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Creative Community Engagement

WITH HOMEBOAT

Our engagment process is focused around the following core values:
 Work toward equal access.
Collaborate with the spirit of a place.
 Build hyperlocal.
 Design for shared stewardship.
Move at the pace of trust. Include all community voices.



As a team we were interested in strategies that combine affordable housing, rural communities, creative engagement, and community participation. We believe that arts and culturally-based strategies are critical to community planning efforts. Our practice utilizes the arts to cultivate connections within communities and to foster a sense of pride. Art is not only a way to reflect the character of a community, but also a tool to navigate tough issues that are linked to development, social justice, and equity in rural places.

Funded through a grant from Partnership Art, an initiative of Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership and funded by ArtPlace America, the Healthy Housing Initiative was developed to creatively increase household outreach and knowledge to available housing resources in St. James, Minnesota.

As artists and architects that work in civic engagement, we incorporated the following arts-based strategies in our process.
  • Organize: Identify relevant community leaders in order to prioritize goals in consideration of specific issues.

  • Bridge: Deliberately spend time within informal community settings for one-on-one conversational research with individuals that wouldn’t otherwise be present at typical programming and town events. Recognize underrepresented local populations and build their involvement into future programming.

  • Stabilize: Use funding to support and compensate community leaders and program participants for their time and input in the process. Hold ourselves accountable for follow-through with
    the programming so that trust is built between the partnering organizations and inclusion is the standard. Create a direct and relatable document of implementation strategies for the City of St. James to ensure successful programmatic development.


From these strategies, we created a toolkit for creative collaborative engagement between the St. James Housing Committee and other organizations/residents in town. These tools are used to bridge gaps between resources and provide assistance to households in need. By creating community ownership and commitment to what is happening in the initiative, the community experiences the process so that they can move forward together. This collaboration also builds capacity in the region, so that city leaders are aware of how these tools can help them in their work.

Beyond the creative collaborative engagement tools and outreach tactics, we compiled a semi-comprehensive resource guide to all of the available housing resources. We’ve also detailed ten (10) implementation strategies for more successful housing programming hosted by Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership and City of St. James Housing Committee.