Note: Our Vital Connections On Air episodes are audio-based interviews. Written transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before referencing content in print.
Christy Kallevig: Welcome to Vital Connections On Air, a podcast brought to you by the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Community Vitality that explores the trends and topics important to communities and leaders throughout Minnesota.
My name is Christy Kallevig, Extension educator for the Center for Community Vitality, and today we're going to talk more about community conversations, and I am excited to be joined by DeAnn Loll and Shana Klindt, who are members of the teams that led community conversations in Campbell, Minnesota. Welcome to the podcast, ladies.
DeAnn Loll: Thank you.
Shana Clint: Thank you.
Christy Kallevig: So let's start. First, I'm going to ask you each to introduce yourselves, and so DeAnn, why don't we start with you?
DeAnn Loll: After I got married is when I moved to Campbell, and my husband grew up there.
Christy Kallevig: Well, Campbell has definitely benefited from both of you moving back. Tell us about the community. Exactly where is it located and what is the community like?
DeAnn Loll: Well, it’s located southwest of Fergus Falls and southeast of Breckenridge, Minnesota — about 20 miles. We have a restaurant, bar, one church, one school (which is preschool through 12th grade), a grain elevator, [and] train tracks that go through it. But, even though our community is small, I would say it's thriving in some areas, with families who are connected, and we know each other. We help each other out with things, different things like that.
Christy Kallevig: Shana, I know that you, along with DeAnn, are both alumni of the Emerging Leadership Program, which is a leadership program up in the northwestern part of Minnesota. But what made you decide to participate in the program, Community Conversations for Change? Was there something about your community that made you think that yes, we need to have some conversations in our town, because there was either something that you wanted to do or some change that you wanted to create?
Shana Clint: In the first place, they have always referred to, “Well it’s just Campbell.” Well, that's not a tag line you want attached to where you claim your home. So, I think there was a whole group of, I'm going to say middle age, which is our age, but then there's the older generation, that have put in so much work. But then there was a little bit of lag time, and then now there are all of us that are actually on the outskirts of Campbell. So we cared enough that if we could bring in our older generation to help, almost mentor us, as we were having a conversation, then that's almost where the magic key would be. It's our energy and their knowledge and then to see what would happen, to see what would come of it.
Christy Kallevig: And DeAnn, because you were involved, you know, you went out and reached out to these other ladies. What about holding a conversation in your community was appealing to you?
DeAnn Loll: Well, for me, because when I worked in Wahpeton, you know, I felt a little bit more connected with Wahpeton, only because I worked there, so I knew what was going on.
But I felt bad because I actually really lived by Campbell, and so I just wanted to learn more about Campbell, but I didn't know how to do it when I was living or working in Wahpeton. And so, when I actually started working in Campbell, I just really started to think, well, how many other people were like me and don't really know much about Campbell, or hear about activities that are happening in the town to support our own local community? And so, through the ELP program and I think it was Jody [Horntvedt], [who] kind of reached out to me about being on the planning committee, I
t just piqued my interest and I was like, “Yeah, I want to hear more about this.” Because if there is a way for me to help out my community, helping it either grow or just blossom or become more attractive, I guess you could say, to other people. I wanted to, I guess, do what I could. So it just kind of piqued my interest to help our community.
Shana Clint: It did become a blaring fact, that while we were starting to have our first couple of meetings with our invite[d] people, that hands were going up that if you didn't have a child in school and you weren't connected to the school, that's kind of where all the buzz was happening. Otherwise, you wouldn't know about anything that was going on. So, it was either a retired ring that was in Campbell or it was all the people that had kids, or if you were neither, then you literally were going elsewhere because you didn't feel included. So that became obvious in our first couple [of] meetings.
Christy Kallevig: Wow, that's really interesting. So through this process you were able to maybe even help folks feel more connected to the community as a whole, or build some of those bridges.
DeAnn Loll: After I came back from that planning committee, I think I almost drove right to Shana's house. I was really pumped, but I knew I couldn't do it with myself. I knew I needed help and people on my initial team who knew more people and lived there longer, because I still kind of felt like I was a newbie. And so, yeah, like I said, I think I went right to Shana's and we talked about it right away.
Christy Kallevig: So, let’s go back to Shana and DeAnn, you guys are sitting at Shana’s house, and are excited about this idea. How did it move from that initial meeting to actually getting the conversations going? What were kind of your steps in between and how did you include others in the process?
DeAnn Loll: Well, we knew we had to pick a team, I guess. So our initial [step], was [determining] who did we want directly on our team? So that's where the four of us, Karen, Rebecca, Shana and myself, kind of just said, “Yep, we're going to do it. We're going to sign up with this program.”
And so then we went through the steps with the training of the Conversations for Change with the University of Minnesota Extension. Had some planning sessions with the four of us along with those training sessions and decided to keep our leadership team small. We kept it with really the four of us, but we pulled in four others probably more as a support team. Wouldn’t you say, Shana, that that was more supportive? But ultimately [we] four ladies were the ones that went in front of the group and did the leading, I guess.
Shana Clint: We were given guidelines on who to pull and who to invite to our conversation. There were a number of people assignments that we were to think of and it made for a very well-known group, which was super helpful, because when we did all these checkoffs of lists of, "Okay, yep, this one's in the Lions, this one's a fireman, this one’s a new teacher, this one's lived in Campbell for 60 years." It made for a pretty rich conversation, because you had everybody there, and then we're always asking ourselves “Who's not here that should be here?” And then that's how it grew.
DeAnn Loll: We created postcards to kind of say, hey, you're invited. We laid out four dates ahead of time, so we knew we were going to have a meeting once a month. We laid out those dates to try and just give everyone enough time to think about it and kind of commit to it. Encouraging them to try to make it to all four. But obviously, we know things happen. And then we tried to personally invite those people. We broke up the list between the four of us, and we tried in some form to either face-to-face, give it to them or at least personally drop it off at their house. But we didn't put it through the mail as our invitation.
Christy Kallevig: Did you use social media at all for those invitations or, I mean, I'm hearing that it was a lot of personal “ask,” that you didn't leave it to chance?
DeAnn Loll: Right. We didn't use social media at all for the invitation. It was that paper postcard and face-to-face.
Shana Clint: It was always, always negative. So it was fun to get all this positive energy flowing through the veins because once they would leave there positive, then if you're positive and you’re talking, then that just spreads like wildfire. It kind of became contagious. That was good.
Christy Kallevig: That's really exciting. And I love what you guys said about, you know, taking a look and kind of evaluating who wasn't there that should be there. And how did you then work to get those people that weren't involved in that first round of invites? Did you do a second round of invites and keep going that way? Or did you ask folks to bring along someone else to the next meeting? How did you do that?
DeAnn Loll: I think in our first meeting we did ask who else should we include, and I think that's when we pulled in a few others if I recall.
Shana Clint: Yeah.
Christy Kallevig: It was still a personal ask?
DeAnn Loll: Yes, yup.
Christy Kallevig: Okay.
DeAnn Loll: And because it’s such a small community, and people talk and chatter and usually they know what's happening at the community center. But then this was a new thing and you know, there were people who weren’t there. People that weren't invited directly saw vehicles there and they're like, “What's going on?” kind of thing. And we always approached it with, we can share, but we’re not going to necessarily invite everybody, but we're just having a conversation. And then at the end is where we did invite the entire community to kind of share the results of the conversation. So, we did eventually invite everybody and say, “Hey, here, this is what we've been doing for the last four months.”
Christy Kallevig: How did you guys keep the conversations positive? Because I have been in those small communities and know it can be a challenge when it's always negative. How did you guys keep it positive?
DeAnn Loll: I would say we just kept steering it more towards that. We didn't put down the negatives. I mean we acknowledged that yes, we do have negative aspects, but I think as a whole our four leader ladies just tried to keep it positive and keep them looking forward and it was almost like that, “yes and” kind of attitude.
Shana Clint: And this stuff was in our training. So, we all had a nervous factor I will say because, yup, you get the loudest, squeakiest wheel going and that one is going south, it will take the whole crowd down. So in our training, there was definitely points that were strongly put to us that, like DeAnn said, the “yes and?” I mean you can't ignore that bad things have happened. You can't ignore that there is negativity in everything that you're going to try and put out there, but sell it. Our training was super key on that part because there might not have been saving it a couple of times if we had not been trained how we were.
DeAnn Loll: And with our first meeting, we did establish those rules, our guidelines and we had everybody agree to those guidelines and add more or what did they feel that we needed to add to it or keep them the way those guidelines were. You know, for being respectful and listening to each other. So, we had that buy-in from the start.
Christy Kallevig: Well, and it sounds as though you guys just made sure that you were very prepared to handle [it], even though you had that nervousness, I like that you brought that up because everybody has that going into these.
Shana Clint: For sure.
Christy Kallevig: But if you were prepared, you could at least navigate it better.
DeAnn Loll: Each of the four of us brought in different strengths, too.
Shana Clint: Right, and connections to all of these people.
DeAnn Loll: Between each conversation meeting, the four of us got together beforehand and planned. Kind of figured out who was taking which part and just so we were prepared. So we did our homework. Then we had our group meeting.
Christy Kallevig: This definitely was not a fly-by-the-seat-of-your pants effort going on in?
Shana Clint: No, it was a hat that I had on the entire timespan of, I don’t know DeAnn, how many months was it? Like 10 months?
DeAnn Loll: Yeah, at least.
Shana Clint: It wasn't quite a year, but maybe it was a year. But it was something that was always in the back of my head if we weren’t within days of a meeting. Because you had this interaction with people outside of it, they would always kind of check-in and bounce in, and which was fun to know that they couldn't get it out of their mind either. And we gave them homework too.
Christy Kallevig: Tell me about when you invited the entire community, when you lifted the curtain, if you will, so that everybody could see what was going on. What was that experience like for the community?
Shana Clint: That was nerve-racking. I remember.
DeAnn Loll: I was excited. I was nervous, but I was excited.
Shana Clint: I remember thinking, “Okay is this going to be enough for them?” And are they going to jump on the wagon with us and have more energy towards what we are all heading for or is it just going to still be us? Which maybe still would have been fine, but it would have been a whole lot more work if we wouldn't have gotten the rest to, you know, go along with [it]. Yeah, you guys have thought through a lot of stuff and we are here willing to help.
Christy Kallevig: So you had your four conversations and then when you had this large community gathering, what exactly were you presenting to them?
DeAnn Loll: The results of our conversation where we ended up figuring out our focus, like what direction do we want Campbell to go to. And it created three different committees. So we came up with the convenience store/gas station committee, the signage and park committee, and then a signage and mural committee and the playground committee. And so we kind of summed up each meeting, each conversation and then we said, “And now we've developed these four committees and we would like you to sign up, you know, how can you help? What kind of things can you bring to these committees? What interests you, what are your strengths that you can help these committees to move forward and actually do something for Campbell?”
Shana Clint: Out of our small groups that we had met with four times, we had three either, I don't remember if it was a couple or if there were three; there was a couple that was a husband and wife and people [who] had agreed that “I will help head up this committee. I will be the leader of this.” So out of our little group, they even split into three and then at the massive meeting it was kind of like, “Okay, who's going to be on my team? Who's going to be on her team?” It was nice because we presented and organized three different areas that we knew somebody's got to be interested in one of these. And so let's start getting our numbers together, you know, and let's start getting a plan of action for these three different areas. So it was…(conversation trails off)
DeAnn Loll: Because we already essentially picked the team captain. So, we didn't need to have people volunteer to head it up. We just needed people to volunteer to help.
Shana Clint: Yeah, because that is always the scariest part. Because I mean, “Oh, I'll be on something but I'm not going to be in charge of it.”
“Oh, okay. Well, that's fine because we already have somebody in charge of it.” So if you are willing to help them, they're going to come forward with a plan and you just need to have the energy to show up and help do the work. So from then on it kind of flowed and it was pretty impressive to see everybody just, “Yeah, let's do this. Let's do all of this.”
Christy Kallevig: That's really exciting and so, I mean, what happened next? I feel like this is the best book I've ever read. What happened next?
Shana Clint: Well, we've actually had two major accomplishments out of the three. I mean, two of them are like done and checked off the list. They accomplished what they set out to do.
Go ahead DeAnn.
DeAnn Loll: We kind of let it go and let them formulate within their own project groups of when they want to meet, how often they want to meet and that sort of a thing. And you know, we just kind of touched base with them and we also had the opportunity with Campbell Dairy coming to town. So we kind of capitalized on that to have another meeting which provided a place for these committees to give an update. So I wouldn't say there was a deadline, but it gave each committee like, “Okay, we need to kind of have something to present by this next date so that it wouldn’t just get dropped.”
Christy Kallevig: Sure, a little accountability, right?
Shana Clint: Yeah, and touching on that subject, I do remember one part that kept coming up, not as a negative, but when anything was going to happen, we had to get our small group out of the habit of looking up to us for and say, “Okay, this is what we're going to do. This is what we want to do. How are we going to do that?” It was like, “Nope, we are hosting this conversation. We are not here for you to think of this stuff and [for] us to carry out the work.”
Christy Kallevig: So, then teams had to come back and kind of check in at that extra meeting that you had. And they felt empowered to go out to work and do things. What did you notice during that meeting?
Shana Clint: I was just so proud of them. They went after this, they went after all of it. They were going after grants, I mean, you name it.
DeAnn Loll: Two of the committees really took off. The playground committee and the convenience store/gas station. Those two totally took off. The playground committee — they were applying for grants and they were seeking out where they can get funding and how to move forward and kind of picking out equipment so that we had a goal in mind, a visual. And the convenience store/gas station, they were doing research asking around other businesses locally around in our area. Trying to see what would it take to get something here. The mural/signage committee at that time didn't have a chance to meet yet, but that's okay. And they had a representative from each of those committees come up and give the updates.
Christy Kallevig: And so, today we are, gosh, are we two years out from when you had your last conversations?
Shana Clint: No, I would say about a year.
DeAnn Loll: One year, yeah.
Christy Kallevig: What has changed in Campbell since then? Have those committees accomplished their goals?
Shana Clint: Yeah, one of the major things—we now have a disc golf course in the city park that was also now kind of taken over by, is it 4-H, DeAnn?
DeAnn Loll: Yes. Yup.
Shana Clint: So the 4-H has now adopted that, but it was the leadership of whoever was in that meeting to spark it and organize it and then take it further. So they have already—they've got their signs up. We had the grand opening. It was awesome. They've got sponsorships on all their signs and then when she's talking about the playground, the fact is, our existing school playground wasn't accessible really for the preschool[ers] and littlers. So that's what their goal was—to get a playground set that was more accessible to the teeny-tiny.
DeAnn Loll: And a way to be more appealing to younger families, because younger families who are starting out having kids, they like to have a place for their kids to play, and not necessarily having to drive all the way to Breckenridge or Wahpeton to just go to a park. So the playground committee, like I said, they got a visual goal they'd picked what they wanted to get. They got the estimates and costs. They knew how much it was going to cost to install it, start to finish, and they went after it. They raised enough money and got the equipment. We actually installed it this summer and had the grand opening for that too. And that was less than a year from that project start that they completed it. And in the process, they actually changed that committee name, not to just be called the playground committee, but it's actually The Campbell Improvement Committee. So it'll continue now. They actually, they met again, I think last Monday or the Monday before maybe to say, “Okay, what's next?” And so it's actually a way, I think, to keep this conversation going.
Christy Kallevig: Oh my gosh, I have chills right now. That is so exciting to hear.
Shana Clint: It was inspiring when the playground went up and when that disc golf course opened. It was incredible. Like this is not just Campbell—look, this is IN Campbell.
DeAnn Loll: It was a way to connect. Individuals have the same feeling and drive, wanting to do this. It was a way to say, “Hey, I feel that way too.”
“Oh, you do? Oh, you do too?” We just, to make that connection and make the voice louder rather than individually.
Christy Kallevig: So, what are the plans for the future? You mentioned now that you have the Campbell Improvement Committee. Are there other future goals that have come from this?
DeAnn Loll: I think they are in the works right now. I think with keeping or having the Campbell Improvement Committee, I think we'll use that platform perhaps to see what the next move is. But there's definitely still a conversation happening. Actually, just yesterday at church, a fellow was talking about trying to get a broaster into our area or whatever. It may be connected with restaurants or whatnot. So people are still thinking and, you know, trying to help our community grow and what do we need?
Shana Clint: And that's the good part of having two large, strong successes already, is that they've seen that it can be done. So I mean the next one thing, the next three things, they don't have to be that big, but just, you know that people are willing.
Christy Kallevig: What advice would you give to someone who's listening to the podcast and is excited about what they're hearing, but still a little hesitant to actually go through it? What advice do you have to offer that would help them get this started in their own community?
DeAnn Loll: My first thought is don't give up, and don't rush into it, either. Take the time to really think about it and formulate your initial team and go through the steps. Be patient with the process because it didn't happen overnight. For us, it was stretched over. Initially, the meetings were over four months, but we had training months before that. So, be patient. Don't give up and do take your time, though.
Shana Clint: I think it's vital to find other people who are going to balance you. Whatever your strengths are, they have to have different strengths for this to flow naturally. Because if you're both strong speakers, or if you're both people who like to listen to the whole entire thing and then have something to say at the end. You have to have one of all these different hats to wear, because the balance in all of this, I think, is very key when it comes to presenting the right type of conversation.
Christy Kallevig: Well, I want to thank both of you for the great work that you did. I also want to recognize the other team members of your team who weren't able to be a part of our call. Rebecca Christianson and Karen Vegar. Did I say their names right?
Shana Clint: Karen Vegar. Yup.
Christy Kallevig: I want to recognize those ladies as well, because I know the four of you did a lot of work to make this happen and Campbell is definitely benefiting from that.
Shana Clint: Awesome. Thanks, Christy.
DeAnn Loll: Yes, thank you.
Christy Kallevig: Thank you to DeAnn and Shana for joining me today to help us learn about the work that they and others did in the community of Campbell. Makes sure to visit our website, www.extension.umn.edu/community-development, where you will find our podcast page. You'll also find our civic engagement model and other information about the Center for Community Vitality. Make sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date on new research and resources for communities and those who lead them. I hope that you will join me again for another episode of Vital Connections On Air.
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