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Eight Inventions, Breakthroughs and Workarounds to Central Minnesota's Toughest Nonprofit Challenges

By Mackenzie Lobby
Photography by John Linn

Innovative solutions aren’t solely the province of business or industry. Nor are they cooked up by Einstein-level geniuses. In fact, all across central Minnesota, nonprofits are creatively solving a host of social challenges. 

“What worked in an organization twenty years ago may not work anymore because both the people and needs have changed,” said Jeannette Bineham, the executive director of the Center for Nonprofit Excellence and Social Innovation, a St. Cloud-based organization that works to infuse creativity into the nonprofit sector. 

These eight central Minnesota pioneers inspire not only the people they serve, but also their communities and fellow nonprofits. >>

Power to the People

Rural Renewable Energy Alliance


Jason Edens  |  RREAL Director

One of only two organizations in the United States to offer solar heat to lowincome families, Rural Renewable Energy Alliance’s (RREAL) Solar Assistance program is in a league of its own. “Our intention is to provide a long-term, clean, domestic source of energy assistance that also empowers the families who are receiving it,” said director Jason Edens. 

An Initiative Foundation grantee and nonprofit award winner, the program not only helps the environment, it also makes it possible for families to not have to choose heating over eating. Solar Assistance also saves the state’s energy assistance program money—an enormous plus considering the state spends nearly 80 million dollars every year to serve less than a quarter of the 800,000 Minnesotans who are eligible. 

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