In 2019 the Central RSDP supported research on the benefits of nature-based learning and play for Leech Lake Early Childhood Development’s Megwayaak Project.

BRAINERD — Central Minnesota residents with an idea for how to strengthen their community can now apply for partnership support from the University of Minnesota Extension Central Regional Sustainable Development Partnership (Central RSDP).

Central RSDP supports local innovation by connecting community ideas to University of Minnesota knowledge and seed funding in the following Central Minnesota counties and sovereign Native nations: Becker, Benton, Cass, Crow Wing, Hubbard, Kanabec, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Otter Tail, Stearns, Todd, Wadena, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe and White Earth Nation. Community members work on diverse project teams that research, design and plan local sustainability projects with University students, faculty and staff.

Central RSDP seeks ideas from diverse populations and those who have not previously partnered with the University. In 2020, priorities identified by the Central RSDP include projects that strengthen community food systems; explore cover cropping and other innovations for soil health and climate adaption; protect water quality; support arts, parks and trails programming; promote inclusive access to clean energy projects and services; connect people of all ages, cultures and backgrounds to the natural world; and strategically bridge political, cultural, gender and ethnic differences.

“We’re excited for a new round of community-University partnerships that put a spotlight on the local sustainability innovation happening across our Central Minnesota communities,” said Central RSDP Executive Director Molly Zins.

Project ideas are being accepted through February 14 and can be submitted online at z.umn.edu/RSDPIdeaBrief. Community members are encouraged to contact Zins at zend0007@umn.edu or (218) 828-2332 to discuss their ideas and ask any questions. Successful projects are selected by the Central RSDP community-University governing board through a competitive process. In 2020, the Central RSDP is also connecting communities to applied research opportunities of the University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment. More information on these opportunities can be found at the above website.

Examples of projects recently supported by the Central RSDP include work with Leech Lake Early Childhood Development on a nature-based learning area and curriculum, community research to inform programming of the St. Cloud Promise Neighborhood, curriculum development for the National Loon Center, and a bilingual project with the Agua Gorda farmers’ cooperative in Long Prairie. For more examples of projects supported by the Central RSDP, visit z.umn.edu/RSDPstorymap

Central RSDP is one of five regions of the University of Minnesota Extension Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships (RSDP). For more information on RSDP, visit RSDP.umn.edu

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