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Our Approach

McKnight’s Vibrant & Equitable Communities program fosters shared power, prosperity, and participation through four strategies: Accelerate Economic Mobility, Build Community Wealth, Cultivate a Fair and Just Housing System, and Strengthen Democratic Participation. Within these strategies, we seek to achieve systemic improvements in individual, community, and societal outcomes. We look to the ingenuity of people working together across Minnesota to craft solutions that meet community-defined needs, address local context, and shift policies, practices, and institutions in lasting ways.

Our Strategies

Accelerate Economic Mobility

We aim to ensure that individuals can achieve and sustain increased income and wealth, build durable skills that create pathways to quality work, and position themselves to succeed within a rapidly changing economy.

Priority: Foster Economic Equity and Inclusion
  • Support access to fair and just wages and benefits, quality work, and dignity and safety in the workplace.
  • Reduce systemic financial barriers that impede economic mobility, such as policies, fines, fees, and other wealth-stripping mechanisms.
Priority: Advance Ownership
  • Invest in proven and emerging models to expand homeownership.
  • Improve access to capital, training, and technical assistance that support entrepreneurship and small business growth and development.
Priority: Create Pathways to Quality Work
  • Increase postsecondary attainment and credentialing.
  • Connect workers to family-sustaining, high-quality, and resilient careers.
  • Engage workers and employers in adapting to new technologies, business models, and skill set needs.

Return to Our Strategies

Build Community Wealth

We aim to reduce wealth gaps in Minnesota through increased local control of capital and more democratic ownership structures.

Priority: Increase Access to Capital
  • Advance new financial approaches and tools for community-driven investment.
  • Promote homegrown economies through local control of land, businesses, and resources to leverage shared social, cultural, and financial assets.
Priority: Support Collective Ownership Models
  • Invest in the development of innovative and nontraditional ownership models, such as cooperatives and land trusts.

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Cultivate a Fair and Just Housing System

We aim to expand equitable housing opportunities across all Minnesota communities so that everyone can live in a safe, quality, and affordable home.

Priority: Expand Housing Access and Stability
  • Amplify renter and homeowner voice, capacity, and power to prevent displacement, discrimination, and exploitation.
  • Support efforts to ensure that existing housing opportunities are fairly and readily available in all communities.
Priority: Promote Production and Preservation of Affordable Housing
  • Increase public and private investment in equitable, affordable housing production and preservation.
  • Strengthen the infrastructure of organizations and enterprises that attract, leverage, and deploy capital to build and maintain affordable housing.

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Strengthen Democratic Participation

We envision a Minnesota in which all residents have a voice in determining our shared future. We aim to increase the statewide infrastructure and capacity to build power, engage diverse people in advancing our shared prosperity, and create platforms for broader participation in movements to realize vibrant, equitable communities.

Priority: Nurture Leadership
  • Invest in leadership among Black Minnesotans, Indigenous communities, and Minnesotans of color. Within this priority we include attention to leaders in Greater Minnesota and to young people. We also include cultivating intergenerational connections and building capacity related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Foster greater diversity in public sector leadership with explicit commitments to advancing an equitable and inclusive future for all Minnesotans.
Priority: Build Power
  • Strengthen multi-issue statewide networks across race, culture, age, and geography to build a shared commitment to achieving equity.
  • Invest in grassroots organizing capacity to support a community’s ability to advance equity across multiple issues over time.
  • Promote healing practices that respond to the ongoing harm of racism and create a healthier ecosystem for power-building.
Priority: Change Narratives
  • Document, share, and promote deeper understanding of our communities’ diverse stories, especially those that have been missing from, or misrepresented or undervalued in, common narratives.
  • Advance visions for shared prosperity to build bridges across differences of race, culture, or geography.
  • Promote storytelling and media that contextualize the root causes of present-day inequities and counter harmful stereotypes and misconceptions.

Within our commitment to strengthening democratic participation, McKnight reserves a limited portion of annual grant funds to deploy toward time-limited, urgent opportunities in order to advance democracy and increase civic engagement and participation.

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Program Principles

Consistent with McKnight’s Strategic Framework and commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, we anchor our Vibrant & Equitable Communities program in the following principles:

Systems Change: We take a systems-change orientation that includes both transforming existing systems and creating alternatives when necessary, often by supporting grassroots organizing, capacity building, strategic communications, and public policy reform.

Racial & Cultural Equity: We invest in organizations and efforts led by Black Minnesotans, Indigenous communities, and Minnesotans of color as part of a multiracial portfolio advancing racial and cultural equity in Minnesota.

Statewide Approaches: We engage with partners in both metro and Greater Minnesota to achieve shared power, prosperity, and participation throughout the state. While McKnight will not be able to fund efforts in every community or part of the state, within the V&EC program we aim to deepen our presence in and commitment to Greater Minnesota.

Cross-Sector Collaboration: We support collaboration and coalition building across public, private, and civic sectors.

Integrated Work: We seek creative and innovative connections across different McKnight functions, including other programs and impact investing, to advance our goal.

How to Apply

Learn more about eligibility requirements, selection criteria, and deadlines on our how to apply page.

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