Category Archives: Nonprofits

Friends of the Northeast Library Gather in Minneapolis

Library openings and re-openings have a way of getting a community’s juices flowing.  Thus was the case with the Friends of Northeast Library, a fledgling but energetic group that gathered last week to plan how best to celebrate and capitalize on the re-opening of the Northeast Library which has been closed for renovation for many months.  On one of autumn’s last perfect evenings a dozen enthusiasts and bibliophiles gathered to anticipate and plan for the re-opening, set for a date yet to be determined in Spring 2011.

Topics on the agenda included the establishment of an endowment, coupled with much discussion about the intent and disposition of that endowment.  Attendees focused on the way in which “their” library will link with and build on a strong community with ethnic roots and a thriving arts environment.  A short-range plan calls for a fundraising book sale set for Friday and Saturday, December 10-11, 2010 at the East Side Coop.

The energy was palpable and the hopes high as attendees looked to the future, including the legacy that an endowment might leave to the community, the ways in which area residents tap a mix of public libraries, especially Bottineau and St. Anthony Village, and the role of a Friends group.

The nascent Friends group is assisted by the Hennepin County Library Foundation which is working with local groups to create and support Friends organizations throughout the Hennepin County Library system.  The challenge facing the Foundation is to incorporate and envision a mix of library Friends groups in an environment profoundly transformed by the merger of the Hennepin County and Minneapolis Public Library systems, each of which had a unique profile of Friends organizations.

Fortunately, organizational heritage was not the primary concern nor the determinant of those gathered to explore the future of Friends of Northeast.  This new group has ideas, energy and commitment to take on the challenge of the new Northeast Library soon to grace and inform the Northeast community.

The Right to Know: A Guide to Public Access and Media Law

Horrendous losses in the legacy print press and the spread of access tools have inexorably combined to create the citizen journalist.  The fact is, we cj’s too often lack the professional journalist’s preparation for the task.  One thing that professional journalists understand at their core is their right to access and to know.  The First Amendment Coalition and the California Newspaper Publishers Association have produced a guide that promises to equip citizen journalists, bloggers, activists and public officials to know the possibilities and the limits when it comes to access.  The Right to Know: A Guide to Public Access and Media Law is a one-stop law guide on access and First Amendment issues. It’s written by James Chadwick and Roger R. Myers, both national authorities on the right to know.  The guide is available from the First Amendment Coalition.  Purchasers of The Right to Know will also receive access online to the full text of all court decisions cited in the book and access online to new legal developments and updates.  The book is $30 from the First Amendment Coalition, 534 4th Street, Suite B, San Rafael, CA 94901, (415) 460-5060 or online at First Amendment Coalition

The UpTake Journalists Banned in Edina!

The intrepid crew from The Uptake hit its first bump in the transparency world this week when the Edina Chamber of Commerce banned all video and audio recording from Wednesday’s debate between candidates Erik Paulsen and Jim Meffert.  Not a major hurdle for the folks from The Update who have covered and shared a daunting roster of candidate forums, debates, town meetings and more during campaign 2010.

 

When the dust settles it will be interesting to learn just how many miles they’ve covered, camera in hand – From the Clinton visit to Blaine and Obama’s U of M appearance over last weekend to La Asamblea de Derechos Civiles in South Minneapolis, Farm Fest, the rambunctious Oberstar/Cravaak debate in Duluth and scores of other sites.  The Uptake crew covers the event live if possible, then records and posts the full program on The Uptake website.  They even offer fact check back up that is endlessly illuminating.

 

Today, Tuesday, The Uptake provides live coverage of the much-vaunted debate between Michele Bachmann and Tarryl Clark taking place in St. Cloud.  The enterprising Uptakers suggest that viewers watch the debate live from home or office, then contribute the cost of the gas saved to The Uptake.

 

At this point in the campaign every Minnesotan is burned out on sound bites and TV spots well-funded by a mix of vested interests.  The would-be informed voter might do well to take a breath, settle into an easy chair, and take time to view and listen to the candidates themselves – uninterrupted, on the spot, recorded by The Uptake.

 

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International Right to Know Day

Though you may not read or hear much about International Right to Know Day on September 28, 2010, the astounding fact is that NGO’s, press groups and others in over forty nations worldwide will be taking a moment to celebrate the essential, if implicit, human right.  Since its inception in 2002 the goal of RTK Day has been to raise global awareness of individuals’ right to access government information and to promote access to information as a fundamental human right.

The underlying principles echoed throughout the celebration of RTK Day are that public interest takes precedence over secrecy and that public bodies play a proactive role as vehicles of public access.  Though transparency has become a buzz word at every level of government, organizations and advocates who are truly concerned might well take a collective deep breath and review the reality.  For advocates laboring in the local vineyard there is strength to be found in the fact that committed colleagues in a host of nations are making waves and even progress.  While Canada celebrates International RTK – and the right itself – with great gusto other nations ranging from Bulgaria to China to Nigeria believe, work and are taking concrete steps to promote the right to know as a basic human right.

One example of work in progress is the extensive draft report currently being circulated for discussion throughout Europe.   Access Info Europe and the Open Knowledge Foundation, in collaboration with Open Society Institute Information Program, are holding a “public consultation” on open government data and the right of access to information based on that document that bears the working title Beyond Access. The draft report assesses the current status of open government data and the right to reuse, offering a current and inclusive review of movements, examples and comments on future directions.  It’s worth a look.

FOI Advocates offers an excellent mix of ideas of ways that individuals and organizations of virtually every stripe can celebrate RTK Day 2010 – it’s specific, thought-generating and very useful.  It’s not too late to turn out a letter to the editor, an exhibit or a quick self-assessment of what your or your organization is doing to promote – or inhibit – access.

MN Broadband Summit – An Eyewitness Account

The 2010 Minnesota Broadband Summit breathed life into the reality and the future of broadband, not as an end but as a means – a means to economic development, of course, but more important, as a means to creating a state in which a Minnesota resident can live a rich live in a community with the tools of access to health care, civic engagement, lifelong learning, arts and culture. As convener and host, Senator Amy Klobuchar outlined the complex issues inherent in assuring access to high-speed broadband for all Minnesotans.  Julius Genachowski, Chairman of the Federal Communications, the regulatory agency responsible for telecommunications development, outlined the challenges he and members of a divided Commission face.

The intent was for the decision-makers from inside the DC Beltway to join an energetic and committed audience in learning from a truly fine panel of informed Minnesota leaders with unique perspectives on and experience with broadband.  Emphasis was on Minnesotans who are out of the loop because of geography, awareness, digital literacy or cost.

My original intent was to summarize the summit.  Even as I sorted through my notes and my reflections those who are more nimble and better equipped accomplished just that.  TheUpTake posted the video of the full summit on their site.  Blandin Foundation, which has taken the broadband lead in Greater Minnesota, has posted a virtual transcript of the proceedings.

What remains is to internalize and reflect.  Some thoughts:

  • Seldom have I heard a panel provide as much relevant, targeted and specialized information – I doubt that I have ever heard this much data, personal experience and vision delivered within the strict time limits dictated by the venue.  To a person, the spokespersons were “way above average.
  • Attendees included access leaders and visionaries who have been tilling the telecommunications turf for decades. For many present there was an “it’s about time” response. This cohort shares an implicit sense that there is a role for government to regulate (as well as fund) broadband development.
  • Along these lines, the panel touched on social issues generally absent from today’s politics.  They described with clarity specific strategies to ease or eliminate barriers, beginning with but not limited to geographic realities
  • Bruce Kerfoot. President and owner of the Gunflint Lodge, spoke for panelists and audience alike when he reminded the Senator and FCC chair that “the people on the end of the wires aren’t stupid.  We’re ready to roll and we have folks who want to be online.  We just need to be unified in our efforts to get heard.”
  • A consistent theme was collaboration broadly defined.   Kerfoot emphasized that Minnesota communities “just need to be unified in our efforts to get heard.”  Pam Lehmann, Executive Director of the Lac qui Parle County Development Authority, described how collaboration paid off for people in her county to apply where a Computer Commuter mobile tech lab was launched the following day.  More information on a StarTribune piece is available on Lac qui Parle’s site here.
  • Richard (Dick) King, CEO at Thomson Reuters, stressed that “people need to visualize themselves using technology. Stressing the imperative of public-private collaboration, King ticked off the reasons Thomson Reuters cares about broadband:  “We care because of our employees – we’d like for them to be able to work from home.  We’d like to bring other tech companies into the area.  Business needs a continuity plan — if something happens in the office, we still need to be able to carry on.  We need competition and redundancy.”
  • Engagement of local elected officials and decision-makers is a must, according to the panelists. A unified approach demands that local leaders are both informed and involved.
  • Panelists stressed that collaboration means public-private partnerships that are both essential and slow to nurture.  Speakers described in concrete terms the ways that the private sector, whether Thomson Reuter or Gunflint Lodge, depends on access and on collaborative efforts to promote a broadly-defined vision. Pam Lehmann, ED of the Pac qui Parle County EDA, described her county’s collaborative efforts and her vision of the impact of resulting federal funds on her community – proudly reminding the audience that the next day would see the launch of the Computer Commuter tech lab to spread digital literacy throughout the region.
  • Though the front-burner issue of net neutrality received modest attention, the implication was that this had been well addressed in the recent Net Neutrality town hall meeting chaired by Senator Al Franken.
  • Throughout the discussion the reality of cost was implicit.  Still it neither dominated nor stymied discussion which remained more on shared vision and possibilities.  The clear focus was on what was repeatedly described as a “win-win” approach.

In his introductory remarks Chairman Genachowski reminded attendees that, urgent as the issue, it’s not priority #1 with most people or their elected representatives.  His words seemed to me a hint, if not a clarion call, to those assembled to roll up our virtual sleeves.

The awesome volunteers and staff at the UpTake recorded Senator Amy Klobuchar’s remarks.

Parade of Community Gardens

Whether you prefer begonias or broccoli, petunias or peas, roses or radishes , an ornamental, native, even a therapeutic garden, there’s something for you at the 5th Annual Parade of Community Gardens sponsored by the nonprofit organization Gardening Matters. “Community gardening isn’t just about growing vegetables and flowers.  It’s about growing community, both in and around the garden space,” says Margaret Shields, Communications Intern at Gardening Matters. “The Parade of Community Gardens presents the opportunity to connect the garden to the neighborhood and the neighborhood to the garden.”

To celebrate the riches of this community’s gardens, walk or bike to as many of the 66 participating gardens you can visit during the four-hour parade that stretches throughout the metro area from 10:00 a.m. till 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, August 21.

Gardening Matters has produced a Parade Guide that is loaded with details about the featured gardens.  There’s a great map divided by neighborhood.  Each entry has a brief description of the garden and the gardeners responsible.  The Parade is on rain or shine with backup plans in case of severe weather.  Everything is free and open to all gardeners, admirers and green thumb wannabes.

In addition to the Parade Guide, Gardening Matters offers a wealth of related information and communications and education tools.  “The mission of Gardening Matters is to connect gardeners with each other, with their communities and with the tools they need to ensure the long-term success of their community garden,” says Shields.  There’s an online garden directory, a virtual library of resources about gardening and more, a listserv to connect with community gardeners, monthly learning networks, a workshop on how to start a community garden and regular email and newsletters.

Look for Community Gardens on Parade throughout the cities – places of worship, parks, railroad land, senior centers, schools, businesses and vacant lots.  No matter who owns the land, “gardens, neighbors and novices are all encouraged to come out and celebrate the Parade of Community Gardens and feel the sense of pride and shared ownership in these important community spaces,” says Shields.

When you visit Gardens on Parade, ask the community gardeners on hand about their reasons for participating.  Some want to improve the neighborhood and enhance the involvement of neighbors.  Others see community gardening as a pleasant and productive road to health.  An increasing number find that one answer to the rising cost of groceries, coupled with today’s focus on nutrition, inspire them to dig, prune, weed – now pick and enjoy – their own produce.

Don’t forget your camera on Saturday.  There’s a Community Garden Photo Contest sponsored by  Bike Walk Twin Cities (BWTC), an initiative of Transit for Livable Communities.  Sponsors encourage you to submit photos of you, your shoes, your bike, your family and friends enjoying the Parade and touring the gardens.  Deadline for photo submission if Friday, August 27th.  Winners will be drawn on Monday, August 30th.  Prizes include a Burley Travoy, a NiceRide MN subscription, t-shirts, reflective arm/leg bands, and a bike light set.

BWTC also created special walking and biking routes for select self-guided tours to gardens on the Parade.  So, put on your comfort shoes, slather on the sunscreen and bug spray, then head out to walk or bike to meet your neighborhood community gardeners at as many of the 66 participating gardens you can visit during the Parade.

Check it all out online or call Gardening Matters at 612 821 2358.

And have a glorious ride or walk through your neighborhood – or learn about another community – by joining the Parade of Community Gardens next weekend.

Call for Papers on Overcoming Racism

Overcoming Racism is a mission shared  a “loose collective of organizations committed to overcoming racism in Minnesota.  A major initiative of that collaboration, the Facilitating Racial Equity Collaborative, is sponsorship of an annual conference that addresses and thus higihlights a common agenda.  “Recognizing and Challenging the Legacies That Oppress Us” is the theme for the group’s 2010 Antiracism Conference set for October 29-30 at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul.  The goal of the conference is “advancing antiracist transformation of ourselves, our institutions and our communities.”

Currently organizing of Overcoming Racism are seeking help to meet that ambitious challenge by issuing a Call for Workshop Proposals.  Proposals are due August 31.  The Call is a thoughtful and detailed document that offers clear background information on the purposes, expectations and format.  Of particular help to the proposal developer is a precise definition of terms such as “colonization”, institutional” “structural” and “systemic” racism and “historical trauma.”  Presenters will be selected and informed by September 30.

Details are available on the organization’s website.

Early registration for the conference is $75/day or $120 for both days.  Online registration is provided by the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits.

Scholars Without Walls

The walls of academia, that is….

Though I was present at the birth of the Minnesota Independent Scholars Forum over two decades ago, I’m never really Poked Around some of the details or independent scholarship, its various permutations and connections…  What I did know is that, in the early 1980’s an assemblage of disenfranchised researchers, educators and lifelong learners, working with the Minnesota Humanities Commission, joined forces to address the critical needs of serious scholars working on their own and without the perks of academic life.  To some extent their inspiration came from am emerging national recognition of independent scholarship, manifest in one way by publication of the widely read The Independent Scholar’s Handbook by Ron Gross.

After much deliberation (as becomes a gathering of independents) these folks agreed that independent scholars experienced specific needs – for access to library resources, for recognition of writing, speaking and other scholarly pursuits, for foundation and government funding, and, above all, for opportunities to share information and ideas with colleagues.

Many of the barriers, the group concluded, were remedial.  Thus they created the Minnesota Independent Scholars Forum, now a 501c3 nonprofit.  Though time and technology have alleviated some of the problems, e.g. access to library resources, others persist. Time constraints and a dearth of venues that support sharing information and ideas top the list.

Today, the MISF works to anticipate, address and meet the changing needs of scholars working on their own.  At the same time the scholars enrich the community by sharing their research and insights with the community at large.  Membership is open to learners of every stripe – no degree requirements.   The current MISF sports a lively mix of active learners in a host of settings – homemakers, part time students, attorneys, librarians, government, museum, corporate employees.  MISF provides a structure that offers common space and opportunity for independent learners — physicists, historians, literary scholars and creative writers, musicians and artists, even lurkers like me. Members share their experiences, their studies and opinions,  and their commitment to an environment that actively supports an academic life that is shared and recognized.

The “independent” in MISF is the tie that binds and the spirit that creates the “lively, interdisciplinary, and non-traditional environment” that is the hallmark of the organization.  MISF dues start at just $25.  All activities are free and open.  Check it out, drop in on a study group or public forum.  Check out the MISF website, email info@mnindepdnentscholars.org or send a note MISF at USPS: Box 80235, Mpls 55408.

National Coalition of Independent Scholars

The Independent Scholar’s Handbook by Ronald Clark revised and available in digital format from Simon Fraser University and the Canadian Academy of Independent Scholars.