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Connect for Health Challenge

Sponsored by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation
Winners Announced
prizes: Up to $500,000

Strong relationships with friends and neighbors help people to be more involved in their communities, perform better in school and live happier and healthier lives.

The Connect for Health Challenge is a new grantmaking initiative of the Blue Cross Foundation which plans to award up to $500,000 to nonprofits, schools and local units of government to support efforts that strengthen social connections in low-income communities across Minnesota.

We are excited to announce the 22 Connect for Health grantees! Thank you to the over 5,000 Minnesotans that voted in the Connect for Health Challenge.

A big congratulations to Native American Somali Peacemakers on receiving a grant of $100,000!

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Native American Somali Peacemakers ($100,000 Grantee)

Minneapolis, MN
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Native American and Somali youth and elders partner for peace between their communities in this nationally and internationally recognized project.

About You

Organization: The Family Partnership Visit website

About You

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About Your Organization

Organization Name

The Family Partnership

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Organization County


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Grant You Are Applying For (check one)

Larger grant of up to $100,000

Your Project


Native American Somali Peacemakers ($100,000 Grantee)

Describe how you will use the funding to build social connections.

Right now, in the Cedar Riverside and Phillips neighborhoods of Minneapolis, we have a rare and powerful opportunity to model how intentional, cross-cultural reconciliation and communication can make entire neighborhoods safer while, at the same time, equipping youth living in poverty with the leadership skills they need to be successful in life. The Native American Somali Peacemakers Project will provide opportunities for youth to create and implement their own innovative public safety solutions while integrating the knowledge and peacemaking traditions of their community elders. In doing so, the project will achieve the following three social connection objectives:
- Increasing the measurable skills, knowledge, and resources of Native American and Somali youth in the Cedar Riverside and Phillips neighborhoods of Minneapolis to work together to create and implement public safety and crime prevention projects in their communities.
- Expanding community partnerships between Native American and Somali organizations and leaders, along with law enforcement and other key allies, to decrease youth violence within and between communities.
- Honoring and utilizing traditional cultural conflict resolution methods passed down by respected Native American and Somali elders to produce community-owned public safety solutions and to rebuild relationships between elders and youth.

Describe the community where your project will take place.

The Cedar Riverside and Phillips Neighborhoods of Minneapolis have some of the largest concentrations of new immigrants in Minneapolis. At the same time, these two neighborhoods are the long term, multigenerational homes of large segments of the African American and Native American communities in the Twin Cities. They have, within their borders, subsidized housing and high-rises, ethnic shopping centers, financial institutions, malls and community agencies that cater to the specific needs of these distinct groups of residents. Despite the presence of community resources, however, new immigrant communities and long term residents still face multiple challenges in building connections with one another due to cultural differences, language barriers, and geographic territoriality.

Where does your project have impact?

United States, MN, Minneapolis, Hennepin County

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How will the community and its members be involved in planning and implementing your project?

Based on strongly held and deeply respected shared cultural values of conflict resolution, consultation with wise elders, and co-created reconciliation processes, the Native American Somali Friendship Committee has had significant success in stemming the tide of intercultural violence between the youth of the Cedar Riverside and Phillips Neighborhoods. Our proposed Native American Somali Peacemakers Project represents the next level of this work, moving beyond crisis management to building strong youth leadership skills, and expanding safety focused multicultural community collaborations, ultimately transforming entire neighborhoods for the better. As was the case with the Native American Somali Friendship Committee, community elders and youth from both the Native American and Somali communities will co-create and collectively implement all Native American Somali Peacemakers community initiatives.

To what extent will your project involve building relationships that cross traditional sector boundaries and social groups?

Substantial collaboration already exists between the Somali and Native American communities of the Cedar Riverside and Phillips neighborhoods. These relationships were developed more than two years ago during a time in which the two communities were having disputes over frequent assaults occurring in the neighborhood between the youth of the two communities. These exploded into open hostilities at one point and the neighborhoods became increasingly unsafe. The Family Partnership mobilized other entities working with these communities, specifically the Confederation of Somali Community of Minnesota, Division of Indian Work, the City of Minneapolis, Minneapolis Police, and other influential community leaders in an effort to foster peace between the highly conflicted communities. These relationships are critical to building a cross-cultural, multigenerational collaboration between elders and youth aimed at quelling the violence and promoting mutual respect, friendship, and cooperation.

Effectiveness & Impact, Organizational Capacity, and Sustainability

If funded, how will you know if your project has been effective?

We plan to adopt pre/post evaluation service learning evaluation questions used in the Teen Outreach Program (TOP), an evidence-based youth development and prevention program, to assess youth’s increase in pro-social behaviors and self-perceptions of the importance of their contribution to their community across the project. This evaluation approach will be supplemented by the use of youth assessment tools developed by Search Institute, as well as leadership development training evaluation tools developed for The Family Partnership by Dr. David Baronov, chair of the Human Service Administration program at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, NY.

We will also use the Civic Engagement Measurement System (CEMS), a new, national evaluation system that is available to us through our membership in the Alliance for Children and Families. Developed by Behavioral Pathway Systems with support from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, CEMS uses surveys to gather and provide comparative quantitative analysis of multiple stakeholders’ (e.g., elders, youth, community residents, police partners) perceptions about a programs’ impact across multiple dimensions such as health and safety.

What specific health outcome(s) do you expect your project to have?

The Native American Somali Peacemakers Project will produce positive health outcomes on a variety of levels, both individual and collective:

In the lives of youth, who will develop lifelong leadership and work skills, make healthier life choices, and reduce high risk behaviors such as gang involvement;
In the lives of elders, who will contribute their wisdom, history, and cultural practices thereby, according to health and longevity research, increase the quality and, potentially, the length of their lives; and
In the communities, which will become safer, more socially connected, and healthier for children and families living in poverty.

Describe the reach of your project.

Our initial target audience is Native American and Somali youth living in the Phillips and Cedar Riverside neighborhoods, as well as elders and other family members. The model has tremendous potential to achieve significant reach beyond these two neighborhoods, however, with its basic elements being equally applicable to communities across Minnesota and beyond. In fact, the work of the Native American Somali Friendship Committee has already moved people beyond our borders, most recently with a international delegation of Israelis and Palestinians seeking to apply the principles to their own struggle for peace.

What will it take to implement your project effectively and sustain the work over a two-year period?

Native American Somali Peacemakers Project activities will be coordinated by Amina Saleh, Project Coordinator/lead community organizer (.60 FTE on this project; time includes 10% of project budget for evaluation) at The Family Partnership. Amina is well-trained and well-versed in best practices related to youth leadership development and violence prevention. In addition, she has received extensive training on community convening and facilitation techniques, most recently with the Bush Foundation’s “Art of Hosting” model. Amina will be responsible for the overall coordination and management of Native American Somali Peacemakers Project, and will also serve as the lead trainer for the youth leadership development program.

In addition to Amina, we will also to hire a .65 FTE Native American Somali Peacemakers Project community organizer, responsible for cultivating relationships with a wide variety of community stakeholders, coordinating community forums and actions, facilitating the mediation circles, and providing ongoing support and coaching for youth leadership development program participants as they implement their community public safety projects. Additionally, we are proposing to offer stipends to youth leadership development program participants for their community organizing and training work as we have learned, through years of experience with youth leadership and organizing programs, that this is a key element for sustained participation, family support, and program completion.

Describe the current stage of implementation and provide a brief overview of the phases involved in implementing the work over a two-year period.

As referenced above, The Native American Somali Peacemakers Project is an expansion of the Native American Somali Friendship Committee, a nationally and internationally recognized model of cross-cultural reconciliation and collaboration. At the current stage of our development, we have established a variety of cross-cultural, cross-sector relationships that serve as the infrastructure for the proposed expansion.

The next stage of implementation will commence with expanded recruitment efforts. We will identify project participants through our extensive network of partner organizations including, but not limited to: Minneapolis Police Department; Division of Indian Work; Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota; City of Minneapolis; and Somali Action Alliance. These partner organizations will also help coordinate and facilitate community actions and forums, provide guest trainers for the youth leadership development training program, offer project support to youth leadership development participants, and allow the use of their cultural/organizational spaces for project activities during subsequent phases of the project.

How would you share lessons from your project with other organizations and communities?

Because of our existing work with InCommons, we've had the opportunity to learn about a number of innovative and emerging methods for sharing our work with other organizations and communities. In particular, the Art of Hosting tools and trainings have greatly expanded our capacity to engage communities and organizations in deeper and more organic ways, sharing lessons learned and co-creating new solutions and new ways of working together. We're also excited to participate in other sharing and co-creation opportunities, such as the upcoming Social Innovation Lab, in the future.


Discuss this entry


Native American Somali Peace Maker Project

by Anonymous | 07/09/2012 - 13:58

I have worked with the Native American Language Revitalization Project and the Somali Human Services Project in St. Paul. This project will play an important role in helping these two communities work better together.


Dwight Freymiller
by Dwight Freymiller | 07/10/2012 - 06:59

Stand Tall! It is your neighbor hood! you can all ways chose how live's next to you? But you can show them! They can not bring there troublesome problems to yours!

Peacemakers Project

Andi Cheney
by Andi Cheney | 07/10/2012 - 12:24

Bedlam Theatre is a proud partner of the Native American Somali Friendship Committee. This grant would make huge strides toward advancing good relations between Native Americans and Somali residents in Phillips and the West Bank. Amina Saleh and Wade Keezer are brilliant community organizers working to make a measurable change for the better- this project will build a healthier community for everyone in the Twin Cities to enjoy!

Native American Somali Peace Maker Project

Bruce Schultz
by Bruce Schultz | 07/11/2012 - 08:22

This grant will help in providing needed services to a growing population that would benefit greatly form the support of grant money to provide services in a difficult economic climate.

I hope all you guys hard work

charisma smith
by charisma smith | 07/11/2012 - 12:00

I hope all you guys hard work pay off. This is ground breaking.

Peace must prevail on earth!

by Anonymous | 07/11/2012 - 12:23

"My wish is all of us live in peace and hormoney on the earth".....we are all children of Adam and Hawa (Eve) and what these means is that we are all brothers and sisters!We might have different cultures,languages,and religious backgroud but at the end of the day we are all human and we need to respect each other and live in harmony.Amina Salaeh is well recognized community leader in the somali community, she has done some amazing workshops, training and advocacy within the Somali Community and I adore her dedication!!!!!!!!!! Amina keep up the good work!!!!!!!

I hope all you guys hard work

by Anonymous | 07/12/2012 - 15:35

I hope all you guys hard work pay off. This is Hisory for all

Keep up the good work!! I'm

by Anonymous | 07/13/2012 - 07:33

Keep up the good work!! I'm excited about our commitment to the community.

Native American Somali Peacemakers

Colnese Hendon
by Colnese Hendon | 07/13/2012 - 10:21

This project is a wonderful way to build bridges between communities to strengthen all. In South Minneapolis we have to stop being divided along racial/cultural lines, and instead learn to work together for the greater good. This is a project that can be replicated to hopefully one day include African Americans, Latinos, and Europeans in the neighborhood. Good job! God bless you.

Thank you, we are definitely

by Anonymous | 07/23/2012 - 17:48

Thank you, we are definitely in the process of reaching out to other communities.

Native American/Somali relationships

by Anonymous | 07/19/2012 - 11:58

Cutlural work which demands excellence!


by Anonymous | 07/24/2012 - 09:51

on winning the challenge

to participate in this discussion.