Five Organizations Win 2019 Bush Prize for Community Innovation

By Kathy Graves 




The Bush Foundation today awarded the 2019 Bush Prize for Community Innovation to five organizations with a track record of successful problem solving in their communities.

The Bush Prize celebrates organizations that are extraordinary not only in what they do but in how they do it. This year’s winners demonstrate a pattern of working inclusively, in partnership with others, to make the region better for all.

The Bush Prize, now in its seventh year, is awarded annually in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and the 23 Native nations that share the same geography.

The 2019 Bush Prize winners are:


Hmong American Partnership, Saint Paul ($500,000)

Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center, Minneapolis ($500,000)

Rural Renewable Energy Alliance, Backus ($408,000)

North Dakota

Valley City-Barnes County Development Corporation, Valley City ($358,000)

South Dakota

Wokini Initiative of South Dakota State University, Brookings ($500,000)

“The 2019 Bush Prize winners exhibit remarkable creativity and tenacity in addressing issues that are most important to their communities,” said Bush Foundation President Jennifer Ford Reedy. “Their problem solving builds strength not only in their local community but also in the entire region.”

Bush Prize winners receive a package that includes promotional support and materials and an unrestricted grant equal to 25 percent of the organization’s prior fiscal year budget, up to $500,000. The Foundation received 81 applications for the 2019 Bush Prize. Three panels of community members chose the winners from their respective states.

“This year’s winners are defined by their courage,” said Mandy Ellerton, Community Innovation Director. “They shake loose solutions to seemingly intractable problems by opening themselves up to surprising partnerships, sharing ownership and bringing together people who don’t always agree. This method of working takes guts, and our region is better because of their courage.”

“It is the honor of a lifetime to be recognized by the Bush Foundation along with these four other amazing organizations,” said HAP President and CEO Bao Vang. “The Bush Foundation is a catalyst for progress and growth in our state and the region, and we are beyond grateful for their support. We will use the prize to improve the livelihoods of our community members – both current and future – and build a more inclusive, prosperous Minnesota for everyone.”

The $500,000 prize was awarded to HAP for its “track record of successful problem solving” in the community, according to a press release issued by the foundation.

Learn more about the Bush Prize for Community Innovation, including winners from previous years, at

About The Hmong American Partnership

Hmong American Partnership (HAP) drives equity and prosperity for immigrants and refugees through a rare combination of social services and enterprises. A fierce entrepreneurial spirit fuels HAP’s ever-evolving programs and business ventures.

HAP’s focus has grown from refugee resettlement and youth gang-related violence programming to include workforce development, homeownership, micro-enterprise lending, culturally relevant youth education, and, most recently, health and wellness programming.

When businesses, workers and farmers came to HAP with overlapping concerns, the organization convened the community to discuss a solution that could work for all three sectors. HAP created a social enterprise focused on the high-demand hospitality industry that trains immigrants and refugees for critically needed positions in businesses and provides Hmong farmers with a new outlet to sell their produce. HAP also led the transformation of Community School of Excellence, developing a model for the charter school to select effective teachers and engage parents more successfully in their children’s education.

HAP addresses problems by beginning with a solution. When it observed the struggles its clients had with transportation, HAP leaders asked, what would it look like if transportation were available to all in the community? The organization developed a bus fleet that provides reliable transportation and jobs for Hmong people, and like other HAP enterprises, generates significant revenue that is reinvested in the community.

About the Bush Foundation

The Bush Foundation invests in great ideas and the people who power them in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and the 23 Native nations that share the same geography. Established in 1953 by 3M Executive Archibald Bush and his wife Edyth, the Foundation supports organizations and people to think bigger and think differently about what is possible in their communities. The Foundation works to inspire and support creative problem solving – within and across sectors – to make the region better for everyone.

HAP members receive Bush Foundation Award