More to the story
In May 2009, I began blogging about active citizenship, emerging leadership, and issues of interest to the Millennial generation in Minnesota. During the next year and a half, I would complete nearly 50 one-on-one conversations, sharing my ideas and vision for Minnesota Rising and listening for how it might be applicable to the efforts of local emerging leaders and their organizations.
I attended numerous young professionals' events, met with leadership from a range of emerging leader organizations, and was invited to speak about Minnesota Rising at the Minnesota Jaycees 2010 Annual Convention. After some initial conversations and a year of online interaction via Twitter, Facebook, and blogging, I developed enough followers and friends to begin engaging in large group conversations with emerging leaders across the Twin Cities.
I convened the first meeting in May 2010, with 20 people in attendance on a Saturday morning, including representatives from many of the key emerging leader organizations. The opportunity to map the myriad existing young professionals groups and the potential to develop some type of generational agenda with other emerging leaders excited those in the room. At the close of the gathering, we agreed that we should continue to meet in this manner and determined that one way to move forward would be to jointly plan a large event that each of our groups could benefit from as well as help to carry out.
A planning committee of 10 targeted November 13, working to develop content, logistics, and outreach for the Minnesota Rising Un/Conference, so named for its hybrid of traditional and innovative activities for facilitating conversation and interaction. We enlisted 16 Network Partners to help promote and execute the event, brought on 4 event sponsors, and despite a surprise snowstorm, had 70+ attendees present out of 100+ registered. The Un/Conference, focused on the potential the rising generation has to contribute to Minnesota, energized the attendees, many of whom have since expressed an interest to become more involved in this evolving effort.
In January 2011, Minnesota Rising members delineated 5 areas of work for the year. Focus areas include the blog, continued efforts to develop a generational theme or operating principles, mentorship, quarterly emerging leader organization convenings, and a second Un/Conference slated for the end of 2011. The network of emerging leaders in Minnesota, Minnesota Rising's organic process has only begun contributing to the network-building and development of the local emerging leader community.
Our common call
With massive numbers of Baby Boomers retiring, Minnesota's workforce and demographics will look dramatically different in just a few short years. One oft-noted issue of concern is the leadership gap that will deepen as many seasoned, long-standing executives and leaders retire. While some succession planning has taken place, the sheer numbers of the Baby Boomers means their departure will have a profound impact upon how business and society function in coming years.
The challenge of a successful transition of power is heightened by the lack of an emerging or middle talent pool that has been cultivated with skills, institutional knowledge and relationships, and a shared vision for how to proceed. This issue cuts across the entire state, but will have particular ramifications in the Twin Cities metro area, which is home to 19 Fortune 500 companies, 30+ higher education institutions, and the commercial and political centers of the state.
Minnesota currently struggles as a result of this lack of leadership and grooming. Companies and sectors are at work to address leadership transitions. Nonprofit boards of directors and new political leadership continually strain to find talented, smart, and committed volunteers and staff. Lacking a method for cultivating emerging leadership and surfacing talent for leadership roles hampers innovative thinking and long-term planning for Minnesota's future.
Without a sustained group of leaders and citizens committed to the betterment of Minnesota, policy-making and critical decisions are subject to the vagaries of political cycles and partisan campaign promises. Policy-makers can only think as far as two-, four-, or six-year terms. This myopia encumbers their ability to compromise in the short-term so long as the important goal is realized in the end, and whether or not they receive credit for it.
The tough problems we face as a state will not be solved with short-sightedness and polarization. We need to forge a new civic discourse, built on trust and relationships cultivated over time. This culture shift won't take place easily or overnight. It may, in fact, take an entire generation to change the conversation. That's why we need to begin the work now. Emerging leaders are poised to be the next greatest generation. Unlike previous generations' brick and mortar legacies, the very manner in which today's emerging leaders conduct their work may ultimately be the most powerful contribution we make to our society.
The quest behind the question
What can we emerging leaders do now to build relationships, trust, and a shared vision for Minnesota so that we, today, and in 20 years time, can be more successful in implementing it? This question pushes me to continue pursuing the work of Minnesota Rising and I know it also stirs up a deep hope and calling for others, as well.
This work is being co-created, and while we have some general principles and parameters, the end remains to be seen. For the time being, it seems that the work is an attempting to shift society from back room dealings to relationship-based politics and culture of collaboration. The idea is for emerging leaders to learn a new way of being now before arriving in positions of leadership to repopulate the old systems. This new way is of collaborative leadership.
Over the coming year and more, we hope to create powerful, idealistic, vivid vision of the future in Minnesota through a tour of the state’s groups of emerging leaders, high schoolers, college students, and more. We'll strive to embed this intention in the upcoming Un/Conference and disseminate through it cascading interviews and un/conversations. These conversations are the change. Through them, we will focus on what we have in common and that which we can strive after with shared purpose. Working collectively, we will be able to identify, nurture, and take with us the best values of our generation as we move up and on in life. Together.