How we work
The Itasca Project operates as a virtual organization with no physical presence or standing agenda. A volunteer working team provides ongoing guidance and oversight. Participants meet 4-5 times a year and agree on priority issues that will address regional economic vitality, quality of life, and prosperity for all. A CEO or team of CEOs takes the leadership on each issue and assembles task forces. The task forces then identify a unique role for Itasca and get to work, typically in partnership with scores of other organizations around the region. The task forces are informed by data to ensure quality decisions around how to make an impact.
For more information, read this article.
Unique contribution on a limited number of issues. Participants agree on a limited number of priority issues that will address regional economic vitality, quality of life, and prosperity for all. We identify a unique role for Itasca to play, and bring resources to bear on the selected issues.
Facts first. We invest the time and resources required to get the best shared fact base and to understand best practices prior to working on an issue. We use these facts to define issues critical to our regional economic competitiveness and to gauge the likely impact of Itasca Project involvement.
Cross sector, diverse perspectives. We work in partnership with many organizations across the region to accomplish an identified goal. Our approach is non-partisan; we connect many perspectives and
points of view to make and sustain meaningful progress and grow our civic infrastructure.
Impact driven by participants. We rely on each other to create impact. We maintain a minimal structure as the backbone of our virtual organization; Itasca participants are responsible for shaping the focus of the group, and they own the execution of the strategies that support the initiatives on which we focus.
Charting the Future of the Itasca Project
The Minneapolis-Saint Paul region has benefitted from a decades-long tradition of business, civic and government leaders working together to strengthen the community. By the turn of this century, business leaders who took pride in this heritage also recognized the need to act with more urgency toward larger-scale change. In 2004, they formed the Itasca Project, bringing leaders across sectors together to collectively address the growing challenges that impact prosperity for all in our region.
Over the years, the Itasca Project has channeled these leaders’ passions for their community into initiatives that have strengthened our region in countless ways. We also have come to appreciate that Itasca is more than an entity. It is a mindset, an ethos, a shared belief that — if we work closely together — we can create a community that all of us are proud to call home. Leaders who engage deeply in Itasca also describe how the work changes them personally. Their passion for improving the region is ignited and fostered, and their lives are enriched through their civic involvement. Some find that aspects of Itasca are not easily put into words. All want this “spirit of Itasca” to be nurtured and flourish in future generations.
In 2011, an Itasca task force launched GREATER MSP to be our region’s economic development organization responsible for business growth and regional branding. Since its launch, GREATER MSP has grown to become a true working partnership, leading a comprehensive regional economic development strategy to drive inclusive economic growth. Itasca and GREATER MSP share an ethos of civic engagement to solve big challenges. In fact, they have collaborated frequently over the past decade.
Nearly 20 years after Itasca’s founding, the challenges and opportunities our region faces are bigger than any one entity can address. They require a shared regional vision and strategy, expanded coordination and capacity, and increased engagement by civic-minded leaders. While Itasca and GREATER MSP frequently work together, the formal integration between Itasca and GREATER MSP made official in July 2022 will dramatically increase the impact of each entity and better enable our region to thrive. We are excited to bring Itasca into the GREATER MSP partnership ecosystem to:
- Establish a dedicated long-term focus that bridges community and civic leadership development and economic development — both necessary for equitable regional prosperity
- Engage even more business and civic leaders to build and drive solutions to our challenges and to strengthen our collective ownership of those solutions
- Continue to increase the diversity of community voices involved in identifying regional challenges and designing solutions
- Strengthen efforts to develop and connect civic leaders across sectors, generation, and geography
- Create more — and more meaningful — ways for the many participants in Itasca and GREATER MSP to engage across a range of issues
- Increase the effectiveness of the implementation of Itasca task force recommendations by leveraging GREATER MSP’s unique capabilities to transform ideas into action
- Minimize overlap between Itasca and GREATER MSP, reduce confusion, and maximize resources to address our common objectives and accelerate progress toward our regional vision
We are at an exciting and pivotal moment in our region. Itasca and GREATER MSP joining forces allows us to take advantage of this moment and to make more progress toward creating a community where every single person has the opportunity to achieve their full potential.
We also recognize that Itasca possesses truly special elements — its business-led orientation, nonpartisan volunteer-driven spirit, deep cross-sector collaboration, the deliberative process required to address long-term challenges, personal relationship-building, the Itasca brand itself. These elements and more will continue to be nurtured.
Our community has and will continue to evolve. So must the organizations that serve our community. The integration of Itasca and GREATER MSP is a step forward in the long, proud tradition of civic engagement in our region. It will help us move ever closer to being the community we all aspire to be.