How Far We Have Come

Dear friends and colleagues:

It has been a year and a three quarters since we moved to new offices in St. Paul. They are a better fit for us and provide more like-minded neighbors in the nonprofit community. In that time we have hired new staff members and contracted with new trainers and consultants. I'm happy to report that these changes have significantly reduced our costs as they have also increased the breadth of our capacity and the cultural diversity of our internal community. From these changes comes the opportunity for many new and creative ideas for service and programs. I detail a few of them below.

The Center has continues its commitment to our Kenya office. This will pay off in the form of two Fulbright scholarships, a contract with the Ministry of Justice to conduct restorative justice training, and the first NGO Diploma program in East Africa with Kenyatta University. We are crossing our fingers for an October launch date.

We are seeking volunteers to be a part of the network of US professors with expertise in nonprofit management to travel to Kenya and co-teach a course with a leader in a Kenya-based NGO. In this way we will build the capacity of the NGO sector in Kenya and other East African countries as well as build our own cultural competence and international perspective which we can bring back to students and colleagues in the United States.

New Minnesota Programs
With the support of the Bremer Foundation and the Archie D. and Bertha H. Walker Foundation we have begun working on a new training program called African Workers and Employers as Partners. This program for African immigrant and/or refugee workers and their employers explores cultural barriers and solutions for creating a respectful and productive work environment that benefits from its diversity.

We have consulted with several employees and employers and have field tested a training module with sixteen people from various African countries who are now living in the United States. The series will be offered publicly later this year. Consulting directly with employers on organization development, personnel policies, and conflict resolution are also part of this program.

A second new initiative is African Women in Business funded by the Minneapolis Foundation. The project will provide twenty-five women entrepreneurs in the West Bank neighborhood of Minneapolis with training, coaching, and peer support over a six-month period. A long range goal is to build a network of successful African business women who can contribute to and influence the larger business community.

Services to Local, National, and International Clients
Nationally we've been able to continue our work with clients who have been making active statements for peace and social justice externally while working internally on issues of racism, systemic oppression, planning, and governance. We continue our work also with progressive faith-based organizations; and in this regard we are working toward a long-term partnership with the Fellowship of Reconciliation in a shared mission of peace-building and active nonviolence.

We continue to strengthen our partnership with the Victim Offender Mediation Association (VOMA) as it supports and advances the practice and principles of restorative justice. Our work with VOMA has introduced us to individual change agents in Romania where we have recently filed papers to incorporate a new NGO to serve as our Center-Romania initiative.

In addition, the Center has launched its own new national program to provide direct restorative mediation services and training. To this end, Linda Harvey has joined the Center to lead the Restorative Justice Council on Sexual Misconduct in Faith Communities. We have met with leaders from many denominations and faith perspectives who are seeking ways to find both justice and healing processes for victims and communities impacted by these events.

Strong relationships continue in Minnesota with the Partnership of African Communities and LEAD (an organization committed to capacity building for African Organizations). We have joint proposals pending with LEAD and we have invited each other to training and community events. We a long term relationship of understanding that brings our mutual strengths to a common vision.

With the Center for Neighborhoods (and a grant to them from the Bush Foundation) we have developed an evaluation tool for assessing the effectiveness of restorative justice programs. This project helps us stay connected to the field of restorative justice and builds on our consulting work with counties in an effort to provide engagement processes that galvanize support for building alternatives to incarceration and the expansion of secure jails.

We also continue to work with the Center for Neighborhoods, the Metropolitan Design Center, Central Community Housing Trust, and the Family Housing Fund to support the Corridor Housing Initiative. It is a model of city/developer/neighborhood dialogue and planning to bring — with less conflict and greater positive participation — affordable housing to communities where density is both appropriate and feasible.

Ongoing Consulting and Training Clients
In Minnesota we have provided services to over thirty-five nonprofit and government organizations in the last twelve months. Whether we serve libraries, city and county government, or nonprofit organizations providing food shelves, head start, emergency shelter, and other important services, our work continues to be about citizen-based leadership, equality of access and outcomes, and strengthening of community groups to better serve their constituents.

Ready for Help
If you are interested in becoming part of our consulting and training network, teaching in the NGO program in Kenya, volunteering on our board or staff, learning more about any of our programs and services, or becoming a donor for our work, please contact us.

You can visit the web sites of the organizations I mention above by going to the Center Library Links Page.