LAWG Week: Building Community: Welcome to Minnesota! A LAWG welcome to the North Star State by Melissa Chapman Haynes and Tia Bastian

This is Melissa Chapman Haynes and Tia Bastian, from Professional Data Analysts in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Today we introduce a week of posts from the Local Area Affiliate Workgroup (LAWG). We are busy ensuring that Evaluation 2019 will be an amazing experience! We look forward to welcoming many of you to our lovely city, but if you are unable to attend we hope you can join the virtual conference. Presenters, please share your materials in the AEA Public e-Library.

I like Hollywood. I just like Minneapolis a little bit better.


There are a lot of people who have made Minnesota their home – in name or actuality. Minnesota is home to one of the highest concentrations of Fortune 500 companies, including Target, 3M, and Land O’Lakes. Bill Murray is part-owner of Saint Paul’s minor league baseball team. Prince and Bob Dylan were born here – musical superstars – who, by doing what they do, influenced countless other musicians, including Lizzo, J.S. Ondara, Janelle Monaé…we could go on. We encourage you click those links to hear a bit about how they were inspired by The Minnesota Sound. And because this is the perfect transition for introducing three components of building community.

1.) Recognize the value of community building. We both grew up in Minnesota, have lived other places, and have intentionally decided to move back. Even though it may snow in November (it did at Evaluation 2012!).

As much as we love Minnesota, it has some of the worst health inequities in the U.S. and loses $2.26 billion annually due to inequities. Too many Minnesotans are “colorblind,” to recognize the systemic nature of inequities. Recognizing the value of all community members is the first step toward “unlocking the promise of the nation by unleashing the promise in us all.” #startseeinginequities James Baldwin quote

2.) Have faith in people’s abilities to achieve. We recently finished interviews with individuals trying to implement community change through partnerships. One interviewee had this quote – and we could not agree more.

It is essential to have faith in people’s ability to achieve.

3.) Build and maintain trust. It is crucial for us to understand how history shapes all of these things.

Rad Resource: Check out this great article, “Building Community as if People Mattered.” The author features lessons from The Institute for Public Innovation (see other tools). While these lessons are for community leaders, many apply to evaluators.

Rad Resource: If you are not able to attend Evaluation 2019, build community by connecting with your local affiliates or other VOPE.

Hot Tip: Use the Minneapolis Skyway System. It may be cold here in November, but we have the largest skyway system in the world, totaling seven miles and making available any amenity you need (food, coffee, a Target). You never have to go outside…unless you want to experience the world that so many people have elected to call home.

Cool Trick: Tomorrow, Jean King, creative genius behind decades of evaluation-focused Top 10 lists, will introduce the Top 10 concept. To share the revelry, use the WayBack Machine to look at historical websites, including the first MESI website in 2009, with Top 10 lists circa 1996.

We’re looking forward to the fall and the Evaluation 2019  conference all this week with our colleagues in the Local Arrangements Working Group (LAWG). Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to contribute to aea365? Review the contribution guidelines and send your draft post to

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