Empowering Small Minnesota Communities

Empowering Small Minnesota Communities Program

Small Minnesota communities have a tremendous number of existing assets: beautiful natural areas; essential built environments; economic strengths, and human capabilities to build upon community strengths, meet their challenges, and move toward their aspirations. 

The Empowering Small Minnesota Communities (ESMC) program is a community-centered collaboration with the University of Minnesota to support small communities in becoming well-positioned to benefit from federal, state, and local investments. 

How? By working together to creatively leverage community assets and ideas and strengthening projects and plans for resilient physical, social, and economic infrastructure.  

The goal? Lay the groundwork for competitive proposals that could be eligible for a wide range of funding opportunities. 

Interested in participating in the program? Find out more and take action! 

About the Program

ESMC will be led by several University of Minnesota partners that will work directly with participating communities. Participation in the program is by application. Communities selected for partnership will work with the University to:

  • Identify and embrace existing assets.
  • Propose work that will advance resilient and sustainable economic, social, or transportation infrastructure.
  • Proactively embrace projects or processes that may iterate new project ideas or frameworks for future development. 

Read more about the program, including the vision, goals, and approach

Project Pathways

There are three different pathways communities can pick from to engage in the program: 

  • Rapid Response Tasks (1-3 months)
  • Tactical Action Projects (2-9 months)
  • Community Futures Partnership (6-12 months) 

Project leads and key community participants will be eligible for stipends/reimbursements to support their participation in tactical action and community futures pathways, given the likely long-term nature of those commitments.

Learn more about each pathway

How to Apply

ESMC is currently accepting Rapid Response Task proposals from communities on a rolling basis. These are small, distinct efforts that would require a few hours of work. 

If you have an idea, please submit it via this intake form, selecting Rapid Response. A member of the ESMC team will get in touch with you about the fit and feasibility of the proposal.

No other proposals are being accepted at this time, but another full round of project solicitation is expected. Work in the program will run through June 2026. 

Learn more