Humphrey School News—November 15, 2017

Humphrey School Recognizes 25 Local Government Projects with Innovation Awards

Announcing the First Local Government and Native Nations Collaboration Award Winner


An aerial view of a cell phone tower in a rural area
Two award winners were recognized for their efforts to bring wireless broadband service to their residents.

Across the state of Minnesota, local governments are finding creative ways to deliver services to their residents with greater impact and at lower cost. Examples include expanding broadband access in rural Minnesota communities, improving educational outcomes for American Indian students, and enhancing emergency response to people with mental health issues.

Those projects and nearly two dozen others are being recognized by the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, as recipients of its 11th annual Local Government Innovation Awards (LGIA). 

New this year is an award category recognizing innovation by the state’s 11 American Indian tribes, “to heighten awareness about Native nations and the role they play in Minnesota,” said Jay Kiedrowski, senior fellow at the Humphrey School’s Public and Nonprofit Leadership Center.

The awards program is organized in partnership with the Bush Foundation and its Native Nation Building Initiative and co-sponsored by the League of Minnesota Cities, the Association of Minnesota Counties, Minnesota Association of Townships, and the Minnesota School Boards Association. The awards recognize projects in five categories, and name one overall award winner in each: cities, counties, schools, townships, and the new Native Nations category, which recognizes collaborations between tribes and a local government entity.

“In our 11th year of this program, we are encouraged to see expansive ideas about collaboration at the core of so much innovation,” said Kiedrowski. “Collaboration was readily apparent in the majority of the projects we reviewed in all of the categories.”

A panel of judges considered more than 100 submissions for their creativity, sustainability, and collaboration. The five overall winners will receive a grant from the Bush Foundation to continue their work, and a professionally produced video to use for marketing and awareness. The winners in the city, county, township, and school categories will receive a $5,000 grant. The Local Government and Native Nations Collaboration Award winner will receive a $10,000 grant.

Overall category winners of the 2017 Local Government Innovation Awards: 

City Category: The City of St. Paul—Equity Strategic Action Planning for Neighborhoods
In 2017, The City of St. Paul developed Equity Strategic Action Planning for Neighborhoods to support six of its 17 district councils that work to ensure inclusive representation of its residents. In recognition of the challenging racial equity work necessary to achieve this, the City worked with a cohort of organizations, staff, community members, and an outside advisor. The result is a disciplined approach that now guides community work in inclusive ways that reach racial parity in civic decision-making.

County Category: Blue Earth County Human Services, Sheriff's Department, and Mankato Department of Public Safety—Yellow Line Project
The Yellow Line Project (YLP) provides the earliest response possible when individuals with acute or chronic mental or chemical health problems come in contact with law enforcement. Funded by the Department of Human Services, YLP supports law enforcement and human services organizations that provide the right services to these individuals at the right time, not after they’ve crossed “the yellow line” into jail. Results include direct savings in hospitalization and detox costs, reduced reliance on corrections and court services, and more.

Township Category: Sunrise Township—Broadband Initiative
Sunrise Township in Chisago County spearheaded an extensive effort consisting of community meetings, required notices, and securing approval from 50 percent of property owners, to bring broadband infrastructure to its residents. A collaborative effort between residents and the township board led to creation of a Subordinate Service District (SSD) to help facilitate the installation and financing of high-speed internet through Century Link. The township received a grant and began acquiring a bond, while Century Link assists with funding and works to install fiber optics to SDD area residents by December 2018.

School Category: Pillager Public Schools—Metier
Metier (pronounced meteor) is an experiential learning program that teaches students in grades 5 through 8 to build a life and career around “flow,” defined as the happiest state wherein you feel and perform your best. It achieves significant impact by bringing in community, colleges, organizations, and individuals to share education and career paths so students can sample 15 career fields over two years. Metier, supported by the National Joint Powers Alliance and the Bush Foundation, will meet with more than 15 schools in November 2017 to encourage replication. 

Native Nations Category: Lower Sioux Indian Community and Redwood Area School District—Creating Effective Culturally Based Resources and Results for American Indian Students
The Lower Sioux community and the Redwood Area School District’s partnership creates cultural resources and improves educational outcomes for Native students. Native students at Redwood have higher proficiencies in state math and reading assessments, and their graduation rate is above the state’s rate. This partnership led to the recent election of the first Lower Sioux tribal member to the Redwood Area School Board in more than 20 years, and the district’s adoption of an unprecedented credit-bearing Dakota language class.

All 2017 Local Government Innovation Awardees:

City Category

  • Equity Strategic Action Planning for Neighborhoods—City of St. Paul (category winner)
  • Recovery Assistance Program (RAP) —Shakopee Police Department
  • Water Treatment Backwash Reclamation—City of Mankato
  • Chatfield Wellhead Protection—City of Chatfield
  • The Morris Model —City of Morris

County Category

  • Yellow Line Project—Blue Earth County Human Services, Sheriff's Department, and Mankato Department of Public Safety (category winner)
  • Broadband Wireless—Traverse County
  • Chisago County Regulatory Approach to Solar—Chisago County
  • Child Care Licensing Online Orientation—Anoka County
  • Adult Shelter Connect—Hennepin County

Township Category

  • Broadband Initiative—Sunrise Township (Chisago County) (category winner)
  • Oxford Township Water Monitoring Project—Oxford Township (Isanti County)
  • Township Maintenance Association—Townships Working Together (Renville County)
  • Mission Township Park Expansion—Mission Township (Crow Wing County)
  • 2016 Gravel Road Improvement Project—Clearwater Township (Wright County)

School Category

  • Metier—Pillager Public School District (category winner)
  • Minnetonka Academic Success Time (MAST)—Minnetonka High School
  • Shaping Success for All Students: Financial Literacy, Career Pathways, and Business Partnerships—Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District
  • The TigerPath Initiative—Hutchinson School District
  • Senior Internship Program—Little Falls Community High School

Native Nations Category

  • Creating Effective Culturally Based Resources and Results for American Indian Students—Lower Sioux Indian Community and Redwood Area School District (category winner)
  • Itasca County/Leech Lake Wellness Court—Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and Itasca County
  • Rainbow Theatre Mural Project—White Earth RTC Gizhiigin Arts Incubator and City of Mahnomen
  • C5 Juvenile Restorative Justice Program—Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe and Pine County
  • Keeping Children Safe Through Collaboration—Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and Carlton County Public Health and Human Services

All 25 awardees will be formally recognized at an awards ceremony and reception December 7 at 5 p.m. at the Humphrey School.  To register for the event, visit

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