Giving a positive spin to the Northside


Five public workshops, running from June 23 through July 30, have cast a wide net for community input for the Northside Marketing Task Force’s (NMTF) new campaign to build a community identity for North Minneapolis. Workshops were conducted at PCYC School, Minneapolis North Regional Library, Harrison Community Center, Webber Park and Minneapolis Urban League.

Gabriel Castaneda, CEO of Affinity Marketing, led these sessions with a structure he calls the “identity pyramid.” The workshops brought a large volume of input from highly energized audiences.

The Task Force was first organized in spring 2006 to build a stronger, more positive identification for the Northside. Community leaders decided to roll up all the efforts aimed at Northside promotion into one consolidated program. Supporting organizations include Northside businesses, neighborhood groups, public agencies, churches and others who have a stake in a vital social and economic fabric for the Northside.

Initial funding for the 2006 work of program organization and identifying key goals came from Northway Community Trust. The end-goals of the Marketing Task Force are to operate its own hub for community-wide information via the Internet, “Telling our story,” “Working with the press” and “Working with youth” – all by 2009.

The Task Force chair, octogenarian Jim Wentzell, enjoyed telling Camden News that he rejected the suggestion of a five-year plan and said it had to be three instead. He said he had to be “sure of being around to see it all accomplished.” Wentzell becomes most enthusiastic when talking about the long-term benefit of working with youth to instill positive feelings and a positive outlook for their community.

The “identity pyramid” Castaneda used to organize workshop discussions started with an inventory of the Northside’s “Tangible Strengths”: geographic and physical features, such as number of parks, number of schools, diversity of shops and stores, proximity to downtown, proximity to the city’s highways.

Inventorying “Intangible Strengths” (human, emotional, spiritual, cultural) was the second process through which Castaneda steered, or sometimes drove, the audiences. His dynamic style and easy sense of humor made the process fun for those who attended.

To crown the top of the pyramid, the workshop groups were asked to contribute key thoughts that would describe the “Community Personality” and “Community Identity Summary.”

From this broad-based gathering of ideas, attitudes and perceptions in this summer’s workshops, the Task Force will develop a platform of consistent, positive messages for the Northside’s long-term marketing and information projects.

Northside Marketing Task Force officers in addition to Wentzell are Chuck Robinson, Vice-Chair; Lara Bollweg, Secretary; Cheryl Swain, Treasurer. Serving on NMTF Interim Board are Denise Arnette-Carter, Brock Hanson, Crystal Johnson, Kurt Lawrason, Travis Lee and Calvin Littlejohn.