Workshop highlights grant program for neighborhood outreach to immigrants

The city and its partners plan to unveil details of a grant program this week aimed at increasing immigrant involvement in neighborhood organizations.

The small awards would go to neighborhood groups that propose ideas for reaching out to recent arrivals and non-English-speaking communities.

The grant program will be described at a workshop on Wednesday, Oct. 25 from 5 to 9 p.m. at the University of Minnesota Law School, Room 40. It's sponsored by the city's Community Planning and Economic Development office and the University's Center for Urban and Regional Affairs.

&#8220There aren't preconceived notions about what those strategies might be,” said Kris Nelson, director of the city's partnership with the Urban Affairs Center.

Language barriers, cultural differences and simply learning the neighborhood government process can create barriers in some instances, Nelson said.

Minneapolis has become a destination for immigrants, Nelson said, and in order to be an inclusive city, efforts need to be made to broaden involvement.

The City Council voted in February that funds left over from a neighborhood funding process should be used for outreach to new arrivals and non-English-speaking communities.

After discussions on how best to spend the money, the city decided to pursue a grant program book-ended by a pair of workshops to discuss strategies and results, said Bob Cooper, citizen participation specialist with the NRP program.

The goal is to inspire neighborhood organizations to invent and try their own pilot programs that might be applied on a broader scale if they are successful, Cooper said.

&#8220Let's try some stuff and see what works,” Cooper said. &#8220Part of the idea of the first conference is to give people ideas of what they could try.”

Another conference next fall will discuss the results of those grant efforts.

Cooper said there is a full spectrum of neighborhood organizations, from those that have successfully involved immigrants to those that have resisted and encountered different challenges as a result. Some have tried interpreters at important meetings. Others are working on a system that would translate through headsets, much like the United Nations, Cooper said.

&#8220It'll be fascinating to see what comes through this process,” Cooper said. &#8220Hopefully there will be lessons that extend beyond neighborhoods to how we do democracy.”