Community-led organizations dig into regional policy

Date: Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Affordable housing, accessible green spaces, economic opportunity, and transit options and community spaces accessible to youth are on the minds of residents in Shakopee, Minneapolis, and other cities in the region as they think about current needs and the future of our region. The Met Council engaged community groups – Mi C.A.S.A, Community Resource Center and Shakopee Diversity Alliance, and COPAL – to foster dialogue, build relationships, and build community capacity to have a voice in policy making. The groups each participated in six workshops, supported by Met Council staff, and conducted over 100 interviews with their peers about regional policy issues beginning in November 2023.

One Met Council member and two representatives from Mi C.A.S.A are having a conversation in the lobby, facing the Met Council chambers.“The purpose of these collaborations is to uplift voices of historically marginalized groups including youth and immigrants, and to build capacity for future public engagement,” said Emma Dvorak, senior planner in the Met Council’s Community Development division. The division is leading the creation of Imagine 2050, the next regional development guide.

This year’s Community Leader Collaboration was modeled after the 2023 Youth Leaders Collaboration.

Community Leader Collaboration policy recommendations

Participants in the groups presented their policy recommendations to the Met Council on March 20. The community leaders communicated their vision for realizing a what they called a “unified” and “harmonious” future by sharing stories of lived experiences.

The presentations addressed the need for greater support of economic well-being and housing that is affordable and meets the needs of large families and diverse community members, along with ensuring that green spaces are integrated with affordable housing and easily accessible. They expressed a clear prioritization of the need for free or inexpensive “third spaces,” which are places people can go to connect with one another that are not home or work, such as community gardens, entertainment options, and activity centers.

Participants emphasized that Met Council policies should value the contributions and well-being of all community members, including immigrants and undocumented residents.

Met Council members appreciated the community leaders’ insights, naming how valuable their knowledge, ideas, and personal stories are to regional planning efforts.

“I want to thank this panel. You clearly have touched many of us here with great stories," said Chair Charles Zelle. “I’m thinking what many people have said that your input is meaningful as we think out our policies.”

One Met Council staff member and two representatives from Community Resource Center are talking to each other in the lobby near the Met Council chambers.The community leaders expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to partake in such a unique experience. “We have developed skills in public speaking and [learned] how we may have an impact on bringing awareness to our community,” said David from Mi C.A.S.A.

Watch all the policy recommendations presented at the March 20 Committee of the Whole meeting.

Formula for equitable policy

Met Council recognizes the immense value of both qualitative and quantitative data, as well as community engagement, in shaping our collective future.

“As a region, we are facing some of the widest racial disparities in the nation on top of layers of societal challenges like the opioid epidemic, COVID-19 pandemic, an affordable housing shortage, the aftermath of civil unrest, and the climate crisis,” explained Lisa Barajas, Met Council community development director. “We bring people who are most impacted by these disparities and challenges into the decision making about regional plans and policies. Our engagement approach gets granular – answering key research questions by bringing a qualitative lens to complement traditional quantitative analysis.”

Data-driven policy decisions

Quantitative research plays a crucial role in informing policy development by providing policymakers with objective and measurable data to make informed decisions. By analyzing statistical data and numerical patterns, policymakers can better understand the scope and magnitude of problems, evaluate the impact of proposed solutions, and allocate resources effectively.

“The value of quantitative research in policy development lies in its ability to facilitate data-driven decision-making, enhance accountability, and improve the overall effectiveness and efficiency of public policies,” said Joel Huting, senior manager of research.

Capturing and validating wide-ranging experiences

Qualitative research is invaluable in policy development because it offers a nuanced understanding of underlying motivations, perceptions, and behaviors of individuals and communities. Through methods such as interviews, focus groups, and observations, qualitative research uncovers rich narratives and diverse perspectives that quantitative data alone cannot capture.

With a focus on words and stories, qualitative research provides deeper understanding of the context of residents’ lived experiences with Met Council systems. “By incorporating qualitative insights into policy development, policymakers can foster equitable outcomes, address systemic inequalities, and create solutions that are truly responsive to the needs and realities of the people we serve,” said Darcie Vandegrift, Met Council principal qualitative researcher.

Hear the policy recommendations of the 2023 Young Leaders Collaborative.

Posted In: Communities

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