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Road to Transformation Community Listening Sessions Illuminate Themes & Solutions Facing MN Women & Girls

The Women’s Foundation of Minnesota (WFMN) released a new report summarizing the themes and solutions Minnesota needs to transform, by centering gender and racial equity and justice. Through nine listening sessions on its Road to Transformation Listening Series, held in March, participants discussed the impacts of COVID-19, racial injustice, economic inequities, incarceration, and additional crises on women, girls, and families, and shared their solutions to create a state where all women, girls, and their families can thrive.

WFMN will host a public conversation discussing the results of the Road to Transformation Listening Series on December 7, 2021. The executive summary report is now available.

According to Gloria Perez, President & CEO of the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, “As a statewide community foundation, we begin by listening and investing in community solutions. To create meaningful change, we need to turn to the experts – like the participants in our Listening Sessions – to hear lived testimony about their experiences, challenges, and the opportunities they see to create sustainable solutions. With their insight, we may create a more just world, together – one that puts the experiences and ideas of communities pushed to the margins at the center of our way forward.”

The Listening Series reflected the raw intersection of the COVID-19 pandemic and the uprising for racial justice that took root in Minnesota following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police. The context and the direct testimony underscored the importance of WFMN’s approach to addressing entrenched, structural barriers using the Intersectional Equity Framework™ to understand complex issues and direct investment to community-led solutions.

“Minnesota’s women, girls, and gender-expansive people need targeted, positive investments in solutions they and their communities define. They need the partnership of leaders in philanthropy, government, business, and nonprofits to drive their solutions forward,” said Perez. “The themes and solutions that surfaced across the Listening Series will inform the Women’s Foundation’s statewide agenda for gender and racial justice, using our levers of grantmaking, policy, strategic partnerships, narrative change, and research for years to come.”

The report will be distributed across influential sectors of government, philanthropy, and business to highlight the perspectives and resilience of the state’s women, girls, and community-led organizations. The information gathered from the sessions will inform the Foundation’s statewide agenda for gender and racial equity, including grantmaking, policy, narrative change, strategic partnerships, and future research to increase resources for women and girls across Minnesota.

While every Listening Session revealed themes and solutions unique to the issue and community, several themes were emphasized across sessions. From mental health, the impacts of trauma, to financial insecurity, women and their families have shared experiences and needs related to health, safety, and economic well-being.

Women and girls also shared critical, actionable solutions to address inequities throughout the sessions. Some were specific to the issue being explored in each session, yet several solutions are relevant across themes, systemic injustices, and identities.

Solutions for Systems Change:

  1. Amplify the voices and power of women, girls, and Black, Indigenous, and communities of color: Participants said that building power with women, girls, and communities to amplify their voices and experiences is crucial. Communities know best what they need, and women are leading the way to transformation. By continuing to offer safe and public platforms for women, girls, and gender-expansive people across identities to share their stories, radical systems change becomes even more possible. Women, girls, and gender-expansive people who are most impacted by inequities and injustice should be key participants who hold power in discussions about the systems that impact them.
  2. Invest in Minnesota through investing in women and gender-expansive people: Financial investments are key for community transformation, growth, and thriving. Participants noted that investments should be guided by community leaders and focus on centering and supporting youth. Women of all ages should be compensated for their expertise and the time they spend educating Minnesotans and uplifting their communities. Investing in the education and opportunities for women and youth is an investment in a more equitable future for all Minnesotans.
  3. Develop culturally relevant and geographically specific emergency response systems: The impact of COVID-19 was a prominent theme throughout the sessions. Participants emphasized the importance of implementing emergency responses that support communities in the specific ways they need to survive and thrive. A one-size-fits-all approach leaves out some of the most vulnerable communities in our state. Culturally relevant and geographically specific responses could help more Minnesotans stay healthy, both physically and economically, and limit the devastating impacts that have been felt disparately by communities of color and rural communities. This is the only way that emergency response systems will be effective in responding to emergencies in the short term and preventing ongoing trauma, violence, and injustice in the long run.
  4. Strengthen care infrastructure and social safety net: Participants elevated the need for large-scale systems change through an expansion and transformation of the social safety net to better support women, families, and communities. Participants underlined the lack of mental health support, affordable and accessible childcare, quality healthcare, affordable housing, healthy food, and safe transportation as major gaps in the social safety net. They noted that the public benefits system must be adapted so that when a parent finds work, support does not immediately or completely disappear. Creating community-centered infrastructure, including a public safety system that keeps all Minnesotans safe, is key to ensuring that women, families, and communities have the support they need to thrive.

Intersectional Analysis Guides Transformation

The Women’s Foundation knows that strong grantmaking and policy agendas, grounded in data and centering the communities most impacted, means well-being for our whole community. WFMN conducts both qualitative and quantitative research to deepen understanding of the real, lived experiences of Minnesota women and girls so that we can continue to strategically eliminate the challenges and barriers they and their families face because of inequities and injustice in our systems.

To learn more about the underlying inequities, WFMN’s 2020 Status of Women and Girls in Minnesota and 2019 Status of Older Women in Minnesota research, completed in partnership with the Center on Women, Gender, and Public Policy at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, illustrate why we invest in women and girls most to improve the lives of families and all Minnesotans.

In addition to the executive summary, nine reports were produced through the Road to Transformation Listening Series. Research and reports were produced by Research Fellow, Amy Dorman, MPP, and the WFMN Listening Series Working Group.

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