Third Annual Equity Summit Took Place Oct. 4

The third annual Equity Summit, “Belonging in Northeast Minnesota,” took place October 4 at Iron Trail Motors Event Center in Virginia. Hosted by Duluth-based nonprofit consulting firm Northspan Group in collaboration with regional and statewide partners, the event drew 180 registrants—nearly double that of last year’s summit.

Keynote Speaker Jonathan Thunder 

In a presentation titled “A Peripheral Vignette,” the artist and Red Lake Band of Ojibwe member shared his experiences of making his home in Duluth and explored questions of how art and representation contribute to creating a welcoming community.

Photo Credit: Jeremy Gardner, Ojibwemowining Digital Arts

Equity Summit Lyceum 

Using a format inspired by an American tradition that goes back 150 years, facilitated small group conversations allowed attendees to discuss the topic of “Art and Belonging.”

“We had 30 tables set up and almost all of those were used,” shared Amber Lewis, Northspan Consultant and program manager for Welcoming Community, which organized the summit. “We’ve been running a Lyceum series in Duluth, so to be able to bring this event to such a huge group of people from all across the Northland was a really exciting thing to see.”

Local Welcoming Efforts Lightning Round & Networking Lunch 

Thirteen Northland groups active in diversity and equity work gave three-minute introductions of their key initiatives, then hosted lunch tables where participants could learn more.

Belonging in Action Workshops 

Experiential and informative workshops covered multiple topics including intercultural fluency (Intercultural Development Inventory), ageism, refugee sponsorship, and inclusive hiring and retention practices. Participants walked away with tools, resources, and strategies for bringing inclusive practices to communities, businesses, and organizations.

Photo Credit: Jeremy Gardner, Ojibwemowining Digital Arts

Panel Discussion: Inclusion for Families and Individuals 

Community members and organizational representatives discussed challenges for families and individuals in feeling welcomed to the region whether they are newcomers or have been here for years.

Supporting Inclusive Communities 

“This year’s summit gave practitioners and organizations the opportunity to connect with one another and learn about what kind of work is going on in the region to support inclusive communities,” said Amber Lewis. “By highlighting and uplifting organizations that are doing this work across our region, we can create resilience in our communities for the future.”

The annual Equity Summit is an opportunity for residents, newcomers, elected officials, law enforcement, environmental advocates, community leaders, business owners, and YOU to gather with workforce and economic development, government, philanthropy, and other sectors. As part of Northspan’s Welcoming Community program, the goal of the summit is to help forge a more inclusive future in northeast Minnesota.

You can find more details on the summit agenda and resources from the event here: Equity Summit 2023

Photo Credit: Jeremy Gardner, Ojibwemowining Digital Arts

This year’s Equity Summit sponsors included Elevate Sponsor St. Louis County and Engage Sponsor Architecture Advantage. Small business and nonprofit sponsors included Audacity Human Resources, Boundary Waters Connect, and Fairview Range.

Northspan’s Welcoming Community programming is funded in part by the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation, Blandin Foundation, Department of Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation, and the Northland Foundation.

For more information, please contact Northspan Consultant and Welcoming Community Program Manager Amber Lewis at

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Welcoming Community is a Northspan program dedicated to bringing together individuals from diverse backgrounds to explore intercultural differences and find ways to adapt to the challenges that can emerge from them. Programming focuses on bringing together people from different backgrounds to help build mutual intercultural understanding. Learn more on the Welcoming Community program page and the Northspan website.