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Streamlining to Make Local Government/University Collaboration Easier

Hennepin-University Partnership Logo
Date: 
August 15, 2007
Contact person: 

In late 2004, Hennepin County, Minnesota's largest local unit of government with 22% of the state’s population, and the University of Minnesota, the state’s premier research institution, initiated an effort to capture value for both organizations through a more strategic collaboration—connecting the two organizations where mutual benefit can be found. The Hennepin-University Partnership builds from existing and historical collaboration towards a sustained and productive relationship that benefits both entities.

As Minnesota’s largest county with more than 1.1 million residents, Hennepin County works to ensure health, safety, and quality of life. As a land-grant institution with more than 65,000 students and 18,000 employees, the University of Minnesota is a national leader among research universities and the state’s largest post-secondary educational institution.

Through the partnership, both Hennepin and the University benefit by:

  • conducting community-based research to address vexing social problems
  • increasing opportunities for University students to gain real-world experience in the areas of public health, transportation, education, and social sciences
  • sharing academic and practitioner expertise to improve both public policy and research outcomes

Examples of recent collaborations include:

  • Transportation—A multi-year research program has been launched to study and learn more about how the introduction of major transitways, such as the Hiawatha light rail line, impacts the surrounding community in terms of impacts on property values, land use patterns, travel behaviors, and economic growth.

  • Ending Homelessness—The Dean of the University’s College of Design has been working with a county commissioner on reducing homelessness—providing expertise and student involvement on the Homeless Connect project, and coordinating the University’s role in helping to achieve the goal of ending homelessness.
  • Boys and Books—Evaluative research was conducted in mid-2006 by the College of Education and Human Development in conjunction with Hennepin County Libraries to determine the effectiveness of an innovative reading program for boys and to recommend ways to increase interest in reading with this population.
  • Health of the Community—The County Public Health division recently completed a survey effort to measure the health of the community (SHAPE survey). County staff will be working with University researchers on joint analysis of this high-quality data.

Although the main purpose of the Hennepin-University Partnership is to catalyze new connections, the partnership also strives to break down barriers that impede collaborative projects. A history of bureaucratic and legal hassles associated with contracting between Hennepin and the University has deterred those who have good ideas, but not the time for working through knotty contracting issues. To address this barrier, a Master Cooperative Agreement between Hennepin County and the University of Minnesota has been developed. The Master Cooperative Agreement will streamline the process by which Hennepin County and the University of Minnesota initiate joint research projects, putting a greater focus on getting results and less on unnecessary process steps.

The Master Cooperative Agreement will be signed by:

  • Commissioner Randy Johnson, Chair of the Hennepin County Board
  • Robert Jones, University Senior Vice President for System Academic Administration
  • Tim Mulcahy, University Vice President for Research
  • Richard Pfutzenreuter, University Chief Financial Officer

A signing ceremony will take place at 8:00 a.m. on Friday, August 24, 2007 in the Dale Shepard Room, 4th Floor of the Coffman Memorial Union Building.

For more information, contact Kathie Doty at 612-625-4383.