Innovation Finalists

The Mission Award for Innovation recognizes creative applications and nontraditional approaches to solving community challenges. Nominated nonprofit innovations should:

  • Bring solutions to community challenges by using current solutions or strategies in new and creative ways or by bringing new solutions to a common problem;
  • Focus on doing things differently, rather than just doing things better;
  • Take new ideas and implements them successfully with measurable outcomes;
  • Employ a variety of strategies in developing these solutions; and
  • May collaborate with other nonprofit organizations, businesses, and governmental agencies in their efforts.
Voting for the 2022 Minnesota Nonprofit Mission Awards has closed.
Innovation Award

Just The Pill - Dr. Julie Amaon 2

Just The Pill was founded in 2020 in the midst of a pandemic, to provide access to abortion, contraception and other sexual and reproductive health services in rural Minnesota. The organization leverages technology to reduce barriers to providing healthcare in underserved communities. In October 2020, Just The Pill became the first provider to offer telehealth visits and medication abortion by mail in the United States.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled to overturn Roe v. Wade. With the constitutional precedent in the case overturned, up to 26 states are expected to ban abortion. Millions of people across the country will experience restricted access to reproductive health services.

Health service delivery has undergone a transformation in the last two years, accelerated by the COVID pandemic. Medical protocols have changed, patient expectations have changed, and health equity is front and center in our minds. Just The Pill has identified obstacles that are inherent in the existing abortion service model: unaffordable patient fees, lack of language support, long-distance travel and other logistical demands, and hours of patient time spent in the clinic. Just The Pill’s innovation is to combine advances in scalable telemedicine with mobile clinics and bring care to the people who most need it, especially low-income, BIPOC, and rural patients. This is a sustainable model that reduces barriers to care.

In May 2022, Just the Pill announced the arrival of our two, new mobile clinics: Our medication abortion mobile clinic is a small van outfitted with technology for telehealth consultation and secure delivery of medication. This high-volume mobile clinic can serve 50 patients in an eight-hour day. Our second, larger van will (for the first time in U.S. history) provide patients with a mobile clinic based procedural abortion. This clinic serves patients who are not eligible for medication abortion (over 11 weeks) or who choose procedural abortion for other reasons. The clinic also offers same-day contraception, including IUDs.

Just The Pill works with 18 abortion funds in Minnesota and across the country to ensure that money is never a barrier to care. They also collaborate with practical support organizations to support patients from states with abortion bans. Just The Pill has developed relationships with abortion providers in Colorado, Illinois and other “safe haven” states who are trying to prepare for the onslaught of patients expected later this year. Two clinics have asked us to bring our mobile clinics to their parking lots to increase the number of patients that could be served.

At a time of heightened abortion restrictions, Just the Pill’s telehealth/mobile clinic service model helps to reduce travel burdens and make abortion more accessible. Their service model significantly reduces staffing and provides room for flexibility if a patient needs language support, as well as reducing the appointment time from 3-6 hours down to 15 minutes. Our patient fees are half of the cost of in-clinic visits.

As a result of Just the Pill’s innovative approach, safe, efficient, and equitable access to abortion has become a reality for many throughout Minnesota, the region, and states across the nation.


NCF

Northcountry Cooperative Foundation (NCF) is the only organization in Minnesota dedicated to advancing cooperative homeownership as a solution to the affordable housing crisis. Founded in 1999, NCF’s mission is to transform lives and communities through cooperative enterprise. The organization accomplishes this goal by helping residents of manufactured (mobile) home parks and multifamily (apartment) rental buildings purchase, own, and operate their homes as cooperatives.

Manufactured homes are a critical source of affordable housing for 180,000 Minnesotans, providing an attainable path to homeownership for low- and moderate-income families. Most manufactured home residents own their homes, but rent the land underneath them. Nationally, out-of-state investors are purchasing manufactured home communities, raising lot rents, charging new fees, and imposing new restrictions, leaving homeowners vulnerable to displacement. In contrast, cooperative ownership allows residents to invest in their communities with improvements like new streets and community centers, improving housing quality, and fostering stable homeownership. 

NCF completed its first co-op conversion in 2004 in partnership with the residents of Sunrise Villa Cooperative, a 44-unit manufactured home park  in Cannon Falls, MN. In 2008, NCF joined as a founding affiliate of the ROC USA® Network, a national social venture advancing resident ownership of manufactured home communities, or Resident Owned Communities (ROCs). Since then, NCF has preserved 13 manufactured home communities and 1,100 affordable homes in transactions valued at $33 million.

This year, NCF worked with the residents of the Woodlawn Terrace manufactured (“mobile”) home community in Richfield, Minnesota, to purchase their community and become Minnesota’s tenth Resident Owned Community. With technical assistance from NCF, Woodland Terrace families came together to secure a loan, collectively purchase their community, and form a self-governing cooperative, the new Woodlawn Terrace Cooperative. In an interview with ROC USA, Woodlawn Terrace Cooperative Board President Bev Terrace said, “People here had lived for 10 years in fear of their park closing, from redevelopment or whatever….they were sitting on the edge of their seat waiting for a developer or a takeover. So when the co-op idea came up, they were thrilled."

NCF’s innovative coop model of homeownership makes homeownership a reality for many who could not otherwise afford to buy, keeping families in their homes and housing costs stable, restoring ownership and control of manufactured housing communities to their rightful owners, and empowering residents to invest in their communities.

The new homes will provide additional income for the co-op, while providing new affordable homeownership opportunities for households who would otherwise be unable to afford to buy in Richfield. The Woodlawn Terrace transaction is the thirteenth such project for NCF and brings the total number of resident-owned manufactured home sites in NCF’s network to over 1,000. 

In 2021, four out of five manufactured home sites sold went to out-of-state investors. Resident-owned communities across our state are helping to preserve this critical source of affordable housing for Minnesota's families.


Springboard for the Arts

Founded in 1991, Springboard for the Arts' mission is to support artists with the tools to make a living and a life, and to build just and equitable communities full of meaning, joy, and connection. The organization works at the intersection of arts and economic and community development, helping local artists and communities thrive together. Through deeply-rooted work in both an urban and rural context, with headquarters in St. Paul and Fergus Falls, Springboard’s practitioner-led work consists of direct resources, consulting, training, and movement building that supports over 25,000 artists and community members and helps support, incubate and launch over 500 artist-led businesses each year.   

The pandemic has demonstrated the precariousness of artists' careers in the U.S., who primarily make a living as contractors and gig workers while often cobbling together different income sources and non-traditional employment arrangements. There is little to no safety net for most individual artists, creating a pressing emergency of equity in economic opportunity and representation in our field, especially for artists who are Black, Indigenous, and/or People of Color, artists in rural places, and artists identifying as LGBTQ+ or from the disability community. The National Endowment for the Arts reports that the overall unemployment rate for artists is still twice what it was pre-pandemic.

In 2021, Springboard for the Arts launched one of the first Guaranteed Minimum Income pilots in the country focused on individual artists and culture bearers. This pilot program is providing $500 of unrestricted monthly support to 25 artists in the Frogtown and Rondo neighborhoods of St. Paul for 18 months. At the same time, Springboard is supporting artists to lead narrative change and community understanding about the need for economic justice across our community.   

This innovative pilot is a public-private collaboration designed in partnership with the city’s People's Prosperity Pilot and explores the impact of guaranteed income on artists, culture bearers and creative workers at a neighborhood level and provides a national model for the inclusion of artists in policies that address economic inequity.    

Impact on Individuals
For many, one of the impacts of the pandemic was wiping out their savings as gigs and opportunities dwindled due to restrictions, such as bans or limits on indoor gatherings. The guarenteed income pilot has helped offset some of these financial hardships, providing more housing, food, and basic needs security. Guaranteed income has also provided freedom in creating, letting artists take risks (like travel and working with different vendors), invest in themselves (like renting dedicated studio space and upgrading equipment), and allowing them to create what they want and what serves their communities rather than what is dictated by funders.

Impact on Policy
This deep research will help ensure that artists and culture bearers are represented in national conversations around economic justice and will convey important trends about the needs and lives of artists. The results of this pilot will be used to demonstrate and advocate nationally that culture makers need to be included in the work to make our economy more equitable and just.