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Engagement Profile: December

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In this Engaging-U engagement spotlight we meet Laura Bloomberg and Leah Lundquist, Executive Director and Program Manager of the Center for Integrative Leadership. In the interview below, Bloomberg and Lundquist provide highlights of their office's engagement work in the surrounding communities.

Describe the work of your office:

The Center for Integrative Leadership (CIL) is dedicated to examining and advancing a vision for leadership that fosters collective action across boundaries to advance the common good and address grand challenges. We engage in collaborative teaching, community engagement, and research initiatives with schools and centers across the University and partners external to the University.

We define a global grand challenge as a problem that has significant consequences for the well-being of whole societies, yet is difficult to fully understand or address because it is so multi-faceted and ever changing. Grand challenges are highly complex and beyond the resources or knowledge of a single discipline, organization, or sector to resolve. They do not lend themselves to simple or technical solutions. When individual sectors or institutions attempt to solve a grand challenge alone it often precipitates unanticipated and unwanted consequences because they morph and adapt. Grand challenges need to be addressed from all sides. You may have heard these referred to as "wicked problems" or "social messes."

What is the current engagement project your unit is working on?

One of the approaches we find helpful to fostering collective action across boundaries is a powerful suite of facilitative practices and practical frameworks called The Art of Hosting Conversations that Matter. Over the course of two summers, we've trained over 120 staff and faculty from 21 colleges and departments across the University in these practices.

CIL is also embedding a hosting approach into our own engagement efforts. Most recently, we co-hosted a community conversation on the impact of sex trafficking and trading on urban communities with the Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center and the Northside Women's Space - a safe place for sexually-exploited girls and women in North Minneapolis. Through the generous help of 15 individuals from both the University and the broader region trained in The Art of Hosting, we hosted a conversation for a diverse cross-section of over 100 community members from both North Minneapolis and across the Metro Area.

What neighborhoods or communities is this project partnering with?

While CIL continues to be committed to building leadership capacity across Minnesota through involvement with InCommons - a statewide effort to inspire and support community-powered problem solving, we also are highly engaged right here in our own neighborhood through CHANCE and the Neighborhood Business Fellows - initiatives that strengthen the interdependent relationship between Cedar-Riverside residents and business owners and students at both the Humphrey School of Public Affairs and the Carlson School of Management.

What impact is this having/expected to have?

By creating the opportunity for individuals to experience a different way to talk about and address cross-boundary issues such as sex trafficking, we hope to inspire students, faculty, and staff across the U to not only continue to address grand challenges but to do so more inclusively and more effectively.

In regard to sex trafficking, our engagement has brought together individuals from a diversity of personal and professional walks of life - law enforcement, concerned community members, graduate students, policymakers, and documentary filmmakers, to just name a few - to hear different voices and design innovative and integrated solutions. Over the next few years, we look forward to continuing to foster integrative leadership in areas such as regional economic and social vitality, healthy development and educational achievement, global food safety and food security, and post-secondary education's role in society.