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With support from Bush Foundation, Pollen and OTA networks merge

With help from the Bush Foundation, the merged OTA-Pollen will expand its networking and storytelling work in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.

OTA-Pollen Co-Executive Directors Meghan Murphy, Jamie Millard and Hugh Weber.
Photo by Abby Bischoff

Two regional networking organizations — Minnesota’s Pollen and South Dakota-based OTA — have merged and will combine Pollen’s digital platform with OTA’s series of physical meetings that bring together community builders and creative types.

Combining those digital and physical realms, the groups say, “might just spark a regional transformation in North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota with a world class network of individuals, organizations, communities and ideas.”

The new organization, OTA-Pollen, was brought together by the Bush Foundation, which is providing funding.

Leaders say the collaboration will further their missions of working to “collide and connect civic-minded and creative individuals.”

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Hugh Weber started the OTA collective in 2009 and has organized a series of events which, he says, serve “as catalysts for community-builders and change agents to improve the lives of all people living in South Dakota, North Dakota, and Minnesota.”

Pollen, founded in 2009 by Lars Leafblad, is billed as a “community composed of civic-minded connectors who share ideas, career and civic engagement opportunities and peer-to-peer recognition to create positive impact and personal and professional growth for its members.”

It publishes a twice-monthly newsletter, with selected content also appearing on MinnPost, an arrangement that will continue, Weber said. “Collaborations like this are a key part of our vision for the future,” he said.

Leafblad joined the Bush Foundation earlier this year as leadership and engagement director. Since August, Jamie Millard and Meghan Murphy have been the new “leadership stewards” of Pollen.

Leaders of the two groups credit the Bush Foundation for bringing them together. In the next six months, they will file for a new nonprofit status and assemble a board of directors. Currently, the new group is operating under MAP for Nonprofits umbrella.

Millard, Murphy and Weber will serve as co-executive directors.

“Together we are cultivating a petri dish of creativity, pragmatism and idealism from across the region and the globe,” Millard said.

They plan to use some of the money from the Bush Foundation to pay freelancers for creative work.

“We will seek out the most talented writers, illustrators, photographers and makers to competitively compensate them as they capture the inspiring stories of leaders throughout our region,” said Murphy, who will serve as creative executive director.

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The term “makers,” Weber said, “has actually become its own term for the collective of individuals that may feel less comfortable with inventors, artists or creatives as their title. They come in all forms and often have a technology flavor to their work.”