Circuit Spotlight: Northfield, MN

Two days in Northfield, Minnesota with a group of young people working in their home communities to both make a cooperatively-owned business and organize other youth was a definite highlight of the Youth TCI program to date. The youth group is comprised mostly of teenagers - they are both on the younger end of age spectrum for program participants so far, and have a level of dedication and readiness to create a cooperative business that is the highest of all program participants so far. Contributing to their readiness and enthusiasm is the strong youth supporting infrastructure. The Northfield Union of Youth exists to provide “POWER and VOICE to area youth and create a caring community. For youth and by youth. All ideas for programs, projects and events are all generated by the youth.”

The Northfield Union of Youth, which owns a youth center called the “Key,” has a youth Board and an adult Board which functionally supports and oversees the work of the youth. Through the Key and its activities, youth have access to governance positions within the city government and agencies (e.g. youth representative within the Parks Department). While it seems almost too simple, having a space for youth in which they are able to self-govern and be creative together is enough, for some young people in Northfield, to empower young people to participate in civic activities and think more broadly on how they can contribute to their community.

The group of young people active in the Key who chose to participate in the Youth TCI workshop are motivated to respond to a need for city-wide composting stated by their City Council. As a result, they are actively working with each other and mentors in their community to take the first steps in developing a worker-owned composting business that could hold a contract to deliver composting pick-up and processing services to the city. Since the training, the group has authored a first draft of a feasibility study and are busy building relationships that will be vital for seeing the process further into the future. I will be maintaining contact with them as they do their work, to support the initial stages of development and get them prepped to link up with a cooperative development professional to see them the rest of the way through the process – e.g. Cooperative Development Services.