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

Community members work on diverse project teams that research, design and plan local sustainability projects with University students, faculty and staff. Central Regional Sustainable Development Partnership seeks ideas from diverse populations and those who have not previously partnered with the University.

In 2020, priorities identified by the partnership include projects strengthening community food systems; exploring cover cropping and other innovations for soil health and climate adaption; protecting water quality; supporting arts and parks and trails programming; promoting inclusive access to clean energy projects and services; connecting people of all ages, cultures and backgrounds to the natural world; and strategically bridging 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,” stated Molly Zins, executive director of the partnership, in a news release.

Examples of projects recently supported by the Central Regional Sustainable Development Partnership 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.

The partnership 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.

Project ideas are being accepted through Feb. 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 partnership’s community-university governing board through a competitive process.