Top 7 of 2007

Each time we hear from our partners and colleagues, we’re energized by your commitment and by what you can teach about doing the work of democracy. As we begin a new year, we decided to look back at our work close to home, and name some of the other things that gave us energy and taught us powerful lessons.

Voices of Hope: The Story of the Jane Addams School

At the Humphrey Center one evening in April, volunteers who looked like an impossibly diverse group of secret agents wore headsets and spoke into small microphones. They were providing simultaneous interpretation in Hmong, Somali and Spanish for many of the more than 100 people listening to authors read from their work in Voices of Hope: The Story of the Jane Addams School (another interpreter signed American Sign Language). This book launch was a celebration of the democratic work and learning of Jane Addams School participants – including new immigrants of all ages – over the past 10 years. Twelve authors contributed to the book, which was edited by Nan Kari and Nan Skelton.

Voices of Hope launch.jpg

It’s Time We Got Around to Creating a Culture of Learning

Last spring, students at Humboldt High School participated in a press conference held by the center and the City of Saint Paul to announce nearly $1 million in new funding to expand learning beyond school walls in creative ways. The center is coordinating work with students, their parents, schools, businesses, non-profit organizations, and the city to create a culture of learning in each of St. Paul’s neighborhoods. The West Side circulator – a free bus that connects places of learning in that neighborhood – has been cloned, and will operate on the East Side starting this year. Other St. Paul neighborhoods are creating circulators, and Minneapolis wants to develop them, too.

circulator map

Warrior to Citizen Campaign

Since May, 20 to 30 people have gathered every other Wednesday at 7:30 a.m. to do public work as part of the Warrior to Citizen Campaign. What’s our secret, you ask? While we might like to say it’s our special civic pheromones, it’s more likely the pull of being connected to something big, with other people, and having a measurable impact on a community problem.

In 2008 we’ll continue our work on the Warrior to Citizen Campaign, while expanding Minnesota Works Together to include campaigns around health and the reintegration of prisoners.

Youth Organizing at Hope Community

Working with trainers from the center and Hope Community, 12 youth organizers in Minneapolis conducted dozens of community listening sessions. They formed an identity as SPEAC (Sustainable Progress through Engaging Active Citizens), and in August traveled to a retreat center in rural southwestern Minnesota for an intense couple of days developing their understanding of power and identifying their self-interest. In 2008, they’ll continue training and organizing around the Minneapolis Urban Parks and Recreation system in the Phillips neighborhood where most of them live or work.

SPEAC lw res.jpg

The Great Minnesota Get Together

In September, the center had an information booth at the Minnesota State Fair for the first time ever. Our "Get a public life" temporary tattoos – designed by staff member Kong Her – were a big hit. Hundreds of fairgoers who came to see farm animals, ride on the Ferris wheel, and eat fried food on a stick stopped to participate in a civic values house meeting and take a five-point citizenship test.

temp tattoo.jpg

Public Work Through a Different Lens

Working with center staff, teen video artists and civic activists from the West Side of St. Paul and Hope Community in Minneapolis developed ideas for and produced short community-based documentary films last summer. The St. Paul films were screened in August at a public event hosted by community access television, and the Minneapolis films were featured at Hope Community’s 30th anniversary block party in September. View the West Side Youth Guides film about a 100-year-old neighborhood coffee shop.

The Citizen Solution

In 2007, Harry Boyte wrote 17 drafts of a new book (center staff didn’t quite keep up, but managed to read six of the drafts) and it’s coming out next July. The Minnesota Historical Society Press says The Citizen Solution “incites readers to join today’s citizen movement, offering practical tools for how we can change the face of America.?

Citizen Solution book cover.jpg

Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs