Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Community meeting spaces in the Twin Cities

[Updated July 2015]

I spend a lot of time looking for good, inexpensive places to have meetings and workshops in the Twin Cities. I'd like to let you know some of my favorite places to host community meetings. I'd love to know your favorites.

Libraries: Almost all libraries in the Twin Cities have free meeting space for nonprofit uses. My favorites are the Community Program Room at the Roseville Library (lots of natural light, seats 125 theater style, nice A/V setup), the Rondo Multipurpose Room in St. Paul (up to 80, nice light, pretty new), and the Meeting Room at the North Regional Library in Minneapolis (up to 108, using both sides of the room). There are lots of other good options. The hours are limited, and you can't charge money to participants for events held at the libraries.

St. Jane House: A beautiful, welcoming space for small meetings and retreats in North Minneapolis. Gatherings that fit with their mission can use the space in exchange for a donation.

Carondolet Retreat Center: Located next to St. Kate's University in St. Paul, Carondolet has many sizes of rooms for reasonable prices. I've had many events there and found them easy to work with and hospitable. If you have any food, you need to use their in-house catering company.

Neighborhood House/Wellstone Center: This community center on St. Paul's west side has many nice spaces for rent and is an active communtiy hub. It is a little more expensive than the Carondolet Center, but not much.

The Hill Ballroom at Macalester College: I've looked into many of the larger ballrooms in the Twin Cities, and found this one to be a great combination of affordability and good support. The ballroom is in the Kagin Commons building, in a beautiful room full of windows. For food, you need to use their catering company.

Common Roots Cafe: This restaurant in Minneapolis has a community room that is free for community use, if your meeting participants buy food there. There is space for up to 25 people. The cafe is open a lot, but the calendar for the room fills up quickly.

Como Dockside: Several meeting spaces in Como Park, St. Paul. The rooms are connected with this restaurant. The rooms used to be free for nonprofit use. I'm not sure about now.

Boneshaker Books: Free meeting room for up to 20 people, in the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis.

Urban Research and Outreach-Engaement Center (UROC): A U of M center in North Minneapolis that has 3 rooms available for community use.

Minneapolis Urban League: Their North Minneapolis center has 2 large meeting rooms that are often available for community meetings, at a reasonable cost.

Wedge Table: They have a meeting room that fits 25 people is free for nonprofits, and cheap for others.

What other good communtiy meeting spots do you know about?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

My vision for the next 10 years. Where can we collaborate?

In this political season, I have frequently been caught up in the political horse races, sometimes with despair and sometimes with excitement. I definintely did last night while watching the debate. I can also easily get lost in eager preparation for an event or project I'm facilitating. In these times of short-term, narrow focus, I can lose sight of any long-term vision and intentions that I want to guide me. This summer, as part of a training about Human Systems Dynamics, I was asked to make a video about my vision for the next 10 years. I found this to be a very useful exercise in envisioning what is important to me with my family, work, and communities. I had fun developing part of the vision together with my kids.

I'd like to show you that video, as a way of asking for your collaboration in the next 10 years. I'd love to know and support your vision, and collaborate in the areas where our visions meet. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Dangers of following what emerges

One of the primary orientations in my work is listening for what seems to be naturally emerging in organizations and communities and supporting groups to follow the path that is emerging. While I deeply value this approach, it has its shadow sides.  Here is a story of one of those shadows.

Earlier this year, I worked with others to initiate a new Social Innovation Lab in Minnesota. There was a lot of momentum going into the lab, and many people and organizations were excited to be a part of it. The lab was successful on many levels. The registration for the first gathering of the lab filled up quickly. About 250 of us gathered in May, and there was a lot of excitement and energy. In preparing for the lab, I had followed where doors opened, what glimmered. Volunteers, co-sponsors, projects to work with, and other connections arose easily and abundantly. I put in many more hours than I had planned on, but I found it energizing and compelling. 
A few weeks before the lab event, I went on a retreat by myself and spent the weekend in the woods. In that quiet, I was surprised by what I found. It became clear that under the excitement and dedication I was putting into the lab, I felt a strong insecurity and grasping. On the retreat, I noticed how much my work with the lab was motivated by the belief that if enough people came to the event and if it was viewed as successful, then (and only then) would I be OK. With this grasping motivation, I had overworked and attracted lots of people that look and think like me. I had created an overrepresentation of white, liberal, nonprofit, middle class, artsy, do gooders. I like those people. I am one of those people. But my over functioning crowded out space for other partners on the team and other intentions and priorities. For this event, we were seeking to maximize the diversity of perspectives involved, as a way to increase chances for innovation. The way I followed opportunities as they arose also quickly brought in many people in ways that were confusing. I often skipped over the preparation of clarifying our purpose and building our team. All of this contributed to a higher level of anxiety in the event and planning and became overwhelming for me.

Thankfully, I am working on this project with an amazing team, and they were able to challenge and redirect the patterns I was starting and strengthening. As a team, we then corrected course to be more intentional about how we were inviting people and clarified our goals. The excitement, anxiety, confusion and inspiring sense of possibility were all mixed together in our May gathering of the innovation lab.   
The process was a reminder to me that my intention is not just following what is easiest and what seems to be emerging naturally. There are other layers in following what is emerging and ways to ground that practice in wisdom and thoughtfulness. As I'm now preparing for the next large gathering of the innovation lab, I'm seeking to pay more attention to the motivations and energy I'm bringing to the team. I'm stopping myself from always rushing ahead when opportunities arise to make more space for our team to build common goals and for us each to take our own kinds of leadership. I don't want to beat myself up about the mistakes I made in the last round, but to notice and learn from this experience and pay attention in a different way next time.

I see many of us dancing between intentional choices about what we want to do, while also responding to opportunities as they arise. I'm very interested in your stories and lessons from doing this dance. I'm grateful to be working with many of you as we experiment with this in our organizations. 

You're Invited

Sept. 12, 8:00 am - noon, St. Paul. I'd like to invite you to join us for the second Social Innovation Lab, which will focus on how we see and cultivate synergy between different social innovation projects. The lab is a place for community change makers to get new thinking and connections to advance their work. You can find out more and register online here.  

Monday, March 12, 2012

Join us for the first Social Innovation Lab

I see most most systems in our society hitting walls as we try to solve new problems with old tools. From how we provide health care to how we do politics, we are in need of lots of innovation to find new ways of meeting community needs. In the past six months, I've organized a series of gatherings about Presencing, which is a way of paying attention to the future that is seeking to emerge.  I've been delighted by all the connections and learning that I've found in this work. One outgrowth of the work I've been doing with Presencing, is that I'm now partnering with InCommons, Wendy Morris, and many others to start a Social Innovation Lab in Minnesota. The first gathering of this lab will be on May 22 from 8:30 to noon in St. Paul. I'd like to invite you to join us, and help shape this resource and community. 

The Social Innovation Lab is a quarterly, half-day gathering that brings together tools, projects, and networking to increase capacity for social innovation, for the purpose of building sustainable and inclusive communities in Minnesota. 
The inaugural lab on the morning of May 22 will focus on identifying and working with leverage points for change in complex systems. For instance, what are the most effective points of intervention for increasing the health of systems that provide education, food, health care, and public safety? Glenda Eoyang, from the Human Systems Dynamics Institute, will be one of the trainers, and help us find tools for change in complex systems. Several people who are leading systems change initiatives will join us, as we experiment with how the tools that Glenda introduces us to can be applied to the challenges in these initiatives. For example, people who are working to remove barriers for money transfers from Minnesota to Somalia will engage us in this challenge. Many other groups, including people working on health care reform and green affordable housing, will also be inviting us to learn with them about how tools for systems change can be applied those issues. Read more here.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Next steps for presencing in Minnesota

We've had three Minnesota presencing gatherings in recent months, with about 200 of us participating in these events. The goal of our times together has been to strengthen the Minnesota hub of people practicing awareness-based collective action methods in pioneering a more sustainable, inclusive, and aware society. Thank you for your participation in co-creating the learning, relationships, and work that has grown out of these gatherings. We have one more presencing gathering planned. We'd love to have you join us for that gathering as we build bridges from the momentum of the presencing gatherings into what is seeking to emerge next.

March Presencing Gathering.  Join us on March 1 from 9:00 am to noon at the Carondolet Center in St. Paul for open space, sharing stories, and connecting with each other as we explore our next steps in pioneering a more sustainable and inclusive communities in Minnesota. To get us started, we'll have a quick review of what we've done and learned in the previous presencing gatherings. 

Harvests from our prototyping gathering: Last week, about 110 of us gathered for a presencing gathering focused on prototyping and learning with 13 different projects in Minnesota that are doing social innovation work. Here is a link to the PowerPoint slides that Wendy Morris used to introduce the rapid prototyping tool. The following video and word collage capture some of what we did together last week.

I hope to see you on March 1 as we continue to notice and follow what is emerging among us.