West Central Blogger

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Storytelling helps people envision region’s future

What will west central Minnesota look like in the future? What issues will our kids or grandkids face 40 years from now?

On Sept. 11, more than 30 people from around the region met at West Central Initiative to talk about the future of their communities. Their challenge was to envision Minnesota's future two generations out.

The dialogue was all part of the Meadowlark Project, a learning laboratory initiated by Northern Great Plains, Inc., (NGP) a Fargo-based non-profit whose mission is to make a positive difference in the future of rural communities and businesses by helping them successfully adapt to changing market and social forces. NGP works in North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota.

A group of 25 leaders from these states met over a period of more than a year to develop four possible scenarios of the future of the Great Plains region. The participants at the Sept. 11 dialogue listened to the scenarios then met in small groups to discuss them and use the stories as a springboard to conversation about the future of their own communities.

"Our hope is that we can identify four or five projects that we might implement in this area," said NGP President Jerry Nagel, who facilitated the event.

Two of the scenarios discussed the possible impact of the ethanol boom on the plains states. One scenario painted a somber picture of the influence of technology on our culture in the wake of cyber terrorism. The final story told how the western part of the Great Plains was able to recreate themselves into an area nationally recognized for its economic, environmental and social reforms.

"Why do we envision the future through stories? Telling stories is how we give meaning to our lives," Nagel told the participants. "It’s the opportunity to see ourselves in different scenarios to determine the kind of future we want to live."

To read or listen to the scenarios, visit www.meadowlarkproject.com/scenarios.asp.

Another dialogue is planned in Morris on Sept. 19 from 6-8 p.m. at the Prairie Inn, 200 East Highway 28. The event is free, but RSVP to West Central Initiative, 218-739-2239.

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