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MCF Members Propose Action Around Rural and Urban Bridging

In October 2022, CEOs of MCF’s member organizations launched a conversation about bridging rural and urban differences in Minnesota. As a result, the Rural Urban Bridging for Impact initiative began in early 2023 to advance philanthropic action around bridge building.

Fall 2023 RUBI Update

A steering committee of 19 philanthropic leaders, representing both urban and rural communities, began meeting in May 2023. Over the summer and early fall, committee members participated in group learning, reflection, and planning. In October, the steering committee began devising plans for action to take place in late 2023 through 2024.

Rural Urban Bridging for Impact is working in a multi-layered and multi-lane model. Activities within the philanthropic sector and Minnesota’s communities will create benefits for people living across the state.

The RUBI Steering Committee is currently forming a vision for advancing its work through a three-tier framework for systems change, the Water of Systems Change framework. Some of the ideas being considered for future work are listed here:

  1. Structural Change: Develop Practice Guidance for Funders: By gathering, interpreting, and sharing more grantmaking data and guidance for funders, the RUBI initiative will promote practice changes for the field of philanthropy. Practice changes may include more funding for Greater Minnesota, more funding for advancing civil discourse, and new opportunities for bridging divides across institutions, sectors, or communities. Making changes at the structural level ensures that institutions are espousing activities that support long-term systems change.
  2. Relational Change: Advance Conversations that Promote Belonging: Using the work of the Othering & Belonging Institute, philanthropy will work with communities to advance a greater sense of belonging based on inclusion, fairness, justice, and care. Making changes at the relational level includes addressing power dynamics inherent in relationships among people and across institutions. While RUBI is specifically designed to bridge urban and rural communities, the steering committee recognizes that geographic differences exist alongside other polarizing differences such as politics, individual identity, and worldviews, all of which increase “othering” and make work toward “belonging” even more important.  
  3. Transformational Change: Promote Narrative Change: Narrative change includes activities that advance new mental models and promote personal and institutional learning. For the RUBI initiative, narrative change will be necessary for philanthropic institutions (how philanthropy understands its bridging role) and for people in Minnesota’s communities (how people see themselves as belonging and contributing to the greater good). 

RUBI will require a long-term commitment from philanthropy, with varying short- and long-range activities.

RUBI Learning Session Materials

Many of the steering committee learning session materials are available for growth around bridging rural and urban spaces. Through individual and collective learning, MCF members may begin to support the work of the RUBI initiative within their own communities and networks.

Visit the MCF Resource Center to view learning materials on the following subjects:

  • Civic Language Perceptions: Presented by Siri Erickson, Program Support Lead, Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement
  • Rural and Urban Community and Economic Development: Presented by Jane Leonard, Retired President, Growth & Justice and Brian Dabson, Rural Policy Analyst and Researcher
  • Minnesota Demographics: Presented by Dr. Eric Guthrie, Senior Demographer in the Minnesota Demographic Center
  • Antigovernment / Hate Groups and Extremism: Presented by Travis McAdam, Senior Research Analyst and Cassie Miller, Senior Research Analyst and Team Lead, Southern Poverty Law Center

To learn more about MCF’s RUBI initiative, reach out to Paul Masiarchin,

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