On the analysis of the assets and needs of the region six main categories have been defined:
These categories could be easily matched with the three types of community capital namely, build and financial, human and social, and natural. The connection between these two categorizations has been provided in the assets, lacking assets, and needs pyramids.
The physical assets identified heavily concentrates in natural resources such as soil, prairie, wetlands, glacial ridge and wind. Clean air, water in ecosystem and wildlife, open spaces, Minnesota River, climate diversity in life enhancing quality of the nature (beauty) are also identified in this category. These assets are seen as plentiful in the region and their use viewed as average. The effectiveness of WCRSDP is also average. WCRSDPÕs role on use of Glacial Ridge is rated as not effective. Physical assets have seen as key for economic development, especially in tourism, cleaner environment, and reducing dependency on oil/non-renewable energy sources. The partnershipÕs role is seen as bringing various groups together, playing a facilitator role, educating the region, promoting projects that aims to preserve and protect nature.
In demographic category human characteristics such as being innovative and talented, having integrity has been identified as an asset. Retired persons and low population density are also being introduced. These assets are found plentiful and their usage as average except retired persons. Also, the effectiveness of the partnership viewed as low for the retired persons. The WCRSDP role is seen as identifying individuals and organizations, pulling them together and educating local communities on related issues.
In this category, University of Minnesota UMM, Extension office, Center for Small Towns etc), economic improvement groups, religious organizations, and current projects are identified as assets. Importance of education, sharing experiences, skills and knowledge are emphasized. Effectiveness of the partnership rated low on promoting using assets like Extension services, economic development groups, religious organizations, and presence of the university. Also the usage of Extension services and presence of the university rated low. WCRSDPÕs role is seen as collaborating with these institutions to make their services accessible to the local community. Among the actions that need to be taken to use these assets fully, informing the community on what these institutions offer, increasing collaboration, and looking for funding are listed.
Small town infrastructure for aging population, agricultural products, locally owned small businesses and farms, and ability to leverage dollars are seen as the economic assets of the region. Locally owned businesses rated as scarce and WCRSDPÕs role on aging population opportunities is seen as not effective. Providing seed money, working with aging population, using assets locally instead of exporting, utilizing the university as a resource more fully, increasing public awareness on economic issues are pointed out as actions needs to be taken. PartnershipÕs role suggestions varies from bringing various institutional assets together to providing focused support in agricultural economic sector.
In this category, entrepreneurship is the only item identified. They have been seen as plentiful but with very limited use. Education and training was brought up as an action to promote full use and WCRSDPÕs role is identified as offering training classes for this group.
Cultural category assets includes, people characteristics such as work ethics, integrity, concern for others, commitment to the community, regions characteristics, quality of life, and arts agriculture related counter-culture. The last asset is viewed as scarce and not fully used. Engaging people with diverse background, creating innovative ways to generate economic opportunities that are direct outcome physical assets, enhancing cultural/economic activities are listed as actions need to be taken. Again collaboration and communication are brought up as the partnershipÕs role together with keeping the diverse characteristics of the board.
Land use thinking brought up as the lacking asset of the region. It is viewed as very important in regions development together with the average effectiveness of the board. The suggestions include changing and expanding the possibilities of land and land use.
Only lacking regional asset identified is young people. It is ranked as very important and effectiveness of the partnership is rated as average. They have seen as replacement for existing agriculture, business, and community leaders.
Identified lacking institutional assets are regional development commission, health care, administrative support with the university, and information and education on the benefits of the region. All of them highly rated in their importance, and partnership is found ineffective on setting up a regional development commission. Importance of providing benefits to the employees with diverse needs is emphasized together with examining constantly changing needs of the region.
In this category economic infrastructure and retail sector are listed as the lacking economic assets and both of them rated as very important on the regionÕs development. RegionÕs dependence on these assets is classified as extensive. Creation, retention and advancement of jobs, and providing a good/diverse selection of goods to purchase are listed as important reasons of having these assets. The continuum attracting population-economic development-improving quality of life-attracting population is brought up.
The three lacking assets that all rated as very important in regions development are studies of natural history and environmental conservation, citizen enthusiasm, a group to develop regional development strategies to pull together all the individual efforts. The key issues introduced are increasing the base of engaged citizens, organizing their efforts and educating them especially on sustainability of the environment.
The lacking assets that are identified in this category are art, architecture, entertainment, dining opportunities and cultural events. They are all rated highly on their importance and regionÕs dependence. Making rural environment and lifestyle prettier, friendlier, more inclusive by building on the regionÕs heritage is brought up as a reason on importance of some of these lacking assets. Also providing health food to avoid obesity, keeping the citizens in the region for entertainment and cultural activities are listed as important reasons. Region;s artists, cooks, writers, educators, politicians, art councils, community education programs, UMM, PRCA, Pomme de Terre Food Coop are given as other relevant assets that can complement/replace/support these lacking assets. Cultural integration through ethnic restaurants, Òall local foodÓ restaurant are brought up as ideas.
Only need that came up on physical category is related with housing. Providing modest housing and the ultimate rural home is rated as very important on the regionÕs development but very low on actions taken to meet this need and partnershipÕs effectiveness. Rural zoning, clustering for efficiency, improving quality of life are listed as reasons for importance. As a required action the preparation for a zoning plan with the involvement of architects, planners, and civil engineers is proposed.
In the board member survey there were no need specified in this category.
The four identified needs in this category are health care infrastructure, cross-county line county partnerships, telecommunication, and regional broadcasting media. Effectiveness of the partnership is rated low on all of them except health care infrastructure. The reasons for importance of meeting these needs are changing the focus from metropolitan news to rural news, efficiency through collaboration, opportunity to re-populate the population by increasing quality of life, providing good health care. The proposed actions are pulling together and integrating existing assets to improve health care, eliminating some territorial county commissioners and combining them, Work with broadcasting media to create a greater awareness of what the region lost.
This category again is the riches on the inputs that have been received. First group of needs is capital, wealth, resources. The second group is creating opportunities to invest locally. The next group is economic sector specific which is increasing the market of crops and creating new community based businesses using technology. The last group is creating a community foundation in which partnership is rated as not effective. The required assets are commodities, business expertise, capital, education, university, collaboration.
Harnessing the expertise of mature/retired adults, opening doors for opportunities are identified as needs. The effectiveness of the partnership in opening doors for opportunities is rated very low. The importance of increasing involvement of retired people, creating opportunities for citizens with diverse backgrounds are emphasized. Education, and various activities to simulate involvement are suggested as possible actions.
The main need in this category is to stop thinking about the ways things have always been done.
The assets and needs that are identified in this stage needs to be discussed, modified and rated by the group again. Opening up a discussion will help to identify the real assets and needs of the region. Some of the assets and needs may be uniform some of them non-uniform throughout the region. Diversity of assets and needs need to be studied. This may provide a direction in regional development; specialization versus diversification. If specialization is the direction than projects in these areas need to be supported.
Pride of the Prairie: Centerpiece project of the partnership. Certainly fits the needs of the region and the goals of the partnership. The project shows modest evidence of success. A preliminary study shows increasing levels of purchase of local foods, and UMM Sodhexo does local foods purchasing. We are unaware of any other institutional success. The impact of this project appears modest given the level of partnership resources they consume. In our opinion there has been too much emphasis on educational materials, logo design, and lots of workshops providing little impact. There is not enough emphasis on the obstacles to getting local foods distributed to local institutions. The bureaucratic structure and low-impact activities of PoP seem to be consuming their resources.
WCROC Renewable Energy Grant: Project uses local physical assets and human capital to address environmental and economic needs of the region. The project fits nicely with goals of the Partnership and the needs of the region. This project has several facets that are still to be approved by the legislature, but the wind turbine portion of the project has been successfully implemented. The energy produced is a direct benefit, but many indirect benefits from the research and knowledge will benefit the region to a greater extent. The rest of the project facets also seem promising. We have classified this project as partial completion, but unlike other projects, this partial completion status is of little fault of the investigators.
HC Purchasing Alliance: Project addresses a key obstacle to economic development and maintenance of our society addressing demographic, institutional, and economic needs of our region. All evidence suggests this project is making progress toward offering a product. A product should be available soon if the timetable in the planning documents is followed.
Mn River Project: Project addresses water quality and sustainable agriculture needs in our region. The intent of the project is consistent with partnership goals and needs of the region. However, there is no documentation of any product of their efforts. A very questionable project given the high level of funding it has received from the partnership.
UM ChildrenÕs Garden: The partnership seems to list this project under food or sustainable agriculture. In our evaluation, we believe this project primarily addresses institutional, educational, and cultural needs of the region. This project received planning assistance, and then implementation funding. The garden now exists and serves the mission and goals as intended. The plant-mobile and school outreach is extensive to elementary schools. Seems to be a project addressing needs of our region, but not big needs, or big impact.
Phosphorus Study: Project addressed water quality and environmental needs for our society with relevance to agriculture. Study was conducted successfully and results disseminated. Project produced useful information for our state. Project addressed identified needs in our region and built connections with UM research and rural Mn. This is a suitable project with modest, positive impact.
Poplar Project: Project seeks to address water quality concerns for our region with special emphasis given to community water sources. There is little evidence of progress in the project, with little subsequent impact. Leaders have left the project - little progress should be expected in the future.
Local Windpower: Feasibility study for wind power generation. Project has the potential to benefit the local communities involved. Study was completed, but no known outcomes resulted. We suspect the people interested in wind power may now be stuck with a positive feasibility study with little or insufficient ability to continue toward power generation. Did the partnership have evidence this project could move past the study? In the future perhaps feasibility studies need to be tied to a course of action to obtain the ability to generate power? The scope of this project seems to be primarily local with only a little broader impact.
Swine Rountables: Roundtable discussions with scientists and pork producers. Project certainly has potential impact, but it is difficult to determine outcomes of this communication. Modest potential impact, but certainly has relevance to sustainable agriculture through a meat-production emphasis.
Traverse BRE: Economic development effort in Traverse county area. Project seeks to address community economic needs. Training of workers and data collection is needed to start the process. Strategic planning. Little progress made to date.
Biomass Project: Learning circles, education initiative to develop alternative farm products and methods. This project hits many regional needs in a single project: renewable energy, sustainable farming, environmental protection, and possible economic enhancement. No progress or notable impacts.
CERTS: Planning and implementation costs for CERTS energy teams. Teams have not been implemented yet. Project seeks to address energy usage and possible energy sources across the state. High level of potential impact, but has yet to begin studies and make recommendations. The project is part of a much larger development process. We have concerns about what this project can accomplish even under ideal circumstances.
King of Trails: Western Mn tourism project. Has achieved tourism designation and done tourism resource documentation and made substantial progress toward a solid web presence in tourism websites. Project seems effective and could have substantial impact.
Methane Study: Preliminary or feasibility study of using methane for energy production. Study found insufficient levels in standard farm practices, but investigators are encouraged that an alternative manure management practice with new technology could produce usable energy. There were encouraging potential outcomes from the project. This project addresses energy and sustainable farming needs of the region.
Walking History: Local initiative for cultural and tourism development. Project identified historical items and created materials. How will funding be obtained for implementation? Partnership was helpful in planning, but given the limited impact of this project, little further support seems warranted until matching support is obtained and demonstrated. Could local historical society be expected to support the rest of the project?
Rural Dev Scholarships: Promotion and development of human capital of the region. Little impact demonstrated or expected.
Prairie Woods: Alternative energy demonstration project with no known outcomes. Very little impact documented, and no evidence the project was even attempted.
Milan Housing: Senior care facility feasibility and planning study. Appears to have been successful and helpful to the community.
WACCO Mental Health: Identified barriers to effectively handling prisoners with mental illnesses. Project completed a study, but few outcomes were obtained.
WACCO Technology Project: Student intern helped communities use technology more effectively. Very successful project helping assist community governments, helped institutional needs of the region.
Carbon Sequestration: Policy analysis of farmer incentives to adopt conservation practices. Modest project with potentially useful results.
Hwy 29: We view this project similar in nature to the western Mn trails initiative, and hope they could obtain advice and expertise from the W. Mn group. The project seems to have the natural resources for an interesting tourist and ag destination. Project shows promise, but as we have seen project leadership and follow-through is critical for success. These folks could use information sharing from the other group.
Hazard Mitigation Planning: Initiative provided local communities with usable hazard plans that enable them to be eligible for federal disaster funds. Effective, completed project.
The projects supported by the Partnership are consistent with the needs and existing assets of the region. However, the project effectiveness is not consistent throughout the collection.
We have been fairly critical of Pride of the Prairie, and we have learned of the efforts of the Minnesota Project to get local foods used by restaurants and institutions. We have seen a plan for roundtable discussions to accomplish this goal. We again find this loose, unstructured, unfocused effort unsatisfying. This goal needs dedicated people who will work with institutions to enable local food use, not more meetings about it. We hope the Minnesota Project makes progress in this effort, but we have doubts about this part of their approach.
Many projects appear to disappear or whither even with Partnership funding. From the printed data, we believe there is some evidence that groups that are able to obtain other funding sources make better use of the partnership funds than do projects without this external validation.
More consideration needs to be given to the sustainability of the project administration. Successful projects tend to have successful investigators like WCROC Renewable Energy, UM ChildrenÕs Garden, Phosphorus, and many of the smaller CAP projects. Projects with minimal or no impact are often affected by poor administration for a variety of reasons. Perhaps more consideration should be given to the track record of investigators and the resources they will have to not just complete the project, but also to the larger impact of the project after partnership funding is over.
Our supporting analysis summary tables show a high fraction of projects consisting of evaluation, discussion, planning, information gathering, workshops, feasibility, and other low-impact activities (including our evaluation project). We believe the board should give some consideration to the idea of restraining the proportion of projects that simply propose these activities. We advise the board to require the next stage of the process be explicitly outlined in the original proposal. Before the board approves a project, the board should require concrete potential outcomes need to be defined, either by the board or the project leader. The board should then be responsible for evaluation and assessment. There are past projects that are extremely hard to assess after the fact, but an assessment plan could have been produced when the project was developed.
It may be helpful to consider the PartnershipÕs projects as a portfolio with risk of success and failure distributed throughout different sectors and areas. Investment portfolio managers typically examine their track record and portfolio performance periodically, and remove low return investments and replace them with investments with higher expected returns.
A multi-stage proposal design could assist in producing more effective projects. In this approach, assessment at the end of each project stage should be implemented and overseen by the Partnership board. This method always presupposes the project will continue and request future funding. In this way, the board is always ready and prepared to make funding decisions. Here is a case example: suppose a garden applies for funding. The board then proposes project stages such as: planning, implementation, and maintenance phases. At the end of each stage, the board will do assessment based on the project objectives and decide on what needs to be done in the next stage. This enables the board to stop funding if a project goes astray, or increase support if warranted.
The CAP projects have typically had good performance, successful completion, reached desired outcomes, but have not had big impacts. These projects certainly fit within the goals of the Partnership and within the portfolio framework we are proposing. Many portfolios contain similar investments, however there are usually guidelines and by-laws that define their extent. We suggest some explicit consideration be given to the quantity of these low-impact, low-investment, but quite successful projects in the overall Partnership portfolio. This does not need to be an explicit rule or by-law change, but some guidelines should be developed.
High Investment, High Potential Returns, High Need Areas:
Project Actual Return
Pride of Prairie Minimal
Renewable Energy Moderate to Substantial
Health Care Purchasing On-track for substantial
Mn River Basin Project No Return to Minimal
Moderate Investment, High Potential Returns, High Need Areas:
Project Actual Return
Hybrid Poplar Minimal
Phosphorus Minimal to Moderate
Biomass Project Minimal to None
Methane Study Potential for Moderate
Moderate Investment, Moderate Potential Returns, High Need Areas:
Project Actual Return
Local Windpower Unknown
Traverse BRE Unknown
Swine Rountables Unknown
King of Trails Moderate
Prairie Woods None
Hwy 29 Minimal
Carbon Sequestration Minimal
Moderate Investment, Moderate Potential Returns, Moderate Need Areas:
Project Actual Return
UM ChildrenÕs Garden Moderate
Walking History Minimal
Rural Dev Scholarships Minimal
Milan Housing Unknown, Moderate?
WACCO Tech Project Moderate
WACCO Mental Health Moderate
Hwy 29 Moderate Expected