On June 12, West Central Initiative, the University of Minnesota Morris, and the City of Morris will host the first 17 Rooms event in Minnesota. This dynamic, day-long gathering at the University of Minnesota Morris campus aims to unite approximately 200 participants from across the state and beyond, connecting Minnesota with a global community working to address the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the blueprint for achieving a better and more sustainable future for all.

“17 Rooms – West Central Minnesota represents a pivotal opportunity to come together, exchange ideas, and chart a course toward a more sustainable future,” said West Central Initiative President Anna Wasescha. “The SDGs are a powerful common language and framework for collaboration, sparking actions that will positively impact our region and beyond.” 

How the 17 Rooms concept works 

The 17 Rooms approach offers a fresh method of problem-solving, tailored to drive action toward SDG outcomes at the local level. Developed by the Center for Sustainable Development at Brookings and The Rockefeller Foundation, this innovative initiative ensures that all SDGs have a seat at the table, emphasizing conversations over presentations and encouraging participants to take practical steps toward advancing their goals. The aim of 17 Rooms is to identify next steps, not perfect steps, for the SDGs—actions that are “big enough to matter but sized right to get done” in 12-18 months. 

Tony Pipa, Senior Fellow in the Center for Sustainable Development at the Brookings Institution, shared his excitement about bringing the 17 Rooms process to the region. 

“I visit so many small and rural towns across our country, and it is clear to me that rural America is at the heart of what we mean by sustainable development: These are the places where conservation, stewardship, and care for community members are lived values,” Pipa said. “As west central Minnesota seeks to sustain its communities for future generations amid changes to the climate and the economy in the 21st century, we are so pleased to bring the 17 Rooms model here, to enable solutions and relationships that cross sectors, issues, and even differences to create a stronger, more resilient tomorrow for this beautiful place.”

The event’s agenda includes engaging plenary sessions centered on youth, civic engagement, climate action, and creating a brighter future for all. Key contributors in these sessions include:  

Dr. Heidi Roop, Director of the University of Minnesota Climate Adaptation Partnership and Assistant Professor of Climate Science and Extension Specialist at the University of Minnesota. 

Mark Ritchie, Former Secretary of State of Minnesota, Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the U.S. Army, National Secretary of the Board of Advisors of the U.S. Federal Elections Assistance Commission, and for the past decade working to bring a world expo to Minnesota focused on the SDGs. 

Tony Pipa, Senior Fellow in the Center for Sustainable Development at the Brookings Institution.   

At the heart of the event, participants will engage in the 17 Rooms activity, collaborating in 17 working rooms, each dedicated to a specific SDG. Guided by room leaders, these conversations aim to identify practical priorities and actions toward achieving the SDGs. Action proposals are then shared across rooms to identify opportunities for collaboration across goals, culminating in a high-energy rapid report highlighting key insights from each room. 

Express an interest in participating 

An essential part of the event’s success lies in the participants. 

“We’re inviting participants from within west central Minnesota, across Minnesota, and around the country. Students, engaged citizens, professionals from every sector, elected officials, and volunteers who lead out of love for their community—everyone is welcome to attend and contribute,” said Wasescha. “By working together on shared goals while honoring diverse viewpoints, we cultivate a sense of shared enthusiasm, opportunity, and responsibility.”  

For more information and to express interest in participating in 17 Rooms – West Central Minnesota, visit www.17rooms-mn.com. The event is free with lunch provided, but space is limited. Sign up today and be part of shaping a positive future for the region and beyond.