Blandin takes a look at last two years with grantees such as Chisago Lakes Area

  • Regularly the Blandin Foundation takes a look at the various communities they have been working with to promote, deploy and use better broadband. They use the Mountain of Accountability Framework as a tool to help learn from the past two years. The graphic to the right gives an overview of the pieces of the assessment.  You can check out the full report to find out how many YouTube subscribers the Blandin Broadband channel has or total amount of grants awarded. But my favorite part is checking in on each of the communities helped – and for sake of archive and brevity of post I’m going to share them each separately:

The Chisago Lakes Initiative (CLI) is a partnership formed in 2017 under the Initiative Foundation focused on supporting economic revitalization and quality of life in the
area, which is defined by the Chisago Lakes School District boundary in the southern part of the county. It serves as a cohesive voice for the five main municipalities located along
the Hwy 8 corridor: Chisago City, Lindstrom, Center City, Shafer, and Taylors Falls. Internet connectivity is a particular challenge to the area, and limits opportunity.
Two of the BBC projects implemented by the CLI team directly address the region’s limited broadband access. They purchased forty-five mobile cellular hotspots with unlimited data for community use. The hotspots were offered first to Chisago Lakes School District students who lacked adequate broadband to succeed in at-home learning. Remaining hotspots will be lent to community
members through the East Central Regional Library.
The Chisago Lakes team also conducted a community survey to gather data on current internet satisfaction levels and unmet needs; and promoted the Minnesota Speed Test
initiative. They will use this data to l help them talk with providers, community leaders, and legislators about broadband infrastructure needs across the region.
The COVID-19 pandemic hit seniors especially hard, greatly limiting social interactions.
Another project sought to provide devices and training to older adults, so they have a comfortable and safe way to learn and socialize.
Classes covered a variety of topics such as videoconference platforms, email, google and iCloud, social media, and more.
The school district, HRA-EDA, cable commission, and local manufacturers teamed up to produce virtual manufacturing tours to expand students’ exposure to technology and manufacturing as a career choice in the time of COVID. In-person tours have been offered to students for several years, but that isn’t as feasible now. Students will be able to the videos in school and then
connected with the business via videoconference
to ask questions and get a feel for the culture of
the workplace. Originally the team had hoped to
produce eight video tours, but because of scheduling difficulties and greater than anticipated production time they have narrowed it down to five – of which three are complete. All will be available for viewing on the Chamber’s
Finally, the Chisago Lakes Area sought to showcase local businesses with a new website for the Chisago Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce. The new website is easier to navigate and includes a data management system to provide higher value to the membership and community at large.

Sidebar: “This Blandin grant has given us is an opportunity to move and to do big, cool things for our community, despite all the noise and all the nonsense that’s happening outside of our doors. I am so appreciative for that because I feel right now is a time people are leaning into desperation in a lot of ways…We’ve been able to move forward, be unstuck in a very stuck time…which has made coming to work a lot of fun… thank you… you gave us the WD-40 we needed this past year.”
– Katie Malchow
Executive Director
Chisago Lakes Area
Chamber of Commerce

This entry was posted in BCBP, Blandin Foundation, MN by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (, hosts a radio show on MN music (, supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota ( and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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