Cara has worked at the intersection of community organizing and policy setting throughout the past 20 years, leading and contributing to an array of community-supporting efforts that have helped transform good ideas and community enthusiasm into results. Through Mill City Consulting, she supports community efforts and organizations to more effectively meet their missions and make positive impacts on the world, through non-profit management and organizational development, policy development and advocacy, and program development and coordination.
A few of the projects on which Cara has worked include:
City of Lakes Community Land Trust, Founder
In 2001, the housing market was red-hot, and housing prices were rapidly exceeding that which most families could afford. Minneapolis neighborhoods, affordable housing developers, and funders were interested in expanding ownership opportunities. As Executive Director of the Stevens Square Community Organization (SSCO) and a board member with Seward Redesign, Cara learned about the community land trust model, especially as it was applied in Burlington, Vermont and the Rondo neighborhood in St. Paul. This model makes a home affordable for a working family. Then, through a shared equity plan, preserves the affordability when the home is sold to the next family. She approached Powderhorn Residents Group (PRG) about their interest in pursuing a community land trust in Minneapolis. They were interested, but wanted partners. The Minneapolis Community Land Trusts Initiative was born as a project of PRG, the Powderhorn Park Neighborhood Association (PPNA), Seward Redesign, and the Lyndale Neighborhood Development Corporation (LNDC). Cara facilitated the collaborative, including all fundraising from private and public funders. She built support for the community land trust model with affordable housing stakeholders throughout the region, and designed the organizational mission, goals and structure. In fall 2002, the City of Lakes Community Land Trust was legally established. The City of Lakes Community Land Trust continues to grow and now provides affordable homeownership opportunities to 175 families, housing over 400 adults and children. Learn more here: http://clclt.org/
Interim Executive Director: Lyndale Neighborhood Association
In April, 2003, Cara was asked to step in as the Lyndale Neighborhood Association’s Interim Executive Director after the sudden departure of several staff members, including the Executive Director, and resignation of several board members. The Lyndale Neighborhood Association had become well-known and admired for its innovative, resident-led, asset-based model of community building, yet some of the remaining board members and staff were not fully aware of the roots or benefits, nor how to continue to support this unique approach through leadership transitions. As Interim Executive Director, Cara focused on rebuilding the capacity of volunteer Steering Committee and staff, including designing and setting up training systems for board and staff transitions so as to continue its resident-led asset-based model of community building. She also strengthened the financial management systems, rebuilt the organizing staff capacity, and supported the transition to a new Executive Director. The Lyndale Neighborhood Association continues to do great work. Check them out here: http://www.lyndale.org/
Project Coordinator: Lake Street Council?s Museum in the Streets: Lake Street
In 2011-2012, Cara worked with the Lake Street Council and community members to research, interpret, and design the Museum in the Streets: Lake Street project, which includes three separate bi-lingual historic walking tours along Lake Street in South Minneapolis. Together, the three distinct tours – Uptown: Minneapolis’s Lakes District; Midtown: A Place to Call Home; and 27th and Lake: Industry and Transportation Infrastructure include over 50 individual historic sites that tell the stories of the people, places, trends, and forces that make Lake Street what it is today. Cara continues to host guided walking tours and give talks on the history of Lake Street. To learn more, and to download a copy of a tour brochure, go to: http://lakestreetcouncil.org/programs/museum-in-the-streets
Day on the Hill Coordination and Advocacy Training
Cara has worked in multiple capacities – including community organizer, policy advocate, and lobbyist – to empower people in becoming advocates with elected officials on issues of importance to them. Through Mill City Consulting, LLC Cara organized Day on the Hill events in 2012 and 2013 for Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP-MN) advocating for health care for all. For these events Cara organized meetings, and led publicity efforts, message strategizing, and How-To-Talk-To-Your-Legislator training. She has also developed a training workshop that can be delivered to a wide variety of audiences.
Campaign Planning and Implementation
Cara is a strong believer in the (former U.S. Senator Paul) Wellstonian sentiment that politics can improve people’s lives and lessen human suffering. This belief has motivated her to become involved in many electoral campaigns for issues and candidates, beginning with delivering flyers for Presidential Candidate Walter Mondale as a college student in 1984. More recently, through Mill City Consulting, LLC Cara managed Linda Higgins’ 2012 campaign for the Hennepin County Board, Lisa Goodman’s 2013 reelection campaign for the Minneapolis City Council, and served as Deputy Campaign Manager/Political Director for Mark Andrew’s 2013 campaign for Minneapolis Mayor. Currently Cara serves on the State Political Action Committee for womenwinning, which has a mission to encourage, promote and support pro-choice women’s leadership in all political parties and levels of public office.
Strategic Planning: St. Paul Women on Bikes
St. Paul Women on Bikes (WoB), a program of St. Paul Smart Trips, works to make it safer and easier to ride a bike in St. Paul. With Cara’s help, WoB kicked off an in-depth strategic planning process in late 2014 to develop a 3-5 year strategic plan, and a one-year work plan that both spells out the best balance of programmatic activities and identifies how they can best integrate their strategies into community and city systems. The strategic planning steps include conducting an initial Discovery Phase focused on one-on-one interviews with stakeholders and focus groups with “unbiked” communities, holding work priority-setting sessions with the Advisory Group, drafting then testing the draft plan with external partners before the plan is finalized. Through Mill City Consulting, LLC Cara has also facilitated shorter strategic planning workshops and priority-setting sessions with leadership boards. To learn more about Smart Trips and St. Paul Women on Bikes, go to: http://www.smart-trips.org/for-advocates/about-women-on-bikes/
Blue Green Alliance (pro bono)
Lake Street Council’s Museum in the Streets: Lake Street Project
Neighborhood House (pro bono)
St. Paul Women on Bikes (a project of Smart Trips)