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2021 Year-End Research Highlights


The end of the year provides a great opportunity to reflect. Wilder Research staff conducted research and evaluation for 156 nonprofits, government agencies, foundations and community organizations to help them better serve and support Minnesota residents and communities during especially challenging times. Here are just a few highlights.

Hennepin County Trauma-Informed, Culturally Specific Programs

We’ve long known that Black boys and teenagers are disproportionately burdened by the juvenile corrections system. Our evaluation for the Hennepin County Department of Community Corrections and Rehabilitation examined the benefits of culturally specific, trauma-informed programs for African American male-identified youth focused on preventing and intervening in juvenile justice system involvement. Youth and families reported positive changes because of the programs, including feeling connected to staff and improving coping skills. Hennepin County is using what they learned to expand programs, services, and evaluation funding. Listen to a recent podcast episode on the work.

Great Plains Senior Services Collaborative

A 2018 AARP survey of adults shows that 3 out of 4 adults age 50 and older want to stay in their homes as they age. We evaluated the Great Plains Senior Services Collaborative, which supports staff from Lutheran Social Service-Minnesota, Lutheran Social Service-North Dakota, and St. John’s United-Montana in their work serving older adults in rural areas to improve their health and help them remain in their homes. The study provided information about leadership and staff perspectives on the Collaborative’s efforts, accomplishments, and long-term sustainability. Learn more about our partnership with the Collaborative.

Women’s Recovery Services

Women’s Recovery Services is an initiative of the Minnesota Department of Human Services Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division, with 12 grantees across Minnesota providing treatment support and recovery services for pregnant and parenting women who have substance use disorders and their families. Our evaluation helped to understand women’s progress and the effectiveness of the grantee programs. Key findings include: stable and supportive housing makes a difference, connections to mental health services are linked to sobriety and reunification, and successfully completing treatment increases the likelihood of achieving positive outcomes. Read about what we’ve learned in the 10 years we’ve evaluated the initiative.

Hennepin County Foster Care System

Our evaluation of Hennepin County Foster Care examined the needs and gaps in the system, including the needs of foster providers, and the needs, safety, and stability for youth in foster care. The study results and recommendations highlighted the importance of foster home preparation services that understand and respect youth histories, training on trauma and responding to subsequent behavioral issues, a need for more responsive county workers who give youth and families information on each step of the process, and service navigators who help foster families meet the needs of the children in their care. The project also uncovered the need for revamping data systems to better understand how the foster care system is working. Read a Star Tribune article about the study.

Metropolitan Council Parks and Trails

In the past two years, Wilder Research worked diligently with the Metropolitan Council to complete a major study of park and trail visitors, despite COVID-19 setbacks. This summer, data collection staff conducted over 5,400 in-person surveys at over 100 parks and trails across the 7-county metro. The survey asked visitors about their reasons for visiting, activities they did at the site, information for planning their visit, and more. The data will be used to inform planning, policy and management; evaluate and strengthen equitable usage of regional parks and trails in accordance with the 2040 Regional Parks Policy Plan; and help determine funding.

Minnesota Historical Society Extraordinary Women Exhibit

The Minnesota Historical Society wanted to learn about how visitors were engaging with its Extraordinary Women exhibit. Our study unobtrusively observed visitors to understand how they interacted with the exhibit, where they spent their time, and what key messages they left with. The results will help MHS understand their audiences better and guide changes needed to improve current and future exhibits.

Sawtooth Mountain Clinic Childhood Needs Assessment

Cook County (and many rural areas) desperately need child care! This key finding came from an early childhood needs assessment we conducted with Sawtooth Mountain Clinic, Cook County Public Schools, and Cook County Health and Human Services. The community is using the results to brainstorm ways to resolve this childcare crisis in their community. Learn more about the study and read the report.

Minnesota Compass Leadership and STEM Sections

Minnesota Compass launched the new Who Leads in MN? section, which provides data about Minnesota’s institutional leaders, plus resources to help champion diverse and inclusive leadership. Compass also revamped the STEM in Minnesota section featuring a new framework, measures, and resources to guide STEM stakeholders in eliminating barriers and creating environments, opportunities, and engagement that allow youth and adults to see themselves in STEM, learn, and succeed.



Explore more research reports and stories from 2021

Explore more research studies and findings from 2021 by browsing our Research Library. Find hundreds of free research reports, summaries, and infographics on topics like homelessness, mental health, community safety, and more.