By 2012 we will have the finest retirement community in western Minnesota, attracting 20 new retirees to our community every year.

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8. By 2015 Stevens County will be the first carbon neutral county in the world, demonstrating viable models for green housing, neighborhoods and public buildings.

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By 2013 we will have established an inclusive culture that embraces a diversity of people in our population and encourages their uniqueness to flourish and enhance our community.

6. By 2010 we will enhance our interconnectedness by better utilizing the technology infrastructure to create a virtual community.

Stevens FORWARD! — ‘Virtual community’ through technology Morris Sun Tribune By Tom Larson, Sun Tribune Published Wednesday, February 11, 2009
http://www.morrissuntribune.com/?event=exception.404&CFID=116881702&CFTOKEN=84494778

“It might seem that computers and other technology such as cell phones are deeply integrated in everyday life today.
But for many people, that’s not the case. They are no more comfortable using modern technology than they are speaking in public.
Bridging that divide and improving social inclusion through technology is one of Stevens FORWARD!’s 14 Destiny Drivers.
The goal of the Destiny Driver is enhancing “interconnectedness by making better use of the technology already available, thus creating a “virtual community” of people who might be separated by many miles.
Kristin Lamberty is an assistant professor in the University of Minnesota, Morris Computer Science Department who has studied and participated in online communities.
Through a course at Georgia Tech, Lamberty said she participated in an online community of quilters and wrote about ways people in that community interacted and shared their love of quilting.
“There was a surprising variety of activities supported by their online community,” Lamberty stated. “Some activities were very linked to the quilting theme of the community (block swaps, fabric trading, quilting tips, gallery of finished projects, and questions and answers about specific quilting related topics). Some members of the community arranged for group events to happen in the real world (fabric shopping events, quilt shows, sewing retreats, and quilting classes).
“I found it particularly interesting that there was a whole discussion thread specifically listed as “off topic” that seemed to be very important to some members of the community,” Lamberty stated. “It was here that people discussed all kinds of things about their lives and seemed to forge strong friendships with other quilters, (such as) bonding over major life events and sharing thoughts about everyday life as well.”
Facebook, Twitter and MySpace are social networks that help enhance “interconnectedness,” and provide quick sharing of information between family and friends.
Lamberty recently gave birth to her second child. She and husband, Jeff, were able to use Facebook profiles to give family, friends and even acquaintances almost immediate updates on the birth process. The Facebook updates came much more quickly and reached many more people than traditional birth announcements or even email, Lamberty said.
But there are still many obstacles to getting some Stevens County residents to trust and use the technology available to them.
Get Broadband! is a program through the Blandin Foundation which is intended to help businesses upgrade to high-speed, broadband Internet access by providing grants to pay for technical expertise. Michael Haynes, executive director of the Stevens County Economic Improvement Commission, received $30,000 in grants from Blandin in 2005. He expected it would take a year to direct money to business people for upgrades. Instead, it took three years to use up the money. “It was hard to convince some people, and I’m trying to convince people still,” Haynes said. “There were all kinds of reasons — they didn’t have enough time, they didn’t want to bother, they didn’t see the need. Some got it right away and some didn’t get it at all.” The people who shy away from using technology to its fullest run the gamut, from lawyers to retailers, Haynes said. Getting people to become familiar and comfortable with technology in their day-to-day lives might lead them to branch out into more social uses, he said. “It starts with the basics,” Haynes said. “It starts with city and county governments.” Building permits, dog licenses, applications, bill payments for utilities and other ways people interact with governments should all be set up to be handled online. People will then feel comfortable making mortgage and other payments and transactions online, he said. Once those hurdles have been cleared, people can take their knowledge into the business place, Haynes said. “There are a whole variety of things people should be able to do online that they don’t,” he said. “There’s no reason you can’t sell things in Idaho from Morris.” Andy Lopez, is a retired UMM Computer Science professor who founded Info-Link in Morris. He said technology can be a vital piece in building businesses and a “virtual community.” Technology can reduce travel, immediately keep people updated on merchandise, inventory, deliveries and the goings on in the local crocheting club. A UMM student recently worked with the Morris Senior Citizens Center to create a Web page dedicated to the schedule and events at the center. The technology can be important to people with limited mobility, such as seniors or those with disabilities, Lopez said. “That’s where the power of this is,” Lopez said. But progress has to be made with care. Technology can open up vast communities but can also create a legion of “hermits” who don’t have any other social interactions, he said. The technological networks and education also must be improved. People who are tentative about absorbing technology into their lives and then encounter problems and abuses are less likely to try again, Lopez said. “We see the dark side so much,” he said. “People are reluctant in some ways and I don’t blame them.” But the future is bright, especially as technology becomes smaller and more portable, and, as such, more integrated into daily lives. Technology will become more a support to person-to-person interactions, Lamberty stated. Technology can enhance intergenerational connections and also inter-business, interfaith, inter-neighborhood, inter-town, or inter-school connections, she said. There have been efforts to create a “free-cycle” group locally, through which people can reach out to save things from going to landfills and help people find things they want, she stated.
“I wonder if we need to create one, new virtual community to increase our interconnectedness, or if we should be striving to help people leverage the wide variety of technological resources already available to strengthen our connections,” Lamberty stated. “This particular Destiny Drive goal seems like it could impact the other goals, particularly the ones that involve drawing others to our community, since a virtual presence is much easier to share with the world.”
Are you a ‘Champion’?
Stevens FORWARD! stewards are seeking “Champions” — people who want to get involved in the initiative and spearhead a Destiny Driver. For more information, visit the Stevens FORWARD! Web site at http://www.stevensforward.org, or contact Coordinator Roger McCannon via email at: mail@stevensforward.org, or by phone at (320) 287-0882.”

Over the next ten years we will maintain the highest percentage of high school students in Minnesota going on to higher education (university, college, or technical college).

By 2010 at least ten UMM graduates will gain professional employment in Stevens County that leverages their talents and provides opportunity for career advancement.

By 2010 we will create a “Green Internship / Mentor Program” that will support 20 high school and college students per year.

2. By 2012 a Stevens FORWARD! Community Fund of $1.5 million will help finance projects that further the destiny of the county.

1. By 2009 we will harness the intellectual capital of the University of Minnesota Morris, West Central Research and Outreach Center, U.S.D.A. Soils Lab, and agri-business and associates into an Innovations Incubator that will produce one new commercial venture each year.

Destiny Statement

Stevens County will be the model community in rural Minnesota, recognized for our progressive development and our innovations in renewable energy, agriculture, business, and education. We will achieve this by building upon the intellectual and social capital already present within the county, and by attracting new and diverse talent that will drive our economy and increase our population.

Community Assets

Unique towns and a strong work ethic
A solid base of technology and natural resources
An entrepreneurial spirit and culture of lifelong learning
Initiatives in alternative energy – wind, biomass, hydrogen and methane
A balanced lifestyle of work, worship and play in a beautiful and safe locale
A strong and diverse foundation of agriculture business, health care, and education

Destiny Drivers

Innovative Economy

  1. By 2009 we will harness the intellectual capital of the University of Minnesota Morris, West Central Research and Outreach Center, U.S.D.A. Soils Lab, and agri-business and associates into an Innovations Incubator that will produce one new commercial venture each year.
  2. By 2012 a Stevens FORWARD! Community Fund of $1.5 million will help finance projects that further the destiny of the county.
  3. By 2010 we will create a “Green Internship / Mentor Program” that will support 20 high school and college students per year.
  4. By 2010 at least ten UMM graduates will gain professional employment in Stevens County that leverages their talents and provides opportunity for career advancement.
  5. Over the next ten years we will maintain the highest percentage of high school students in Minnesota going on to higher education (university, college, or technical college).

Social Inclusion

  1. By 2010 we will enhance our interconnectedness by better utilizing the technology infrastructure to create a virtual community.
  2. By 2013 we will have established an inclusive culture that embraces a diversity of people in our population and encourages their uniqueness to flourish and enhance our community.

Livable Community

  1. By 2015 Stevens County will be the first carbon neutral county in the world, demonstrating viable models for green housing, neighborhoods and public buildings.
  2. By 2012 we will have the finest retirement community in western Minnesota, attracting 20 new retirees to our community every year.
  3. By 2015 revitalization initiatives will energize our downtowns and retail centers, increasing commercial and retail sales.
  4. By 2015 we will invigorate our parks, lakes and trails to be the finest in western Minnesota.
  5. By 2015 we will construct an outdoor Aquatics Center that will serve Stevens County and the surrounding region.

Working Together

  1. By 2012 we will build a stronger coalition between the University of Minnesota Morris and the region to increase enrollment to 2,100 of which 1,800 will be on-campus students.
  2. By 2010 an Intergovernmental Council will ratify a Statement of Interdependence that will guide us toward greater efficiencies among our public institutions and services.

Q: What “destiny driver” would you like to give your time, feedback, suggestion, etc… on?