The best kind of dialogue is a preservation dialogue

I got a call one day from Jeremy Losinski, a Greater Milan Initiative (GMI) Board Member and newcomer to the area, to check out the Old Milan School, also known as the Milan Community Center. The community of Milan has a population of around 370 people with over 20% of that population being Micronesian. Check out this article from Minnesota Public Radio about the changing demographics of Milan.

Take a tour of the old school by checking out some photos here:

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On Monday, October 1st, 2012, GMI convened 50 people from Milan and around the area to discuss the future of the old Milan School. A translator for Chuukese, Micronesian native language, and Spanish were hired for this event. There was daycare provided for the children of those parents who were able to attend the meeting. Of course, there was a great food buffet for everyone to eat together at the beginning of the meeting.

GMI Forum

The World Cafe style of meeting was used to discuss the challenges and possibilities of the old school.


First, everyone was asked to list all of the activities that go on in the old building already.


The ideas were endless! Attendees were given the opportunity to brainstorm about their vision for the building. Each table was given a floor map of the old school for everyone to imagine the potential for all of the spaces located within and around the school.

Ann Thompson, a GMI Board Member, looking happy as a result of all of the great ideas.

DSC_0696DSC_0704As a way to harvest everyone’s ideas, we hung up all of the floor maps with drawings of the re-imagined spaces. It was the highlight of the evening! All of the participants seemed to be energized with each new idea that was thrown out there.DSC_0798

Music Studio! Apartments! Library! Cultural Center! Lodging! Wood Shop! Food Shelf! Community Garden! Air-conditioned Gym! Solar Bakery! Food Exchange/Market! Art Studios! Swimming Pool!



Jeremy Losinski working hard at facilitating the dialogue.


The meeting was actually rescheduled for November 5th, 2012.

A second meeting was planned as a way to get into deeper discussion about the possible reuses of the old school building. Again, translators, daycare, and food was provided for the 50 people who showed up to continue the conversation. This time, the dialogue was  focused on 5 specific ideas for the building that were the most popular ideas that came out of the first meeting.

DSC_0659DSC_0639DSC_0638Both meetings went great but still, it was just dialogue. Many people often leave these type of meetings feeling like they want to do something, to see action. So a third meeting has been planned for this Tuesday, February 12th, 2013, at 5:30 PM at the Old Milan School. This time, a more action oriented dialogue will be used with a focus on getting a Daycare Center started in the building for the community. It was determined from the first two meetings that this was a vital need for families in Milan and around the area. I can’t wait for it and if I make it on time to the meeting, I plan to report back about what comes of it!

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