The team at MSP HELLO, a project to welcome and onboard newcomers to the Minneapolis-Saint Paul region, has accomplished epic levels of connectedness in 2017. Like other projects of the Make It. MSP. initiative, MSP HELLO provides space for amazing partners to work together to achieve greater impact. I came on board to support these partners as the project’s coordinator in April and we have been hard at work curating and implementing tools and resources to meet the needs described by thousands of newcomers. Thanks to the contributions of our 30-person Steering Committee, their organizations, and dozens of other volunteers, we have achieved amazing results, including:
- Hosted seasonal celebrations, welcome events, and newcomer meetups attended by more than 4,000 people at everywhere from the waters of the Mississippi River to the galleries of the Minnesota History Center and Minneapolis Institute of Art
- Received online visits to MSP Hello team content at makeitmsp.org from more than 5,000 people in communities throughout the MSP region and from across the country
- Expanded our MSP Hello newcomer network to nearly 3,000 monthly subscribers
- Designed and developed the most interactive newcomer neighborhood guide in the country in partnership with Cloudburst Collective, providing foundation for upcoming guides to help newcomers with their first winter, commuting in MSP, and more
- Launched our pilot version of MSP Welcome Ambassadors, an online resource for new and prospective residents to ask local MSP Hello team members and volunteers for advice about relocating to the region
- Partnered with companies, universities, professional and community organizations, relocation professionals, arts institutions and others to distribute tools and insights
As someone who relocated to MSP from the west coast, I know what it’s like to be new here. I jumped at the opportunity to learn about the experiences of thousands of recent newcomers and the great partners committed to making their transition a great one. Here is a monthly play-by-play of what we’ve been up to this year since I came aboard the project:
April – May
On April 18, we convened the MSP HELLO Steering Committee for idea generation, community-building, and updates regarding MSP HELLO and Make It. MSP. in the year to come.
On May 18, we collaborated with Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA) and our event partner, Curious Incident, to host “Hello Summer.” We welcomed over one thousand attendees even the weather outside was not yet summer-like. With the MSP Neighborhood Guide development on the horizon, we developed a Request for Proposals (RFP) for web developer and designer partners and actively sought out a diverse pool of prospective partners.
June 10 marked a gathering of newcomers at the Northern Spark Launch Party, which sold out almost immediately. On June 15, we gathered our steering committee once again and from this convening, the MSP HELLO Ambassadors initiative was hatched by one of our brilliant committee members. In July, we confirmed our partnership with Cloudburst Collective to develop the MSP Neighborhood Guide. We also hosted our first meetup specifically for families, a Saturday picnic in St. Louis Park equipped with family friendly activities, delicious food, and even some face painting.
August picked up pace, which kept us sprinting from one event to the next through October. We started off the month with a kayak event in partnership with Mississippi River Paddle Share. We convened our steering committee mid-month and unveiled the MSP HELLO Ambassador webpage, gathered feedback, and launched on August 30. This initial launch included profile and contact information for 18 team members highlighting their specific areas of knowledge and passion to share with MSP newcomers. Mid-August also brought an infamous Chicago newcomers event, where we filled up every single seat in the event room at Giordano’s Restaurant in Richfield. The room was brimming with the sounds of connections that originated from the common experience of previously living in Chicago. Newcomers were asking about the next gathering and filled up on deep dish pizza for good measure.
In September, we received an invitation to meet an international delegation through Global Minnesota. We presented an overview of regional efforts to recruit and retain professionals, highlighting the MSP HELLO initiative. To our delight, there were many questions and points of curiosity about MSP HELLO, as well as common experiences shared regarding newcomer retention in other parts of the world. On September 23, our partners at Cloudburst Collective shared the news that the MSP Neighborhood Guide was live. We celebrated this achievement and then quickly put our event hats on. “Hello Fall” took place at the Minnesota History Center, where we welcomed over 300 attendees and collected more than 50 winter stories to inform our development on an upcoming resource, the MSP Winter Guide. We shared our new tools with newcomers at the event and they absolutely loved them!
We blinked our eyes and next thing you know…it’s October! We began the month with a collaborative mixer with the University of Minnesota Alumni Association at Tattersall Distillery. That night we had sky-breaking thunderstorms and relentless downpour, and yet, people were having such a great time that we cleaned up the event and they were still connecting with each other. I would attribute the success of this and other meetups to the amazing event curation of Anne Saxton of the Bartmann Group. We partnered with Our Streets Minneapolis to host an informational biking event, “Biking the MSP Region 101.” Attendees received an overview of biking tips, gear, and laws. I learned a ton!
We concluded October with a presentation of MSP HELLO’s progress to the Make It. MSP. Enterprise Team and they were brimming with optimism and ideas for integrating our team’s resources at their organizations. To highlight the overall progress since last year’s convening, the Make It. MSP. Summit, which included a product demo of the Neighborhood Guide and a breakout session on making connections, was the perfect conclusion to October.
November has been a month of evaluation and looking ahead with our team’s co-chairs. We took note of trends throughout the events and projects, making recommendations for how best to continue the work. We continued working behind the scenes on a couple of important tools in development, the MSP Winter Guide and a digital marketing toolkit for organizational partners to share with newcomers to MSP.
This week marks the conclusion of my formal involvement with the project as I move on to focus on other professional pursuits. It’s important to note that the work is thriving and will grow in 2018 thanks to the amazing drive and passion of MSP HELLO partners, our steering committee, the staff at Make It. MSP., and these awesome 2017 co-chairs: Lisa Vongchingtrong, Target; Leighlin Carnival, Target; Astrid Benedetto, U.S. Bank; and Ashley Howard, U.S. Bank.
This work is about cultivating opportunities for deep connections so we can thrive as a region. You are an essential ingredient in this work, so thank you for your continued support, whether you participate as a Radically Welcoming volunteer at our seasonal events, connect others to our website and resources, or you share your ideas for new ways to connect newcomers to the people and places of Minneapolis-Saint Paul.
Saby Labor is the outgoing MSP HELLO Coordinator at Make It. MSP. She is the founder of Resilient Campus LLC, an inclusion, leadership development, and coaching services organization. You can follow Saby on Twitter @ResilientCampus.