Of the roughly 1,000 North Minneapolis families participating in programming through the collaborative nonprofit Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ), 73 percent earn $19,000 or less per year.

A quarter of North Minneapolis school children are either homeless or live in highly mobile conditions. Only 29 percent of the area’s entering kindergartners are deemed “ready to learn.”

If there is a ground zero for Minnesota’s struggles with educational and employment disparities, it could very well be North Minneapolis.

Four Carlson School students got an up-close look at some of the vexing, deep-rooted challenges facing North Minneapolis in a Carlson Consulting Enterprise (CCE) project for NAZ during the spring semester.

“I had heard about poverty in the Twin Cities, but I guess not necessarily to the extent that is actually out there,” says Karl Breustedt, ’18 BSB. “When we went into the community and talked to all the community leaders, it was very eye-opening to see how certain members of the Twin Cities have really been left behind in terms of economic development.”

Changing that distressing reality is one of NAZ’s goals, which is what prompted it to enlist the help of the CCE through a grant from the McKnight Foundation.

CCE’s charge was to identify ways to improve alignment between NAZ, its web of partner organizations, and Hennepin County on employment-assistance services.

“There are a lot of employment services that are provided in North Minneapolis, but they didn’t all work cohesively together in terms of getting candidates through that process efficiently, and our goal was really to identify where some of those gaps were and then provide recommendations for improving that process,” says Danielle Schmitz, ’17 MBA, the CCE team leader for the project.

Schmitz; Adriana Scheiner, ’17 MBA; and undergraduate students Breustedt and Daniel McKinney, ’18 BSB, undertook a largely qualitative study, interviewing personnel from a variety of organizations, a past program participant, and leaders from area nonprofits and Hennepin County. It led them to one overriding conclusion: All parties would benefit from utilizing an integrated case management model.

That recommendation provided the clarity for NAZ and Hennepin County to promptly map out a longer-term plan.

For the CCE students, the project provided a lesson in stakeholder management while also challenging them to break down a complex problem. According to Scheiner, it also offered a more tangible outcome than, say, the task of increasing a company’s bottom line.

“We could actually see who we were affecting,” she says.

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