Community breakfasts. Lecture series. Field trips to UMore Park.
They're all ways that the city of Rosemount can connect with its changing population and boost resident involvement, according to reports from a class at the University of Minnesota.
"Like many communities, I think the challenge in Rosemount is how to engage residents beyond those few residents that tend to show up when there's a particular development proposal they're reacting to," said Mike Greco, program manager for the Resilient Communities Project at the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs.
Rosemount is partnering with the university through the Resilient Communities Project, which each year works with one city to accomplish a set of goals across a broad range of topics. In their application, Rosemount city staff identified 40 projects, from affordable housing to youth programming to energy conservation.
Projects are matched with U courses, and students work on them for up to a full academic year. The task of figuring out how to improve communication and resident involvement was assigned to a Humphrey School class focused on community participation. The project is intended to be part of the process for creating the city's 2040 comprehensive plan, which is due to the Metropolitan Council in 2018.
Like many cities across the suburban metro, Rosemount is evolving fast. Between 2000 and 2012, its population increased nearly 50 percent, compared with 12 percent in Dakota County as a whole and 8 percent across the state.
Over that time, the city's black population increased by 150 percent and the Asian and Hispanic populations each increased by about 200 percent, according to recent U.S. Census data.
"We certainly have noticed that there's more diversity occurring in the community," said Community Development Director Kim Lindquist. "And so that is something we want to try to be more at the forefront in terms of, what are some obvious ways to be more inclusive with the city?"
The class also looked at diversity beyond racial and ethnic background, brainstorming ways to include young people, renters and other residents who tend to be less involved, either because they're unfamiliar with how the city works, are disconnected from what's going on or simply feel that they don't have enough time to participate.
Students split into three groups, offering three communication plans with ideas for how to improve existing events and resources in order to attract residents.
"We thought it'd be nice to use what they have, what residents are familiar with," said second-year Humphrey School student Stephanie Hatten. "And then also tailor those with new things, rather than just completely starting over and introducing different things that they'd never seen before."
Now that the semester is over, the city will decide what to use and how to move forward. They've already settled on "My Rosemount 2040," a logo created by Hatten's group, to represent the comprehensive plan and the participation process behind it.
Over time, the Resilient Communities Project will go back to check on how this and other projects are being carried out — something it's currently doing with Minnetonka, a city it worked with in 2012-13.
"We're very interested in seeing these projects through to implementation," Greco said. "We may not be there through all of that process, but at least making sure that the work that students do has prepared the city to take that work forward to implementation."