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The Make It. MSP. Professionals of Color Team exists to explore how to develop and scale cross-sector regional solutions to improve the retention rates of professionals of color in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul (MSP) region. The team is dedicated to understanding and taking action to address challenges that professionals of color face in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul region.

I joined the team in early June of 2017 to support individuals who were volunteering their time to steer these initiatives. With representatives from the various sectors including for profit, foundations, non-profit, public and education sectors, we put together social events to help professionals of color make connections and build meaningful relationships.

Based on the 2016 survey, building community and making connections stood out as key theme for the Professionals of Color team to focus on going forward. As noted in the current Make It. MSP. Insights report, this is still a key reason people leave the region is due to not feeling connected or included. The team sought to address this by creating spaces to connect in a personal and professional way.

In doing this work we look to partner with local organizations whenever possible. In regards to building personal relationships, we reached out to Dessert and Discussion. Through a partnership with Alex Merritt, founder of Dessert and Discussion, we co-hosted a event for professionals to meet in a non-work setting. In a structured question and answer setting, attendees got to know each other as Alex dove into the world of relationships, dating and life outside of work. The series consisted of four events, one in October 2017 and a series in January, February, and March 2018. The event consisted of a happy hour in the beginning in which participants were encouraged to socialize while enjoying a bite of dessert and perhaps a glass of wine. Later Alex facilitated meaningful dialogue about relationships. During our March event, we hosted a panel of local professionals of various relationship statuses in which they spoke about their own experiences in the region. The events attracted over 200 attendees with over 100 people attending the March State of the Relationship event. The event was featured on MPR and Kare 11.

Our first MSP Mingle of 2018 was on January 18th at the Science Museum of Minnesota. MSP Mingle is a quarterly partnership event with the Saint Paul Chamber of Commerce. This year’s mingle was hosted by Travelers Insurance. This particular Mingle included the science museum’s popular Race: Are We So Different? exhibit. With a worksheet in hand attendees had an opportunity to tour the exhibit and learn more about the history of race through the lense of culture and science. With over 300 professionals from around the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area, the event was an opportunity to form stronger personal and professional connections.

2018 is off to a great start with over 500 professionals participating in these key events. The next few months will offer even more ways for professionals to connect with a partnership event with the Timberwolves with took place on April 18th and a wine and paint social at Paint with a Twist on this Thursday, April 26. Join us at our next events as we build stronger professional networks and meaningful relationships for a stronger region.

On April 27th, the team will kick off series with employers with a focus on how employers can employ the toolkit created last year to create more inclusive workplaces.