Mix together young adult professionals, music, markers and crayons, a rapid-wit improv theater troupe, a policy wonk from the Metropolitan Council, and what do you get?
An evening of engaged, lively discussion about the future of the seven-county metro region.
For two years, the Council has been engaging diverse groups across the metro for input on Thrive MSP 2040, the Council’s regional vision and framework set for release in 2014. The latest collaboration was with Young Non-Profit Professionals Network-Twin Cities (YNPN-TC) in an effort to hear specifically from Millennials.
Millennials (aka Generation Y) attract a lot of attention. Born between 1982 and 2000 (or today aged 13 through 31), they nationally number 80 million, a bigger group then their Baby Boomer parents or grandparents. They are considered the best-educated and most tech-savvy generation ever. They are also are considered more open-minded about social issues.
Council engages Millennials on their own turf
For this outreach effort, members of YNPN-TC and their friends gathered at the Amsterdam Bar and Hall in St. Paul. The improvisational Theater of Public Policy (T2P2) was on stage to lampoon it all – the young, the not-as-young, suburbanites, city dwellers, cars and buses, trains and bikes (and cyclists), roommates and living at home. The audience howled, wrote their thoughts on tables covered with paper – noise never abating – and discussed some pivotal lifestyle choices for the future, presented by the players on behalf of the Met Council staff:
Will you own or rent a home?
Prefer to ride transit or take your own car?
Do you want to live in a city? In a suburb?
Will you prefer owned space or public space?
Millennials presume sustainability is necessary
Here’s what the Council heard from the Millennials gathered:
Many talked in detail about their choices to minimize auto use, and to rent rather than own. Reasons cited include job uncertainty, a need for location flexibility, and using one’s time in shared activities rather than maintaining private property.
The group tended to prefer living locations with greater public or shared amenities.
The group presumes that sustainability (a proposed outcome for Thrive) and integrated action are necessary, and can describe in detail how these affect their daily lives. Many have jobs promoting efficiency and sustainability in nonprofit organizations.
Millennials require different communications methods, with an emphasis on social media, interactivity, and transparency of decisions.
Many knew little about the Met Council prior to this event, and were eager and happy to learn more about the work of the Council.
Equitable outcomes demand robust community engagement
Community engagement is important for the development of Thrive “because people’s lives, patterns, and needs will be different in 30 years,” said Michelle Fure, outreach manager in the Council’s Communications Department. “And if we want equitable outcomes, we must engage a broad range of stakeholders, including those who have been underrepresented. That includes the Millennials, who in 30 years will be in their prime earning years with children and perhaps grandchildren of their own.”
“YNPN-TC felt it was an excellent opportunity for our members to think broadly and discuss regional issues, as well as voice our agreement and disagreement with assumptions made about Millennials,” said Krysten Ryba-Tures, programming chair for YNPN-TC.
“We discovered that trying a new format for outreach – seeking out a new audience on their own turf – was a robust way to learn new lessons for Thrive and for the Met Council,” said Dan Marckel, Council planning analyst. “We will be incorporating those lessons into Thrive MSP 2040 and into the Council’s work overall.”
Draft Thrive plan to be released in early 2014
Under state law, the Council prepares a long-range plan for the Twin Cities region every 10 years; Thrive MSP 2040 is the Council’s current planning effort. The policies being developed will also drive the policy plans for transportation, water resources, regional parks and housing.
“This plan is important to the Council’s charge to guide the region in orderly and economical development,” said Marckel. “It provides a framework for a shared vision for the region’s future.” The plan will include the Council’s forecasts for jobs, household and population growth throughout the seven counties, and provide policy direction for the other regional plans and local comprehensive plans. Detailed summary of the policy directions in Thrive (pdf).
A draft of the Thrive MSP 2040 plan will be made public for feedback and a public hearing in early 2014.