The Region Nine Development Commission has received a national award for efforts to increase inclusiveness in area communities.

The Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) serves as a regional blueprint of identified community and economic development priorities to support economic vitality in South Central Minnesota. The Rural Equity Learning Community project aligns with three of these priorities including: Social Capital, Education Attainment, and Labor Force.

The organization was given a 2018 Innovation Award by the National Association of Development Organizations.

Region Nine’s Jessica O’Brien said the Rural Equity Learning Community began in 2017 and they, “Really did a lot of community engagement around changing demographics and race and we had a lot of community conversations around challenges and opportunities with these changing demographics.”

The goal of the Rural Equity Learning Community is to share, examine, and explore inclusive best practices. “What are some of these opportunities? What are ways that communities can be more welcoming? And just have an opportunity to learn,” she explained.

O’Brien said 52 members from seven regional communities — St. Peter, St. James, Fairmont, Waseca, Montgomery, Le Center, and Lonsdale – participate in the group.