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IL in Rapidly Diversifying Rural Communities

By Girija Tulpule, CIL Research Assistant

At the Friday Leadership Research Forum on November 30th, Dr. Scott Chazdon, Senior Researcher at the UMN Extension Center for Community Vitality shared his in-progress research on addressing leadership challenges among White and Latino residents in four rural Minnesota communities that have experienced over 100% increases in their Latino populations over the past decade - Montevideo, Worthington, Melrose, and Austin.

The existing literature on this topic observes that increased ethnic diversity leads to reduced public participation and more closed communities. The exploration is focused on identifying and comparing specific strategies public, private and nonprofit players in these communities employ to foster cross-sector and cross-cultural leadership. The Center for Community Vitality is seeking to incorporate the research findings into their leadership development programming.

The discussion among the interdisciplinary group of students, faculty, and community practitioners in the room focused on the wide range of assimilation seen in four different communities and the factors that were found to speed the process of bi-cultural bridging. Some of the curious observations were the effect of age in the white community in making the community welcoming as well as the importance of public space for dialogue. The research found that people employed as translators and interracial young couples were observed to be strong bi-cultural bridgers.

Suggestions were made by forum participants for the research as it moves forward. These included 1) involving traditional community leadership to the framework in addition to positional/ organizational leadership and 2) exploring how children might act as bridgers. The forum participants also questioned if similar studies are being done in states with similar demographics like Iowa, Michigan or Missouri.

Overall, the audience was in agreement with the researcher about the key role innovators and early adapters play in ensuring successful cross-sector and cross-cultural engagement. We wish our best to the remaining progress of this research and appreciate Dr. Chazdon's willingness to enter into dialogue with a study in progress.

If you're interested in learning more, check out the "Bridging the Latino-white Divide" feature Minnesota Public Radio created as part of their ground level project.

Please join us on February 15, 2013, for the next forum in this series. Myles Shaver from the Carson School of Management will be joining us. Please watch our website and e-news for a registration link.

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