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Tonya Allen calls on us to be 'solutionaries'

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Highlights from an event held every year at the University of Minnesota called "The Celebration of John Brandl and his Uncommon Quest for the Common Good." 

The keynote speaker was Tonya Allen, president and CEO of the Skillman Foundation in Detroit. 

In keeping with the spirit of former Minnesota State Senator John Brandl's reputation for compromise, Tonya Allen calls on us to be "solutionaries." 

A "solutionary," she said, is a bridge builder, an inventive activist and a person interested in doing things a better way.

She spoke of the lessons learned in Detroit. "Sometimes really smart ideas have shown limited results, and some really risky ideas — people said you must be crazy if you do that work — have shown extraordinary results." 

"I often say content without context yields strident, singular, wins. And context without content is righteous stagnation." 

"Smart doesn't solve problems. Money doesn't solve problems. People do. But people need to be enabled with smart money, smart ideas, and clarity about the context." 

We are "intellectually ghettoized in this country," Allen said. "We need to build bridges, not walls. We need to understand why people distrust and earn that trust."

Allen called for persistence in addressing the problems of equity, community and opportunity and said we need "smashing audacity." 

A panel discussion followed her talk, which included Robert Doar of the American Enterprise Institute and Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution. The moderator was Laura Bloomberg, dean of the University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs. The event was held Nov. 26, 2018.