (first and last):
Organization (if applicable)
Individual community member
Community/ies where project would take place:
small town 1, small town 2
___Central (Counties: Becker, Benton, Cass, Crow Wing, Hubbard, Kanabec, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Otter Tail, Stearns, Todd and Wadena)
___Northeast (Counties: Carlton, Cook, Lake, St. Louis; parts of Aitkin, Crow Wing, Itasca, Koochiching, and Pine)
___Northwest (Counties: Becker, Beltrami, Clay, Clearwater, Kittson, Lake of the Woods, Mahnomen, Marshall, Norman, Ottertail, Pennington, Polk, Red Lake, Roseau, and Wilkin)
___Southeast (Counties: Blue Earth, Faribault, Dodge, Freeborn, Goodhue, Houston, LeSueur, Mower, Nicollet, Olmsted, Fillmore, Rice, Steele, Wabasha, Waseca, and Winona)
___Southwest (Counties: 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, Yellow Medicine)
2. Where are you in the planning process for your idea? There are no wrong answers. This will help us understand the services that might be most helpful. Check all that apply.
___I would like help forming my idea.
___I have worked on cost estimates.
___I have gotten some partners on board.
___I am planning implementation.
3. Summary: Please briefly describe your project idea. In two or three sentences, briefly summarize your project and what you hope to achieve.
I would like to make the farmers' market in Small Town, MN, more accessible to the town's Latino population so they have access to these fresh, local foods. To do so it would be helpful to have assistance better understanding the needs of Latino community members. Other things we expect to do include reaching out to vendors from this community and making signage, hours, and other things more accessible.
4. What community partners would participate? What might their contributions be?
Small Town MN Farmers' Market: Lead partner.
Small Town MN Latino Development Center: Help connect with Latino food entrepreneurs.
Small Town MN Chamber of Commerce: Contribute marketing opportunities and funds for new signs.
5. How can the University of Minnesota be helpful to your project? What expertise is needed?
A graduate student to conduct a study of Latino community members' needs and preferences for the farmers' market.
6a. Which of RSDP's focus area(s) does your project primarily address? Check all that apply.
___Agriculture & food systems
6b. What, if any, additional focus areas does your project address? Check all that apply.
___Agriculture & food systems
7. Preference is given to projects that are from, led by or include meaningful participation of historically underrepresented communities. If applicable, please describe how this relates to your project.
This project will work to better serve Latino community members through the local farmers market. The Latino Development Center has been identified as a project partner to help the team connect with Latino food entrepreneurs.
8. Does your project idea relate to any of the following UMN Institute on the Environment (IonE) impact goal areas? Responses to this question do not impact consideration for RSDP partnership support. Check all that apply.
___Sustainable land use
___Clean drinking water
___My project does not relate to any of these impact areas.
We'll be in touch soon!
The Empowering Small Minnesota Communities (ESMC) program is a new community-centered collaboration with the University of Minnesota to support small communities in becoming well-positioned to benefit from federal, state and local investments.
How? By working together to creatively leverage community assets and ideas and strengthening projects and plans for resilient physical, social, and economic infrastructure.
The goal? Lay the groundwork for competitive proposals that could be eligible for a wide range of funding opportunities.
RSDP is seeking applications from farmers in each of the five RSDP regions in Greater Minnesota to partner in developing a farm-scale deep winter greenhouse (FSDWG). Farmer partners are selected through a competitive process to build a UMN-designed FSDWG. Those selected will receive $25,000 toward their commitment and partnership on research, outreach and educational activities over the next three years.
Farmers located in Greater Minnesota are eligible. (The 11 metro counties of Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott, Carver, Dakota, Washington, Anoka, Isanti, Chisago, Wright and Sherburne are excluded).
Submit an Idea Brief today!Share your idea here
Reviewed in 2023