Envision Minnesota has merged with the Great Plains Institute,
and this website is no longer
being updated.

Please visit the Great Plains Institute website for current information.






The items listed here represent highlights of the work of Envision Minnesota (formerly known as 1000 Friends of Minnesota). We were incorporated as 1000 Friends of Minnesota in 1998. We merged with the Great Plains Institute July 1, 2013.

Governor's Playbook: Investments for a Competitive and Healthy Minnesota

Envision Minnesota published the Governor's Playbook in 2010, positing that where and how we invest will shape Minnesota’s future. The report proposes specific principles and goals for state development and a vision for how and where the state should grow in the long term. It also provides criteria that will be used to evaluate state investments based on how they help to achieve the state’s development goals. The report recommends that a qualified individual report directly to the Governor whose primary responsibility is to ensure coordination of state investments. The report was the result of a collaboration with the following organizations: Envision Minnesota | Alliance for Metropolitan Stability | Fresh Energy |
Growth and Justice | ISAIAH | Metropolitan Economic Development Association | Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy | Minnesota Brownfields | Minnesota Housing Partnership | Preservation Alliance of Minnesota | Transit for Livable Communities | Trust for Public Land.

Community Growth Options

Community Growth Options (CGO) is a multi-year project funded by the McKnight Foundation designed to deliver to small, fast-growing communities financial and other assistance for community planning, ordinance development and implementation. The project was launched in 2008 and concluded in 2011. We worked with the following communities: Afton, Becker Township, Center City, Corcoran, Jordan, Livonia Township, Norwood Young America, Pine Island, Princeton and Victoria.

Legacy Letters

Envision Minnesota partnered with Twin Cities Public Television (tpt) to co-produce a series of one-minute Legacy Letters videos featuring individuals who talk about what they treasure most in Minnesota. They began airing on the Minnesota Channel in 2009. A new set of Legacy Letters funded by a Minnesota Historical and Cultural Grant was created in spring 2011 to feature individuals' connections to aspects of Minnesota's history. The newest Legacy Letters began to air in July 2011.

Re:Focus: Making Choices for Future Generations

Our staff worked with the McKnight Foundation in 2008 to write, edit and publish the Re:Focus report on growth and change in the edge communities of the Twin Cities metro, and how citizens can participate in shaping the future of their communities.

A Citizen’s Guide to Influencing Local Land-Use Decisions

Envision Minnesota worked with Minnesota Waters in 2007 to co-author the Citizen’s Guide to assist citizens in becoming more knowledgeable about the development process and inspire people to become engaged and proactive in their communities.

Technical Resource Center

In 2007, Envision Minnesota established the Growing By Design Technical Resource Center to assist communities with affordable, innovative land-use analysis. We continue to work with townships, cities, counties, governmental agencies, and nonprofits to provide technical support during the planning process, offer data analysis and presentation, and build staff capacity.

Lake-Friendly Development Awards

Envision Minnesota has partnered with other Brainerd Lakes Area environmental organizations and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources since 1993 to recognize commendable examples of lake-friendly development. Homeowners, contractors and local units of government have been recognized over the years for developing or redeveloping their riparian properties in full compliance with shoreland zoning ordinances and ecologically sustainable and sensitive principles.

Balanced Growth Implementation

Envision Minnesota worked directly with three localities — Northfield, Mayer, and Florence Township — to provide assistance with the implementation of each community’s vision and to reconcile their ordinances with other planning documents. Our staff also interviewed nearly 40 individuals around the state to identify barriers and obstacles to the implementation of smart or balanced growth.

Washington County pilot PDR program success

Envision Minnesota was very involved in a successful Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) program in Washington County during Spring 2001. The program successfully negotiated conservation easements to permanently protect three significant parcels of land in the county.

Minnesota Business for Balanced Growth

The completed phases of the project laid the groundwork for organizing a number of significant Minnesota businesses into a group focused on Balanced Growth. Over 40 companies participated in roundtable discussions on how to come together around a common mission statement and a set of working principles.

Voices for the Land

We sponsored these essays about the beauty of our state, written by Minnesotans and published by us for general distribution. An anthology was published in 2002 through a partnership between 1000 Friends and The Minnesota Historical Society. Voices for the Land: Minnesotans Write About the Places They Love celebrates Minnesota’s treasured landscape through heartfelt essays and beautiful photographs taken by Star Tribune photojournalist Brian Peterson.

Voices for the City

Following the resounding success of Voices for the Land, Envision Minnesota decided to gather essays for a companion piece – Voices for the City. Voices for the City commemorates those places and things that give the city its unique sense of place. Minnesota’s urban centers are exciting and vital.

Voices for the Lakes

Envision Minnesota collected essays by Minnesotans about the lakes they treasure from the perspective of residents, tourists, fishermen, and those who simply enjoy the natural setting. We collected the best submissions and posted them on our website.

Smart Growth Network

We organized Minnesota’s Smart Growth Network, a broad and diverse coalition of over 40 organizations teaming up to help Minnesota grow responsibly and sensibly.

Smart Growth Design Awards

We sponsored these awards that are given to outstanding examples of residential and mixed developments in urban, suburban and rural settings that embrace the principles and spirit of Smart Growth.

Growing Smart in Minnesota Conferences

We organized three Smart Growth conferences with about 1,500 people from throughout the state in attendance. We secured Maryland Governor Parris Glendening to speak about the innovative Smart Growth policies in his state at one of the conferences. Governor Ventura also spoke at two of the conferences.

Community-Based Planning Act

We created and helped pass the first statewide land-use planning framework in the Upper Midwest. This legislation has encouraged dozens of cities, townships and counties across the state to work together to vigorously plan for what they want their communities and countryside to look like.

Community Visioning

We are one of a few nonprofits in the country to receive a limited release of Community Viz software from the Orton Family Foundation. This software is an innovative tool to facilitate more informed and inclusive land use decisions. We have used our Community Viz technology to successfully lead rural communities facing rapid urbanization through an extensive and inclusive visioning process.

Green Corridor Project

We encouraged a collaborative of agencies and organizations to begin the process of creating a permanently protected corridor of green space. At our initiative, Washington and Chisago Counties, the Minnesota Farmers Union, the Trust for Public Land, the Minnesota Land Trust, and the Rural Community Initiative came together to get this job done.

Envision Minnesota Newsletter (formerly called Land Patterns)

We publish a biennial newsletter for our members and important decision makers, informing them about our current activities and alerting them to important land development situations in Minnesota.

On-Site Assistance

We provide assistance, resources, training and support to communities, local and state policy makers and citizens as they attempt to meet the challenges of rapid growth.

Legislative Efforts

We help create and pass state policies that enable local units of government to more proactively protect open space and protect farmers from assessments related to urbanization. We also encourage forms of legislation that will protect Minnesota’s natural beauty and open spaces.

Illustrative Sprawl Maps

Utilizing the Geographic Information Systems, we created a set of five color maps that dramatically illustrate the sprawling development of the Twin Cities from 1970 to the present and projected out to 2020.

The Sprawl Primer

We created and distributed this attractive, fact-filled folder of information on sprawl that provides tools for citizen activists and local officials who are fighting on the front lines against urban sprawl.