Energy and excitement filled the Metropolitan Council chambers on May 17 as young people came together with Met Council members to outline their vision of a prosperous region. This vision will help guide the creation of the 2050 regional development guide, ensuring the guide is informed by those who will be most affected by its policies.
“The people who will be running the region in 2050 are here this evening giving their input on how their lives are right now and what they’d like to see for the future,” said Darcie Vandegrift, principal researcher at the Met Council and one of the staff responsible for the May 17 event.
Collaboration with the public is key to the success of the Met Council’s regional planning efforts. The current guide, Thrive MSP 2040, saw the implementation of several innovative public engagement efforts, and these efforts have been further broadened and expanded in the development of the 2050 guide. In particular, the 2050 guide seeks to engage groups that have historically been overlooked in regional planning efforts. One of these groups is young people.
Met Council partnerships provide platform for youth involvement
Young people have a significant stake in regional planning efforts, but often lack the resources to influence regional authorities and decision makers. In recognition of this, the Met Council launched the Young Leaders Collaboration in late 2022, a partnership with organizations from across the Twin Cities that enabled young residents to express what regional issues are of greatest concern to them.
The collaboration, made up of a series of six workshops, was a highly innovative approach to public engagement. “The Met Council has never done this kind of intensive series of engagement with young people,” remarked Vandegrift. In fact, she elaborated, connecting young people to the regional planning process through such a hands-on series of workshops may make it the first of its kind in the nation.
The collaboration comprised Met Council staff and members of six local youth organizations: 4H, Raíces Latinas, the Environmental Stewardship Institute, Esperanza United, Friends of the Mississippi River, and World Youth Connect. Over the course of the workshops, participants collaborated with staff to gather, interpret, and draw conclusions from data relating to the Met Council’s regional planning. Their processes and findings were presented to Met Council members at a crowded Committee of the Whole meeting.
Affordable housing, extensive public transit, more open space
During their presentations, the young leaders communicated their vision of a thriving future region, complementing this vision with stories of their own lived experiences. Grecia, of Raices Latinas, spoke of the importance of sharing these personal accounts. “We want to know that [Met Council members] actually care about our individual situations and our communities,” she said, “rather than just kind of being like, ‘this is something that we assume is going to help you.’”
The presentations addressed the need for greater access to affordable housing, reliable and extensive public transit, and more parks and outdoor areas. They expressed a clear prioritization of development to nurture cultural connections and a strong desire to maintain the region’s natural spaces. Their recommendations were underscored by a call to provide the greatest increase in resources to communities most excluded from access to Met Council investments.
Met Council members commended the young leaders’ insights, acknowledging how valuable their knowledge and ideas are to regional planning efforts. “To give real life examples and for us to see that world through your eyes really is inspiring, and I think will be very practically applicable to the work we’re doing,” said Chair Charlie Zelle.
The young leaders were equally appreciative for the opportunity to partake in such a unique initiative. Markos, a young leader from World Youth Connect, summarized just how powerful his experience with the collaboration was: “When you get to shape your future, you get to live out your dream.”
Creating the 2050 Regional Development Guide
Friends of the Mississippi River youth council reports on the collaboration