Neighborhood organizations coming together for the Art of Hosting Conversations that Matter

It takes a lot of different efforts in a city the size of Minneapolis to work to advocate, promote and improve the city. The over 70 neighborhood organizations made up of diverse resident volunteers across the city work hard volunteering promoting, advocating, investing, and working to improve their neighborhoods and the city every month as a great place to live work and play. Each neighborhood organization is a hub of activity that does outreach, partners with diverse entities and organizations, attracts and trains volunteers about civic involvement and neighborhood volunteering and participation, listens to their neighbors, develops reasonable goals to address the needs at the street level for improvements in several categories including, housing, business, social and environment, crime and safety and a handful of others.

Neighborhood organizations have partnered with the City through its the Neighborhood Revitalization Program (1990-2010), and now with the internal city department the Neighborhood Community Relations Department (2010-present). It takes creating contracts, getting them approved, signed, and working over time to accomplish the neighborhood goals from the grassroots level using volunteer boards, some staff if possible, and often only meeting once a month.

These neighborhood organizations across the city have had some amazing results over time too. They have been able to leverage millions of dollars and millions of volunteer hours, helped increase investments into the city both financially and in-kind, and even collectively won global recognition by the United Nations and was one of only three programs world-wide to be placed on the elite Global 100 Best Practices List. They have been able to take the less than 1/10th of 1% of the city’s annual budget that’s currently dedicated to neighborhood organizations to implement the contracts they have with the city to help bring in multiple partners, attract investments into their neighborhoods, host events that give each neighborhood a sense of identity and place in a large metropolis, and also create beneficial programs to help all kinds of residents. However, as 2020 approaches, there have been no funds identified for neighborhood organizations after 2020.

On January 3, neighborhood organizations came together to talk further about the value of neighborhood organizations and the future. Neighborhood organizations and residents met with the City of Minneapolis Neighborhood Community Relations Department and the Neighborhood Community Engagement Commission(NCEC) and subcommittee Neighborhoods 2020 committee as part of their adopted NCEC workplan ( to discuss the Art of Hosting Conversations that Matter methodology and training.

The Art of Hosting, according to their website, “is an approach to leadership that scales up from the personal to the systemic using personal practice, dialogue, facilitation and the co-creation of innovation to address complex challenges.” It is a method suggested by principle of Dave Ellis Consulting, a longtime resident of Hawthorne neighborhood and the current chair of the Hawthorne Neighborhood Association. He recommended using this method and “world cafes” as a preferred tool for neighborhoods city-wide to capture information from community conversations about the value and future of neighborhood organizations after 2020. The intent of this effort is to have neighborhood organizations across the city have one common tool to be able to gather and input some data regarding the value and future of neighborhood organizations city-wide. The first findings of this effort are anticipated to be out about June 30 for review, which may allow for future neighborhood funding to become part of the candidates’ dialogue about important issues in the 2017 Minneapolis city elections process.

There were 26 participants;19 were neighborhood organization board members, six were neighborhood organization staff, and one resident from Webber-Camden neighborhood. Sixteen neighborhood organizations were represented at the meeting representing each of the city-wide five sectors (North, South, South West, South East, Downtown) of the City. Hawthorne’s Dave Ellis helped lead the conversation while the NCEC Commissioners Jeffrey Strand, Denis Houle and Pat Vogel also helped.

The neighborhood organizations city-wide are just beginning to get things in place for these important community conversations. Residents should be watching for more info about upcoming “world-café” conversations coming to your area soon. If you have questions or need further info contact your neighborhood organization (see page 8) or NCR Department Policy Specialist Robert Thompson at 612-673-2523 or, and visit

Submitted by Amy Luesebrink and Jeffrey Strand

Editor’s note: Co-author Jeffrey Strand is an At-Large City Council NCEC appointee and co-chair of Neighborhoods 2020 committee, writing in an individual capacity.