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Community Focus Areas

In September 2019, the McKnight Foundation announced a new community-focused program to advance equity and inclusion in Minnesota. The goal: Build a vibrant future for all Minnesotans with shared power, prosperity, and participation. To build this vibrant future, this new program will honor and build upon what we’ve learned from the work we’ve supported in the community over many years while making space for new ideas. Through this new program, we will harness the potential of Minnesotans across race, culture, ethnicity, income, geography, and other differences to make our state one that works for every community and its residents.

In a time when Minnesota consistently ranks as one of the worst in the nation for racial disparities, we envision a future where people of color and Indigenous people—who today must navigate institutional and systemic barriers—can gain and exercise power, prosper culturally and economically, and participate fully in civic life.

Our new program focuses on advancing economic mobility, equitable development, and civic engagement.

We see these three focus areas as systems-change work that intersect and seek to help all Minnesotans thrive in different ways. Economic mobility aims to make an impact for individuals; equitable development aims to make an impact for communities and places across Minnesota; and civic engagement aims to inspire broader advocacy and engagement that leverage our diversity as an asset. Our strategies for this work are still emerging; we describe below our early thinking and approach to these three focus areas.


Focus Areas

Economic Mobility

McKnight believes that all Minnesotans will do better if we close our racially based economic gaps. In focusing on economic mobility, we aim to ensure that low-wealth communities, Indigenous people, and communities of color participate and share in our state’s social, cultural, and economic assets, while also strengthening Minnesota’s economic competitiveness. To accomplish this, we will work to eliminate racial and other gaps in income, housing, education, and wealth. Specific projects may include growing new jobs that support families, building a more skilled workforce, investing in a strong base of entrepreneurs and small business owners, and increasing equitable access to education.

Equitable Development

For much of Minnesota’s history, policies and practices have led to inequities by disinvesting in low-wealth communities, Indigenous people, and communities of color. Achieving equitable development would mean that all Minnesotans have an opportunity to:

  • live in healthy, safe communities;
  • connect to economic, social, and cultural opportunities; and
  • use their voice to influence decisions that shape where they live.

Advancing equitable development may include efforts to preserve and produce affordable housing; to ensure low-wealth, Indigenous, immigrant communities, and communities of color have influence over local decisions; and to embed equitable practices within public infrastructure investments.

Civic Engagement

As communities across Minnesota continue to change, residents are seeking ways to connect with one another, build bridges across lines of difference, solve problems, and create opportunities to address inequality and foster prosperity. While Minnesota has many innovative initiatives that address racial and economic inequality, these efforts have typically taken place in isolation. To make real progress, we need multigenerational, multiracial, multi-sector, and multi-issue civic leaders who can coordinate efforts to build shared power, prosperity, and participation across Minnesota.

A strong civic infrastructure would support communities in coming together around common values and interests. Such civic engagement would enable communities to define, act upon, and achieve shared purpose. It could also support a more inclusive and representative democracy; a new generation of public leaders; and stronger, values-based narratives that elevate our communities’ common interests.

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