More than 86,000 Minneapolis residents live in poverty. Many of them were born into poverty and have yet to escape. As generational poverty takes root, gaps in education, parenting, health, and employment grow wider. Without resources to tackle all aspects of poverty, families are far less likely to break the cycle. Outside groups often fail in their attempts to repair the fissures in a community, lacking the right knowledge, context, and credibility. Meaningful change comes from within communities rather than from outside them.
Urban Ventures is a movement of committed neighbors, bold dreamers, and pragmatic optimists called to do whatever it takes to transform their south Minneapolis community from the inside out. With a vision to see a city without urban poverty, Urban Ventures addresses the complexity of poverty from all angles. Focusing on education, parenting, nutrition, and employment, Urban Ventures operates programs that holistically serve the needs of a family.
- Youth programs provide sports and music activities, leadership development, enrichment programs, entrepreneurship, and mentoring to give children the emotional, social, and academic support they need to lead stable, healthy lives.
- Family and parenting programs address the devastating consequences of fatherlessness in poverty-ridden neighborhoods. Case management services help parents identify and overcome barriers, including substance abuse and mental health issues. The Siempre Padres (Forever Parents) program works with Latino families in the community to break dysfunctional, destructive habits.
- Food and nutrition programs create access to healthy and affordable food in neighborhoods dubbed to be food deserts. Over 45,000 lbs. of fresh food is grown by neighborhood youth and adults working an urban farm operation, many of whom are employed in their first job. The food is sold at a subsidized rate, and families are taught how to incorporate the food into their everyday diets.
A key component of both the nutrition and employment programs, CityKid is Urban Ventures’ social enterprise initiative. Businesses are designed to provide youth skills training and employment experiences while also cultivating healthy, sustainable food products. Enterprises include CityKid Java, CityKid Farms, CityKid Markets, and CityKid Honey.
In the 24 years since Urban Ventures’s founding, the organization has witnessed the positive impact of working directly with residents to understand and solve persistent poverty-related issues. Rather than running people out of dangerous neighborhoods, Urban Ventures works with residents to establish a safe community and fill the gaps that trap people in the cycle of poverty. With an agile model to adapt to the community’s changing needs, Urban Ventures is constantly listening to those they serve in efforts to grow their impact.
Art Erickson co-founded Urban Ventures in 1993 after 25 years in ministry. At the time, Minneapolis was known as “murderapolis” for the devastating gang violence, crime, and drugs that infiltrated low-income communities. John Turnipseed was once a key gang leader responsible for such destruction. The first adult client of Urban Ventures, John is now the Executive Vice President and helps thousands of families per year experience the kind of transformation he experienced. Together along with other staff, volunteers, and community partners, Urban Ventures hands-on approach has been a key driver of rejuvenating and revitalizing Minneapolis’ south side.
Urban Ventures is a 2017 S+ Catalyst. Through participation in the Catalyst Program, Urban Ventures receives training from industry experts in organizational development, branding, measurement and growth, and strategic relationships to amplify their impact and strategically expand their reach.