Brett Buckner of OneMN.org, and
Bruce Corrie of Concordia University, St. Paul
Engage and empower all Minnesotans to
create an open, welcoming, inclusive state
A Civic Caucus
Review of Minnesota’s Public
Interview February 17, 2017
John Adams, Steve
Anderson, Dave Broden, Brett Buckner, Janis Clay (executive
director), Bruce Corrie, Rob Jacobs, Randy Johnson, Paul Ostrow
(chair), Dana Schroeder (associate director), Clarence
More and more people are talking about
the need for "One Minnesota," according to Concordia University,
Saint Paul, Economics Professor Bruce Corrie and OneMN.org
Managing Director Brett Buckner. They say creating "One
Minnesota" is the goal of the organization OneMN.org. Its
mission is to engage and empower Minnesotans to establish mutual
prosperity and a shared vision of racial equity and social and
Corrie discusses the organization's
involvement in Minnesota's 2000 and 2010 redistricting debates,
representing the voice of what Corrie calls the ALANA (African
and African American, Latino, Asian and Native
American) populations. He points to several economic
models that can and are being used in Minnesota as alternatives
to a strict free-market perspective. He laments the poor state
of K-12 math and science education in the state, which he says
is being ignored by the Legislature.
Buckner comments on the "browning" of
Minnesota, especially in the southern and western parts of the
state, and says immigrants from across the globe have saved many
towns in Greater Minnesota, although that is not recognized
either in county seats or at the Legislature. He says that we
must include all Minnesotans in conversations about public
policy and in the process of making public policy. That's the
way to assure that everyone is part of an open, welcome,
Buckner believes we need to make
issues relevant to people and engage or re-engage them by
walking them through the process of making change and letting
them know that they themselves might have the solutions to
urgent community problems. He offers as an example the small
learning communities Common Cause Minnesota is developing around
is managing director of OneMN.org, a statewide coalition of
organizations and individuals dedicated to Minnesota's racial,
social, and economic equity and inclusion. Since 2010, he has
also been the principal of Base, Network, & Power, a consulting
group dedicated to advancing political engagement for the
African, African American, Latino, Asian and Native American
(ALANA) communities. He has also worked for Congressman Keith
Ellison (D-Minneapolis), the Minnesota State DFL and the U.S.
Buckner serves as chair of the
Minnesota Common Cause advisory board and as a member of the
Metropolitan Independent Business Association Public Policy
Committee. From 1999 to 2003, he served as a vice president of
the Minneapolis branch of the NAACP and as its president from
2003 to 2004. He received the NAACP Region IV Man of the Year
award in 2007.
A graduate of North Community High
School in Minneapolis, Buckner attended Hampton University in
Virginia and earned a B.A. from Metropolitan State University in
individualized studies: "Equity, Engagement and Empowerment in
the 21st Century." He received his M.A. degree from Metro
State's Advocacy & Political Leadership program. In 2014, he was
a Roy Wilkins Racial and Social Policy Community Fellow.
Bruce Corrie is associate vice
president for university relations and international programs
and professor of economics at Concordia University, Saint Paul.
He served as dean of Concordia's College of Business and
Organizational Leadership from May 2008 to February 2013. A
faculty member at Concordia since 1987, he is well known in the
community for his work on the economic contributions of
immigrants and minorities. His research has been featured in
national and local media. He has also been published in the
Star Tribune, Pioneer Press and Twin Cities Business
Journal. He is on the editorial board of Minnesota
Business Magazine and writes a monthly column for the
magazine. He brings forward the policy voice and data of the
ALANA communities through the online publication
Corrie has served on the boards of
several national, state, and local public and nonprofit
organizations, including the U.S. Small Business Administration,
the Governor's Workforce Development Council, the Governor's
Working Group on Minority Business Development (chair) and the
World Cultural Heritage District. He has helped develop foreign
study programs in India, China and Mexico and has served on
international accreditation panels for business schools and
programs in India and Mongolia. His travels have taken him to 25
countries and five continents.
Corrie has a B.A. in economics from
St. Edmund's College in Shillong, India; an M.A. in economics
from North-Eastern Hill University in Shillong, India; and a
Ph.D. in economics from the University of Notre Dame.
2015, the Civic Caucus has been undertaking a review of
the quality of Minnesota's past,
present and future public-policy process for anticipating,
defining and resolving major community problems. On Nov. 27,
2016, the Caucus issued its report based on that review,
Thinking Ahead: Strengthening Minnesota's Public-Policy Process.The
Civic Caucus interviewed Bruce Corrie of Concordia University
and Brett Buckner of OneMN.org to hear about their work and to
get their reaction to the report and their ideas on how to
implement its recommendations.
About the term "ALANA." As defined
by Bruce Corrie, the ALANA communities include people from the
African (both African Americans and African immigrants),
Latino, Asian and Native American
communities. For more information, see Corrie's previous
interview with the Civic Caucus on Nov. 20, 2015,
OneMN.org is a
nonpartisan, multi-ethnic coalition working to create One
Minnesota. It has been in existence for over a decade and has
played a vital role on many issues from voter empowerment and
redistricting to business and workforce development. It
describes its mission as "civic engagement and empowerment of
Minnesotans to establish mutual prosperity and a shared visionof
racial equity and social and economic inclusion." Brett Buckner
is its managing director.
On Oct. 12, 2016, OneMN.org issued a
report written by Bruce Corrie,
One of Corrie's most significant joint
projects with OneMN.org was getting involved in the Minnesota
redistricting debates in 2000 and 2010.
Bruce Corrie of Concordia
University, Saint Paul, explained that the group testified to
the Court's redistricting panel on the importance of
representation of the economic interests of the ALANA
communities. He said the group drew a proposed map of
legislative districting "from the perspective of the chickens.
Usually, the fox is drawing the map, but what if the chickens
draw the map?" He said the proposed map respected all
"When the final map came out of the
court, ALANA representation was slightly better than in our map,
even though the boundaries weren't the same," he said. "Our
voice was heard."
The space OneMN.org occupies is a
nonpartisan, multi-ethnic framework not necessarily aligned with
any political party or any ideological group. Corrie said
sometimes the group says things that might not be popular. He
offered the example of the 2016 legislative session, which he
said had a good focus on equity and funding for equity.
OneMN.org made the case for broad inclusion of the diversity of
the ALANA communities in equity funding. This voice was heard,
OneMN.org also occupies the space of
One Minnesota. Corrie said people have been talking about
this concept for a decade or two, but now One Minnesota is being
used more widely.
"We need to clarify what we mean by
'One Minnesota,'" he said. "What is this vision of shared
Corrie said OneMN.org is a coalition
of groups, including Common Cause Minnesota, the Roy Wilkins
Center at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School, the
Minnesota Indian Business Alliance, the Minnesota Broadcasters
Association and the Metro Independent Business Alliance and
Color the Vote. "We've moved from being very ALANA-focused to
this broader organization bringing in a bigger group," he said.
"The larger Minnesota group is keeping the same principles in
"This is not a popular space," Corrie
continued. "Political parties might think we are not aligned
with their priorities. That space needs to be there. We have to
keep creating that space for an open, welcoming, inclusive
state. That's the future of Minnesota. How do we grow that,
expand it and build it?
The area of economic development must
be explored in depth. America is currently following a very
hypocritical policy, Corrie said. For years, American economists
told the world to adopt free market and free trade policies.
There were costs to adopting these policies, such as increasing
unemployment and deindustrialization. But our economists told
other countries to take the "bitter medicine," as this was good
for their economic health. America is facing a similar challenge
today in a globally competitive world and instead of retooling
our workers and making our economy strong, we are advocating the
same policies we lectured these countries not to follow.
Countries around the world don't want
to follow that advice, Corrie said. Maybe there is room for
different economic models, such as:
The social benefit corporation, which Minnesota has
adopted, that integrates a social interest into a
a Minnesota law effective in 2015 permitting investment crowd
funding, a new way to fund Minnesota's growing businesses.
MnVest enables Minnesota businesses to legally advertise
investment opportunities to all Minnesota residents.
Alternative financing. Corrie noted the Islamic-based
model of profit sharing.
Cultural assets as a strategy of economic development,
such as the "Little Africa" or "Little Mekong" models.
Why can't we better market the current
workforce development infrastructure-institutions from higher
education to foundations to workforce? Corrie said if
someone is looking for a job, the only way that person is going
to access that system is by already knowing about places like
"We should think about a system that
comes from the bottom up," Corrie said. Politicians know how to
tailor their messages to particular voters, he explained. And
marketers know which coupons to send to particular people. They
put data together to find out about people. "Why can't we know
about people and figure out how they could improve their skills?
It's a different way of thinking. How can we get workforce
opportunities to reach the masses?"
K-12 math and science education is in
a pitiful state in Minnesota. "If my child is not getting
good math and science education, I'm condemning him or her to a
life of under average income," Corrie observed. "They're not
going to be able to deal with the technologies of the future.
Nobody's talking about this, including the Legislature."
He recommended focusing on learning
labs for part of the school day. "In these learning labs, I'm
intuitively showing the student what a derivative in calculus
means," he said. "We're losing our generations of people. Math
and science are not popular, not hot. That is the single best
strategy for lowering the achievement gap."
How do we get a comprehensive strategy
at improving the success rate in higher education that includes
support services and a culturally intelligent classroom?
Corrie pointed to a
Feb. 16, 2017,
article in MinnPost that
reports on a grant to Concordia University and Saint Paul
College to provide support services to at-risk students who are
in danger of dropping out, even though they are near to
finishing their postsecondary programs. The grant came from the
Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation & Affiliates, a
nonprofit organization dedicated to helping make college a
Perhaps we could identify specific
areas like these where we and the Civic Caucus could have some
concrete strategies together. Corrie closed his remarks with
Brett Buckner's opening remarks.
We are retrenching back to old ways
that are not allowing us to move our society forward.
Brett Buckner of OneMN.org said
Minnesota is browning very quickly, especially in the southern
and western parts of the state. "A lot of towns in those areas
were only saved by migration in from across the globe," he said.
"We have maintained economies, but it's not being acknowledged
at the state Capitol or even the county seats across the state."
"We have to become real about what's
at stake," he continued. "It is the great life that has been
created in the great state of Minnesota." He noted that he is a
graduate of North High in Minneapolis and is a product of the
"Minnesota Miracle" of 1971, legislation that provided greater
funding equity by greatly increasing the state's role in funding
K-12 public schools and local governments. "We worked together
to see that all of our citizens have a decent life," he said.
"Now we're actually falling away from
what made us great," Buckner said, "such as the funding process
within our systems. But we're forgetting about basic things to
make our state better into the 21st century."
Michael Langley, CEO of Greater MSP,
has said the state will have 100,000 new jobs by 2020, Buckner
said, but not enough workers to fill them. "We have to start
thinking about how we're going to prepare for these grand
opportunities," Buckner said. "We have to get beyond these
binary conversations--Democrats/Republicans, black/white,
Greater Minnesota/metro--in order to assure that all of us are
part of an open, welcome, inclusive society. Or else we will
fail. We will fail in Minnesota because we are entrenched in old
ways we can no longer afford."
When we start talking about public
policy and the public policy process, we must include all
Minnesotans into the conversation and the process. "To date,
we have not done that," Buckner said. In looking at the last
election cycle, he said he was "appalled" at the rhetoric and
the amount of dark money coming in from across the world to
maintain the status quo. "If I'm able to put enough money down
on a specific group, I'm able to control how the group acts and
to get money back out of it," he said. "But that is not the
He asked how we start getting all 5.4
million Minnesotans involved in the policy process. He noted
that Wy Spano, director of the Master's in Advocacy and
Political Leadership (MAPL) program at Metropolitan State
University, taught his students that "politics is how we take
care of each other." "The great conversations that have to take
place," Buckner said, "have to be about how we take care of each
other. Everybody has a role in continuing to make our society
He said our networks are fractured,
based on old-school thought. "We can no longer think of
20th-century ideas to solve 21st-century problems," he said. We
must become innovative, using technology, and take more time and
care to listen and to understand what's going on locally and how
it affects the state.
Questions and Discussion.
People aren't getting that they have
to be interested in math and science. Corrie pointed out
that there is a disconnect between the programs we have in math
and science and the cultural bias against getting into those
fields. "It's the culture of middle schools," Corrie said.
"That's where the revolution has to occur. If you lose them in
middle school, you've lost them."
There is no national focus on STEM
(Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) learning. An
interviewer made that comment and said companies like Boeing,
Lockheed Martin and Northrup Grumman have outstanding STEM
programs in their communities. "Kids need interest and a
purpose," he said. "We need a national purpose. Maybe it's
curing cancer. Let's get that visible. We don't talk about it,
so the kids and the parents don't connect. Just focusing on
education won't fix it."
Are social benefit corporations
working someplace? An interviewer asked that question.
Public benefit corporations, explained in a
Feb. 6, 2015,
Star Tribune commentary,
are for-profit corporations that
their decisions will contemplate public good as well as profit.
Legislation allowing them to exist in Minnesota took effect in
Corrie said an example of this type of
which has four locations in Saint Paul and two in Minneapolis.
"It has as its mission to serve the inner city," he said. On its
website, Sunrise Banks states that all
of its business lines "are
not only held to financial sustainability goals, but also
demonstrate progress in achieving positive social impact." The
company is a certified B Corp "for its demonstrated commitment
to transparent corporate governance and positive community
impact." Corrie said it would be worth exploring these Minnesota
corporations in depth.
The Civic Caucus could move
from being a think tank to being an action tank. Corrie made
that remark and said OneMN.org could work collaboratively with
the Civic Caucus in, for example, looking at models of public
benefit corporations in the state, working with foundations and
getting chambers of commerce to talk about these models.
An interviewer commented about the
need for the Civic Caucus to improve the diversity of both its
interview group and its e-mail recipients to get a broader
perspective and asked Corrie for suggestions on ways to do that.
Corrie said OneMN.org could benefit from Civic Caucus expertise
and could help the Caucus develop a larger base of consensus
around policy issues.
Common Cause Minnesota is developing
small learning communities around the state. Buckner, who
chairs the Common Cause Minnesota advisory board, said working
with these small communities offers a way for local people to
offer ideas on local issues and also to offer ideas that can
bubble up to the state level. "This expands opportunities for
networking and empowers the local community," he said. "As soon
as you empower people locally, it makes things a lot easier and
truly opens the doors for everybody."
Buckner offered the learning
communities as an example in response to a question about how
the Civic Caucus might expand its reach to the ALANA
communities. Corrie added that, to be inclusive, the Civic
Caucus must try to get the widest possible feedback and
What exactly are the learning labs
Corrie discussed and the learning communities Buckner discussed?
An interviewer asked that question. Buckner responded that
the small, local learning communities allow people to see
problems right on their own block and act on them. "There's a
market for this, but we must commit to it and support it with
resources," he said. "Why aren't the state and the philanthropy
communities investing more in these types of conversations,
which will only strengthen our communities?"
An interviewer commented, "When we say
public policy, we make a huge mistake by orienting that to the
Capitol. Public policy is what we do with our neighbors and
families. Let's talk about starting at the bottom and letting
ideas come up from there."
How can we succeed in deepening the
public-policy discussion, given the current climate we have?
An interviewer asked that question and said he's not hearing the
kinds of issues Corrie and Buckner have talked about in the
broader community. "How do we actually solve these problems in a
deeper way?" the interviewer asked. "There doesn't seem to be a
broader market for what we're all selling. How do we create that
market by what we do?"
Corrie responded by asking whether we
consider our market to be only the existing players. "There are
vast masses of the public who are still not connected," he said.
"We are competing with other voices, but it's still a small
universe of maybe 100 people. But there are 5 million people in
the state we haven't connected with. How do we connect with
them? That's where the voice will be heard."
Buckner commented that people want an
issue to be relevant in the same way that Sputnik galvanized
science. He noted that earlier, the Great Depression also
galvanized people and made them realize we had to do things
differently. "We needed to involve as many people as possible
and move the conversation ahead as quickly as possible," he
said. Today, too, we need to look at what the underlying issues
are and get deeper into them. "Don't get caught in a 15-second
sound bite," he said.
"How do we make issues relevant to the
individuals, so they're able to share and be heard and
acknowledged and things are acted upon?" Buckner asked. "We need
to at least walk people through the process and show them this
is a way to stay engaged. We must make sure that we're thinking
about how we make people's lives better as a collective."
"I'm concerned that we're falling
backwards on this conversation, because of our comfort and our
lack of ability to connect," he continued. "It's just easier to
check out. How do you re-engage people and uplift them to tell
them they might have the solution? We need to let them know that
the solution is out there, but we're not sharing it. People
don't think things are going to happen."
There are intriguing opportunities for
partnerships here. Paul Ostrow, chair of the Civic Caucus,
closed the discussion with that comment to Corrie and Buckner.
"We have power in our passion and our ideas and hopefully we can
follow up on some of the compelling things you said today," he
The Civic Caucus
is a non-partisan,
tax-exempt educational organization. The Interview Group
includes persons of varying political persuasions,
reflecting years of leadership in politics and
business. Click here
to see a short personal background of each.
S. Adams, David Broden, Audrey Clay, Janis Clay (executive director), Pat Davies, Bill Frenzel, Paul Gilje, Dwight Johnson, Randy Johnson, Sallie
Kemper, Ted Kolderie,
Dan Loritz, Tim McDonald, Bruce Mooty, Jim Olson, Paul Ostrow
Popham, Dana Schroeder, Clarence Shallbetter, and Fred Zimmermany,