People in rural Minnesota want programs that enable them to live a good life and take care of their community. But rural representatives from both parties have consistently failed to take action. That changed in 2023 when Minnesota passed an ambitious agenda for widespread prosperity supported by new legislators backed by a growing group of local organizers.

The progress Minnesotans saw in 2023 resulted from a decade of organizing efforts throughout the state.

Flashback to 2014, when pastor Todd Lippert in rural Minnesota wad advocating for access to driver’s licenses regardless of citizenship. The Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) majority there initially refused to pass this measure and then lost control of the statehouse. For Todd, it was a wake-up call that “we needed to be more deeply engaged with legislators” and also “have more power to get legislators to do what communities needed.”

Over the next few years, Todd worked with the community organization ISAIAH to convene weekly meetings with grassroots organizers and elected officials in southern Minnesota to learn together and create a path of co-governance. Simultaneously, ISAIAH helped build a statewide coalition with a coordinated policy roadmap and communication plan. Rural leaders like Todd were at the core of the coalition, championing the dignity and worth of rural people.

In 2022, voters chose a governing trifecta that championed the coalition’s policy agenda. Things were different this time; the coalition had a mobilized base, organizational capacity, strong relationships with elected leadership, and a shared mandate.

Todd and other ISAIAH organizers continued to press for priority policies. They held press conferences, sent letters, gave public testimony, and organized district meetings. Minnesota passed sweeping legislation for widespread prosperity, including paid family and medical leave, affordable healthcare, universal school meals, and improved access to child care and early education. Minnesota also adopted an important clean energy plan, protected reproductive rights, improved access to voting, and ensured the opportunity for driver's licenses for all.