STAPLES-Regional partners Region Five Development Commission and Sourcewell are

teaming up to expand the Welcoming Communities program to their shared five-county region in

central Minnesota.

This program is focused on workforce attraction and expanding cultural agility for individuals, organizations and communities. Initially supported by The Blandin Foundation and Northwest Area Foundation, the program has received support from Sourcewell for continued growth.

Region Five covers Cass, Crow Wing, Morrison, Wadena and Todd counties.

Under the newly executed agreement, Region Five will deliver Intercultural Development Inventory assessments to 15 entities, which may include public municipalities and school boards, nonprofits, philanthropic and private-sector organizations. Region Five reports the Intercultural Development Inventory assessments assist its understanding of and ability to experience cultural difference, and how to set and achieve goals that further develop individual and group skills impacting community service. It's a self-reflective tool allowing individuals and groups an opportunity to be intentional about welcoming people, Region Five reported.

Region Five will additionally pilot implementation with one community through a citizen-led community project exemplifying goals that bridge cultures. This citizen-led Welcoming Community Advocacy Group will be made up of students, educators, residents, business owners, elected officials, nonprofit and community foundation leaders who have taken the Intercultural Development Inventory assessment.

"There is a financial and social cost benefit to communities who are welcoming to residents," Region Five stated in a news release. "Rural communities that are welcoming to all people-despite their age, gender, disabilities, race, religion, national origin, or family status-will be the communities who win the race for talent. A belonging environment through welcoming communities adds value to resident quality of life and attracts the qualified workforce that is in high demand. The workforce attraction magnetizes new businesses and increases entrepreneurial activity that creates and retains people and jobs."

Region Five stated the Welcoming Communities program aligns well with Sourcewell's commitment of partnering with education, government and nonprofits to boost student and community success.

Allowing the expansion and scope of this initiative helps reach a wider audience with greater regional impacts, Region Five reported.

"Sourcewell fully embraces the importance of relationships right here at home," Sourcewell

Manager of City and County Solutions Anna Gruber stated. "We are proud to support this important work in our region and excited to see the results of this initial pilot program. Ultimately, we believe it will lead to widespread community success for everyone throughout Region Five."

Communities interested in learning more about participating as a pilot for this program, may contact Dawn Espe at despe@regionfive.org or 218-894-3233.