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Connecting newcomers to our region’s most valuable resources: our people

When Make It. MSP. surveyed more than 500 Minneapolis-Saint Paul newcomers earlier this year, we asked them to describe the biggest challenges they face as they acclimate to the region. Most commonly cited were finding a community, making friends, and forging “real” connections. These needs for meaningful connections – which are backed by data as the single greatest indicator of whether or not a newcomer will stay in MSP – have been and will remain the major focus of Make It. MSP.’s work.

Nevertheless, simple (though critical) everyday considerations like navigating the commute, using MSP’s transportation options, learning about housing and schools, and questions about surviving a first Minnesota winter were also frequent. While not the “big” challenge, your success moving through these smaller elements of life in MSP can add up to either a positive or negative experience as a newcomer.

There are an infinite range of questions everyone has when settling into a new home. Where’s the best Thai restaurant in my neighborhood? How can I learn about free networking opportunities in my industry? Do I really need snow tires? Covering all the unknowns newcomers face when moving to a new home in a one-size-fits-all newcomer guide is virtually impossible. Most importantly, people are more likely to trust (and follow through on) insights and recommendations directly from peers as opposed to guides and Google searches. Think of the last restaurant or brewery you tried – chances are it came as a recommendation from a friend or coworker.

So, instead of creating a limited and incomplete guide to MSP, the Make It. MSP. MSP Hello team decided to connect newcomers directly to our region’s best resource: our people.

Building a platform for and by newcomers

This year, the MSP Hello team partnered with Soulwork, a local tech startup, to create a free online platform where newcomers can ask questions about their new home and receive responses from real people, in real time. The program, called MSP Welcome Ambassadors, relies on the initiative’s volunteer network of “Ambassadors” who are able to respond to newcomer submissions from the convenience of their phone wherever they are.

“As a relocation REALTOR of over 15 years, I know how hard it can be to connect to a new community and get fully plugged in,” says Michael Bartus of Lakes Sotheby’s International Realty, one of the first MSP Welcome Ambassadors to volunteer for the program. “As an ambassador, my goal is to help as many newcomers as I can feel welcome here and connect them to the region that I love so much.”

Like Michael, many of the MSP Welcome Ambassadors active on the platform personally relate to the struggles of breaking into a new home. “Recently moving here myself in my adult life, I have had experiences with the difficulties of making friends and creating a network in a new city,” shares Chelsea Fey, a member of the Visit Saint Paul team and MSP Welcome Ambassador. “I became an ambassador because it’s important to me to extend some of the resources I have found to new residents in hopes that they can create those friends and networks faster. The Twin Cities is a great place to call home, and I want them to experience that, too.”

How to make the most of the MSP Welcome Ambassadors platform

Here’s a quick Top 5 Tips & Tricks for newcomers as they use the platform:

Check out the list of suggested questions

To help newcomers get started, we’ve pre-populated a list of commonly asked questions. Simply click on any of the suggested questions on the home page to start your own submission.

Submit your own

Not seeing what you need? No problem, feel free to submit your own question by starting a new description right on the home page.

Invite as many Ambassadors to your discussion as you’d like

Once Ambassadors respond to your question, you’re encouraged to invite them to start a discussion (like a message board, this way you’re allowed to ask follow-up questions). If multiple Ambassadors respond and seem like they can help, invite them all to chat together!

Customize your user profile

Upload a photo of yourself and update your user information to help other newcomers and Ambassadors get to know you.

Invite another newcomer to use the platform

The more people who use the platform, the stronger it will become as a message board for the many questions newcomers have when moving to a new home.

Get connected and sign-up to use the free online MSP Welcome Ambassadors platform!