Welcoming Community: Year in Review 2023

How included do you feel in your community? You can take our survey to share your experiences and perspectives! The survey is the latest in a jam-packed year of initiatives coordinated by Northspan’s Welcoming Community program.  

Community members gathered for the Duluth Lyceum event in August 2023. Photo Credit: Jeremy Gardner, Ojibwemowining Digital Arts

The mission of the Welcoming Community program is to bring together individuals from diverse backgrounds, explore intercultural differences, and build mutual understanding. Program Manager Amber Lewis led a 30-person Advisory Committee through quarterly meetings to advise programming and plan this year’s key projects. Mid-year, Stefanie Sjelin joined the Northspan team as an associate consultant, providing integral support to the Welcoming Community program. 

Here’s a recap of major Welcoming Community initiatives in 2023:  

  • Equity Summit – The third annual Equity Summit, “Belonging in Northeast Minnesota,” took place October 4 at Iron Trail Motors Event Center in Virginia, drawing approximately 180 attendees who heard from keynote speaker Jonathan Thunder and participated in workshops and breakout sessions. 
  • Intercultural Development Inventory – We neared our goal of administering 80 free IDI assessments to qualifying individuals and organizations across the Northland in partnership with Kevin Skwira Brown from Cultural Fluency Associates LLP. We also hosted an IDI 101 workshop at the Equity Summit, followed by an advanced session on practicing intercultural fluency that many summit attendees participated in.
  • Duluth Lyceum – Building on over 150 years of American tradition, neighbors got together for this event series to talk about pressing issues and overcome divides. Duluth Lyceum moved to a new location at Dovetail Cafe. Presenters included Northspan’s Karl Schuettler, who covered the topic of how the shape of our city shapes us. 
  • Inclusion Learning Cohorts – The Cloquet and Cook County ILCs that kicked off in 2022 wrapped up their seven-month series of workshops and selected community inclusion projects eligible for grant funding. Communities also had the chance to apply for the 2023-2024 ILC process through an open application period. 
  • Digital Connection Committees – To improve digital equity and inclusion in communities across the state, we contributed to the State of Minnesota Office of Broadband Development’s effort to organize Digital Connection Committees. We also co-hosted two digital opportunity listening sessions which resulted in a draft of a Digital Opportunity Plan. 
  • Nonviolent Peaceforce Partnership – In preparation for work which will begin in 2024 to identify challenges to safety and de-escalate potential threats of violence, we have been building our partnership with international nonprofit Nonviolent Peaceforce. In the year ahead, we’ll work together to support the Cloquet and Grand Marais areas with programming for harm reduction and conflict intervention skillbuilding. 

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Monthly Newsletter 

Each month, the Welcoming Community program sends out a newsletter with updates on projects and initiatves, inclusion resources, leads for area events, and more. You can browse this year’s issues below and sign up to receive future editions!

February: Educational Equity 

March: Gender Equity 

April: Financial Literacy Equity 

May: Health Equity 

June: LGBTQI+ Equity 

 July: Disability Equity 

August: Business Ownership Equity 

September: Nutrition Equity 

October: Safety Equity 

November: Representation Equity

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Get Involved 

You can learn more about the Welcoming Community program and get involved with Justice, Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity work throughout the Northland. Contact Amber Lewis at alewis@northspan.org or (218) 481-7737 for more info.