Partnerships with honor and humility

photo of minnesota lake, trees and prairie

My first wrestling coach taught us to compete and conduct ourselves with honor and humility. Original or not, he was a former Marine drill instructor and an Olympic qualifier. That lesson stuck with me. Like many of our partners, I’ve stayed with and come back to Environmental Initiative because our mission and approach fit that lesson.

With diverse partners as dedicated as us, we collaborate doing honorable, often complicated, meaningful work. We have built relationships and trust. Clean Air Minnesota will turn 20 next year, and nearly all our first partners are still with us. Many marriages don’t last that long. We are good at grinding out the hard work together and not necessarily having to be the shiny new object. Our air work is often pioneering work in Minnesota, even if it has been done elsewhere.

Why re-invent the wheel? Just alter the recipe by adding that Environmental Initiative flavor. We invest our time and resources, we listen to our partners, and we hold multiple truths to any given set of circumstances in which we are working. Our projects and events are always uniquely crafted and implemented to maximize value for our partners.

We typically do our work well and with minimal fanfare. With our new strategic plan, there is a much greater emphasis on the value of our work to people and communities, especially those that have historically been shut out of the conversation. Our projects have garnered regional and national awards because we do the deep work necessary to reach meaningful outcomes. The best outcome is not always the tons of pollutants reduced, the best outcome results in community empowerment, tons of pollutants reduced, and open connections between all. No one’s zip code should predict their health outcomes as much as it does in Minnesota. We are here because we want to reduce asthma triggers and subsequent missed days of school and work. We want clean and safe water. We want our region’s soil to regain its health. Recognition follows the effort and the results.

With our partners over the years, we have kept our eyes on the horizon – always looking forward. With the future in mind, we maintain our successful and mutually beneficial public/private/community partnerships. Along with demonstrating meaningful results, this commitment to multiple voices is fundamental to our success. Our line of sight is appropriately high, and we are always exploring new ways to improve.

It is refreshing that with our partners, we can be concerned first and foremost with relationships and not get caught up in self-imposed limitations and interpretations around labels and positions that plague so much of our society today. Whether partnering with auto shops in the city of Minneapolis and nearby suburbs or at the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Small Vehicle Garage to provide free environmental auto repairs to income-eligible drivers or working with government agencies and community groups on source water protection, I feel lucky to have the opportunity to work cooperatively, honestly, and constructively for the common good with our partners.

If we listen, our partners represent a broad spectrum of wisdom and knowledge upon which to draw. For that, I am thankful.