HomeGrantsIntroducing the 2021 DEIJ Awardees

Introducing the 2021 DEIJ Awardees

In acknowledgment of the role social inequality has played in perpetuating disproportionate environmental outcomes, the Institute on the Environment established the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice (DEIJ) Grant program in 2018. The $30,000 fund accelerates 3 – 6 projects each granting cycle that help people and the planet prosper together more equitably and justly. 

This spring, IonE received 13 highly competitive proposals from across the UMN system and selected three to receive DEIJ Grants. “The three projects chosen were exemplary in addressing systemic inequality at the intersection of environmental issues,” says IonE Administrative Director April Snyder. But the other proposals were also exceptional and worthy of funding. For IonE’s partners, Snyder has a call: ”We have a handful of powerful projects that weren’t chosen and only need an investment of $10k each to get started!” 

Below, read about the winning 2021 DEIJ Grant projects and how they take a fresh look at how to create a more just world.

DEIJ and Sustainability of Indigenous Mountain Farmers: an Online Community Building and a Shareable Teaching Module Development

This project aims to create an online networking platform for Indigenous smallholder farmers in mountain regions, which will also inform the development of new teaching modules for undergraduate students. “The livelihoods of mountain Indigenous farmers are increasingly threatened by economic challenges and climate changes, while mountains are often the global hotspots of biodiversity,” says project lead PI Kyungsoo Yoo. He notes that although these farmers make critical contributions to food security in developing countries, their voices are underrepresented among academics and practitioners in agricultural and sustainability science. “Having their voices heard and educating our students about their significant contributions to global food security is important,” he says. 

The project team will use three collaborative approaches toward networking Indigenous women farmers in Mexico’s mountain regions and increasing the campus and public awareness of mountain Indigenous farming. “First, we will document their farming. Second, we will collaboratively create an online platform for networking their underrepresented voices,” Yoo explains. Finally, “these online activities will produce teaching materials for UMN undergraduate students that highlight the intersections of Indigenous farmers, mountain environments, food production, and sustainability.”

Principal Investigators (PIs): Kyungsoo Yoo (Lead PI; associate professor, Department of Soil, Water, and Climate), Julie Grossman (Co-PI, associate professor, Department of Horticultural Science)

Team Members: Azucena Sierra Garcia (graduate student, Department of Land and Atmosphere Science, Fulbright Scholar), alongside international scholars and Indigenous farmers from mountainous regions

Bois Forte Food Sovereignty-Solar Commons Research Partnership

Solar Commons Project (SCP) conducts research that facilitates access for low-wealth communities to the economic benefits of a sustainable energy transition through community trust ownership of solar energy assets. The trusts they develop convert solar energy into common wealth by aggregating savings on a host’s electric bills into a common pool of revenues that can go toward reparative, regenerative social-ecological work. For this project, SCP and the Bois Forte Food Sovereignty Group (BFFSG) will collaborate on designing a long-term, peer-governed community economy tool to support the work of rebuilding the Bois Forte Indigenous community’s traditional food economy. As part of this work, they will partner with local solar manufacturer Heliene to build and host a 500kW “living lab” Solar Common on the Iron Range.

PIs: Kathryn Milun (Lead PI; director of SCP, IonE Fellow, MN Design Center Fellow, UMD associate professor), Jonee Brigham (Co-PI, MN Design Center Fellow, UMD College of Design Fellow), Doug Thompson (Co-PI, assistant professor, UMD American Indian Studies Department)

Team Members: Dani Pieratos (BFFSG), Nikki Love (BFFSG)

Equity in Green Jobs for Eastside St. Paul Residents

The rapid transition to carbon-free energy is creating new green jobs and economic development opportunities. In order to help BIPOC and low-income communities equitably share in these opportunities, Renewable Energy Partners (REP) has been working to educate North Minneapolis residents on advanced energy systems and climate action and to build accessible skills training programs in these emerging fields. For this DEIJ Grant project, REP and UMN will work with St. Paul Port Authority to develop and implement similar community engagement and skills training initiatives. The project will take place as part of the Hillcrest Redevelopment Project on the Eastside of St. Paul, a neighborhood with similar demographic characteristics to North Minneapolis. 

PIs: Akisha Everett (Lead PI; IonE, UMN), Jamez Staples (REP), Michael Krause (REP)

Rupsa Raychaudhuri is a UMN junior majoring in Political Science and Economics with minors in Statistics and Psychology.

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