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About The Fellowship

A Social Enterprise Initiative To Make Greater Minnesota Even Greater

 The Initiators Fellowship is a big, bold strategy that provides the next generation of regional leaders the opportunity to use their entrepreneurial spirit to address society’s needs while building the business and leadership capacity of Greater Minnesota.

The current cohort of eight Fellows is in the process of starting or growing their social enterprise venture. Cohort 3 began January 2022 and will end December 2023. The cohort includes Fellows from four Minnesota Initiative Foundation regions that represent 53 counties and six native nations in Greater Minnesota.The current cohort runs for two years, from January 2022 through December 2023. The goal of the program is to strengthen each Fellow’s leadership within their respective communities and to support the growth and development of their social enterprise ventures.

Recruitment for the next cohort of the Initiators Fellowship will begin in spring 2023. In the meantime, sign up for the newsletter to stay connected.  

“The Fellowship really helps institutionalize mentoring for some of the most passionate and purposeful entrepreneurs and leaders—people who initiate change and improvement and progress in our communities. We are backing these people with the hope that they will develop a lifetime relationship with their region so that when they are going to start a new business or nonprofit, they will base it locally—and grow it locally.”
Rick Bauerly
Founder of St. Cloud-based Granite Partners, a major program funder

Minnesota Initiative Foundation Regions Served

The Initiative Foundation serves 14 counties and two native nations in Central Minnesota: Benton, Cass, Chisago, Crow Wing, Isanti, Kanabec, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Pine, Sherburne, Stearns, Todd, Wadena and Wright counties and the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe.

The Northwest Minnesota Foundation serves 12 counties and three native nations in northwest Minnesota: Beltrami, Clearwater, Hubbard, Kittson, Lake of the Woods, Mahnomen, Marshall, Norman, Pennington, Polk, Red Lake and Roseau counties and the Red Lake, White Earth and Leech Lake nations.


The Southwest Initiative Foundation serves 18 counties and two native nations in southwest Minnesota: Big Stone, Cottonwood, Chippewa, Jackson, Kandiyohi, Lac qui Parle, Lincoln,  Lyon, McLeod, Meeker, Murray, Nobles, Pipestone, Redwood, Renville, Rock, Swift and Yellow Medicine counties and the Lower Sioux and Upper Sioux Indian communities. 

The West Central Initiative serves nine counties and one tribal nation in west central Minnesota: Becker, Clay, Douglas, Grant, Otter Tail, Pope, Stevens, Traverse and Wilkin counties and the White Earth Nation.

History & Expansion

The Initiators Fellowship graduated its inaugural cohort in December 2018. 

The four Fellows were supported with two years of leadership and business development training with the goal of increasing the growth and impact of their social enterprise ventures and their commitment to serve as leaders within Central Minnesota. Program evaluations were strong, with Fellows reporting a 68 percent increase in valuable network connections made through the Fellowship.

The first cohort of Initiators Fellows reported a 68 percent increase in valuable network connections established during the Fellowship term. Fellows also reported an aggregate Net Promoter Score of 75. (A Net Promoter Score of 70 or more generally means a business or venture is generating strong and positive word-of-mouth referrals.)

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A Commitment to Home

At the conclusion of the program, all four Fellows reported an increased commitment to live and grow their social enterprise in the region where they live. Learn more about the 2017-2018 Fellows

The program’s early success encouraged other supporters to join the Initiative Foundation and founding funder Granite Partners in their goal to expand the program across Greater Minnesota by 2025.

The Bush Foundation, a strong booster of promoting social change through business enterprise and leadership development, has committed to a seven-year, $1.4 million investment. The first phase of the resulting expansion was a partnership with Southwest Initiative Foundation and West Central Initiative, which joined the program and selected Fellows for the 2020-2021 Cohort. The Northwest Minnesota Foundation joined for the 2022-2023 Cohort