The Urban Oasis Wins the Forever Saint Paul Challenge

September 13, 2013

140After 946 entries in the Forever Saint Paul Challenge, months of work to narrow it down to three finalists, and over 16,000 public votes, The Urban Oasis was unveiled this week as the winner!

The Urban Oasis, which connects food, nature and culture to transform existing space at the Bruce Vento Sanctuary, will receive $1 million for implementation. Tracy Sides of Saint Paul, founder of Bravely Be, an effort to promote community health, submitted the winning idea, which received more than 50 percent of the total votes. She envisions a one-of-a-kind food hub that will make Saint Paul a national destination and model for local food systems done right.

Read more about the idea submitted by The Urban Oasis on the Minnesota Idea Open website, or watch its finalist video:

This year marks the fourth annual statewide ideas competition through the Idea Open. Previous Challenges have addressed issues of obesity, water stewardship and working together across cultures and faiths. To date, the Idea Open has engaged thousands of Minnesotans in solving critical issues facing Minnesota.

Congratulations to The Urban Oasis, and to everyone who put their time and effort into making this year’s Idea Open a big success!

Wanted: Your Million Dollar Idea to Make Saint Paul Great

January 30, 2013

140The Minnesota Idea Open is gearing up again, and this one’s a doozy. In this round the Idea Open has teamed up with MCF member The Saint Paul Foundation for the Forever Saint Paul Challenge, offering a whopping $1 million to turn the winning idea into reality!

Why Saint Paul? As the Idea Open puts it:

Because place matters. When people love where they live, they invest time, energy and ideas to make it a great place. And we know that Minnesotans have crazy love for our capital city. What’s not to love? Saint Paul is home to our professional hockey team, regional theaters, jazz festivals, farmers’ markets, a winter carnival, the Hmong soccer tournament, Cinco de Mayo festivals and so much more.

So what would you do with $1 million to make Saint Paul great? Put on your thinking caps right now, and head over to the Idea Open’s website to read the full guidelines and criteria. The entry period opens on February 13.

Then plan to kick things off in person on February 16 at the newly renovated Union Depot. To celebrate the opening of the challenge, The Saint Paul Foundation will attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the “Largest Picture Made of Lite-Brite” with a giant art installation 12-feet tall by 24-feet long and filled with 520,000+ Lite-Brite pegs.

RSVP online and come early to help add the final Lite-Brite pegs before Mayor Chris Coleman, The Saint Paul Foundation’s Carleen Rhodes and a Guinness World Record judge host the official lighting ceremony at 7 p.m.

Google Moderator — Your Key to Community Input?

June 3, 2010

“Don’t do something about me without me.” I first heard Tamar Cloyd of Education Voters of America speak these powerful words during a talk on diversity and the leadership pipeline on Rosetta Thurman’s podcast.

The Suggestion Box

Google Moderator, it's like the suggestion box for the 21st century.

This phrase succinctly states the importance of community engagement in the work we do as philanthropists, and the words come echoing back to me like an idiomatic boomerang every time I recognize a new tool for grantmakers to engage their grantees and community stakeholders.

Today I’d like to share with you one of those tools, Google Moderator, and discuss how using it to crowdsource decisions can help you tap into the communities you seek to serve.

If you’re unfamiliar with the term crowdsourcing, let me give you the quick explanation. Crowdsourcing is when you use an online platform such as a website or a web application to allow people to do an activity, like donate to a cause or create and rate solutions to a problem. Minnesota Idea Open is one such example of how a foundation is using crowdsourcing to determine how to solve pressing social issues and, in turn, who should receive its grant money.

Google Moderator is a free online tool that allows anyone who has a Google account and something to talk about to start a discussion. It allows the moderator to post a question in text or now in the form of a YouTube video and solicit feedback in the form of ideas, suggestions or questions. Anyone who has a free Google account, like a gmail account can submit a response. Once a response is posted, it can in turn be rated by other users for quality, so that best input gets pushed to the top.

To see an example of Google Moderator, you can view this discussion that I just made on the topic of using tools such as Google Moderator to crowdsource philanthropy (I know, it’s so meta!) While you’re there, feel free to give the platform a test drive by posting your own thoughts.

One of the most obvious limitations of the tool is that there’s no way to pick the crowd that you’re sourcing. Currently, if you create a discussion, anyone can participate. So, if you’re a grantmaker looking to engage a very specific community, then there’s no way to ensure that you’re engaging only your target population.

However, despite limitations, it’s exciting to think how grantmakers, policymakers and nonprofits can use tools like this to partner with communities in problem solving.

For grantmakers concerned with upholding the principles of transparency and the engagement of diverse communities, figuring out how to harness these online tools effectively to support grantmaking decisions will be where the rubber meets the road, and support of these values translates to action in the 21st century.

– Cary Lenore Walski, MCF web communications associate

Image CC Peter J. Bury

Minnesota Idea Open Asks, “What Next, Minnesota?”

May 28, 2010

First off, kudos to the folks over at Minnesota Idea Open for being recognized by nonprofit and social media expert Beth Kanter as “an online social good contest that works.” High praise from a woman who has critiqued other past social good contests by corporations and foundations for poor planning and execution.

CFL lightbulb

Got a bright idea for Minnesota Idea Open's Challenge II?

Fresh from crowning their first victor, Minnesota Idea Open is already at it again searching for the next pressing social challenge of the day. If you’re a Minnesotan, they want to hear from you! Take a quick online survey to help determine what topic innovative Minnesotans will compete to help solve in 2011.

Some of the different social issues that the Minnesota Idea Open team is looking for feedback on include:

  • Water stewardship
  • Early literacy
  • Financial fitness
  • Sustainable living

If you have an idea for another focus area that you’d like to suggest for next year’s challenge, there’s also a field where you can submit your own idea.

As they say @MNIdeaOpen, Game On!

– Cary Lenore Walski, MCF web communications associate

Image CC Outsanity Photos

Vote for the Winner of the Minnesota Idea Open!

May 10, 2010

Have you cast your virtual ballot for one of the three finalists of the Minnesota Idea Open yet? Voting is only open until Friday, May 14, so make sure you visit and submit your vote before time runs out!

If you’re unfamiliar with the project — here’s an overview. Minnesota Idea Open is the brain child of the Minnesota Community Foundation. Leaders at the foundation saw the incredible popularity of social giving contests and philanthropic awards like the X-prize and asked why not use these trends to unlock the ingenuity and creativity of Minnesotans to solve the social and economic problems of our region?

Minnesota Idea Open will be an annual contest where Minnesotans can submit their own ideas to tackle a tough social issue of the day. This year’s topic? The obesity epidemic. After reviewing dozens of submissions, three finalists were chosen by a panel of community, nonprofit and grantmaker leaders.

The final winner of the Open will receive $15,000 to support the creation of a project to help end obesity that can be easily brought to scale and repeated in other communities across the state.

The finalists are:

  • Take the Soul Patch Statewide: A program where a group of community members partnered to tend a small garden that supplied 2,000 lbs of fresh, organic produce to a local food shelf.
  • Kids Lead the Way: A school-based program where youth will create once-a-week field activities for their classmates and community partners, with the idea being that students will bring these activities home with them. Personal trainers have also agreed to volunteer their time to assist community groups in creating collective health goals and fitness programs. Ultimately all the games, recipes and fitness tips will be collected in a book that will be sold to support the future continuation of the program in other communities.
  • Library Wellness Challenge: Starting at the Hamline Midway Library, the Hamline Midway Library Association will sponsor a wellness challenge for community members. The challenge will use the existing space and resources of the library to help small groups of individuals meet up and track how they’re progressing towards wellness goals. In addition to group sessions, there will also be monthly informational workshops on health and wellness, and an initial check-in where participants will be given their current BMI, blood pressure and other health indicators that they will continue to track during the course of the program.

There’s more information about each entry, including videos where the finalists explain their projects, at Be sure to visit the site and cast your vote by May 14!