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Communication and Connectivity: Ethiopian ‘Immersion Lab’ in Woodbury Prepares to Wrap up Proposals

The Immersion Lab program aimed to help community leaders and Ethiopian residents identify their needs and formulate their own solutions.

By Maureen McMullen (Woodbury Bulletin) |

Improved communication and unity dominated the objectives members of the Twin Cities’ Ethiopian community pinpointed during their brainstorming sessions with the Human Immersion Lab in Woodbury.

A coordination among the Woodbury YMCA, Woodbury Community Foundation, Woodbury Thrives and Minneapolis-based Mission Impact Council, the Immersion Lab took place in three four-hour brainstorming sessions over two months.

The program aimed to help community leaders and Ethiopian residents identify their needs and formulate their own solutions.

During the group’s meeting Oct. 14, participants discussed a need to strengthen the community’s connection between youths and elders as well as among the different ethnic groups.

Ethiopia is home to more than 80 unique tribes and languages. The “elephant in the room,” as one participant described it, was the failure of some previous Ethiopian leadership organizations to focus on their entire community rather than their specific ethnicity.

Dereje Wudmatas, a YMCA accounting manager who spoke at the most recent session, said the community previously had few opportunities to collectively discuss the future for Ethiopian youth.

“This was the first thing that everyone has in their heart but were waiting for the right platform to start talking about it,” Dereje said.

About two-dozen participants broke into smaller groups throughout the sessions to discuss three focus areas: after-school opportunities, youth leadership and education and employment.

All three workgroups agreed digital media would play a key role in their proposed projects.