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Candidate Identification Phase
April 2000 Ways of Wisdom met with the Study
Design and Review Team at the University of
Minnesota in Duluth.
The purpose of the meeting was to review
the project work plan, discuss the quality of life
focus areas for the study, and choose the criteria
for selection of candidate families.
It was decided that we would develop a list
of candidates for the study, narrow this list down
to ten semi-finalists and, after interviewing
them, select the five families who would be our
case study participants. In May 2000 Ways of
Wisdom sent an e-mail to all UM Extension
Educators in NE Minnesota. The message described
the study and provided them with a list of the
criteria to be used for selection of candidates in
the study. We requested names of families in their
counties who were living sustainably and met the
study criteria. A number of the counties responded
immediately but others had to be contacted again
by e-mail or phone because they lost the initial
e-mail or the Extension Educator was out of the
office for an extended period of time.
We also contacted the Sustainable Farming
Association of Northeast Minnesota and people like
David Abazs, who were connected to the
sustainability movement, for names of potential
the end of June 2000 we had a list of 19 people in
six counties on our candidate search list.
Candidate Contact Phase
of Wisdom developed an “Initial
Contact Questionnaire” to be used in
a telephone survey of the candidates.
During July and August we telephoned and
interviewed 18 of the 19 people on the list.
The initial contact explained the work
being done and arranged a time that was convenient
to call them back for an interview.
The interviews often lasted for one hour or
more and the results were recorded on a copy of
the Initial Contact Questionnaire for each
candidate we called. The questionnaire had twelve
major subject areas with more specific questions
in each area.
It was surprising that all people contacted
were willing to participate in the telephone
of them were interested in the project and shared
information on their lifestyles freely.
Selection of Semi-Finalists
all 18 people had been interviewed we had to
develop a means of scoring the candidates so we
could select the 10 semi-finalists.
Ways of Wisdom developed a “Tally Results
for Initial Questionnaire” form. This enabled us
to assign a numerical value of 0 through 5 (lowest
to highest) for 9 major lifestyle categories with
most categories having breakouts for specific
issues. For example, under shelter systems the
subcategories were sustainably innovative,
sustainable materials and self -constructed.
were assigned a 0 to 5 score for each of the 23
subcategories on the tally sheet based on the
telephone interview results.
The totals of all the numerical scores were
used to rank the candidates.
When we completed the scoring we had a
total of 11 candidates with the high scores
(number 10 and 11 were a tie).
We decided that we would include all 11 as
semifinalists in the next phase of the study,
which were the on-site interviews.
Site Visits and Interviews
11 candidates were contacted by telephone in
August 2000 to inform them they had been selected
We asked them if they would like to
participate in this phase of the study that
required an on-site interview and tour of their
we had positive responses from 10 of the 11
candidates and began setting up appointments to
meet with them.
site visits began in late August 2000 and were
finally completed in early February 2001.
There were a number of reasons this process
took so long.
Most of the interviews were outside of Cook
County and required us to find a time to meet that
would fit both our schedule and the candidate’s
all cases where we were traveling out of county,
we tried to schedule two candidate interviews on
the same trip so we could make the best use of our
time and travel expenses.
This complicated the process because we had
to accommodate three schedules, the two candidates
and ours. Both
Mary and I were very busy with work on our farm so
travel periods had to be worked out carefully.
As it turned out we were able to do most of
the interviews in pairs therefore saving both time
the end, we were able to perform interviews and
on-site visits of eight of the eleven
Three candidates dropped out due to their
busy schedules or difficulty in scheduling a site
visit. They didn’t believe they could afford the
time needed to do the site visits and any
follow-up interviews, if they were selected as
final study participants.
onsite work required a visit to the candidate’s
home that consisted of both an interview of the
family and tour of their property.
All interviews were recorded on audiotape
and a film record was made of their homesteads
with a 35mm camera.
The eight families who participated in this
phase of the study were from four counties.
There were two each from Cook, Lake, St.
Louis, and Aitkin County. The photographs from the
site visits have all been developed.
They are in 4”x 6” pictures and also in
high resolution image scans stored on a compact
Design and Review Team
meeting was held February 23, 2001, at UMD to
update the advisory committee on the progress of
the study and decide what the next steps in the
work plan would be. Dr. William Fleischman of the
University of Minnesota Duluth Sociology
Department and Okey Ukaga of the Sustainable
Development Partnership attended the meeting.
Terry Anderson of the University of Minnesota
Extension Service was unable to attend. The
primary purpose of the meeting was to discuss the
criteria for the selection of the final five case
study participants and to review the remaining
project work plan.
Selection of Five Finalists
the original candidate identification phase was
completed we had names of people from six of the
seven counties in Northeast Minnesota. These
candidates were then narrowed down to eight
semi-finalists. The advisory team recommended that
since we only had semi-finalists representing four
of the seven counties in the region that it was
important not to lose any more counties. Therefore
geographic distribution became a primary selection
criteria, along with the investigators’
experiences with the families during telephone
interviews and visits to the candidates
following families comprise the list of study
and Molly Hoffman
and Melinda Spinler
and Lise Abazs
and Jane Jewett
the finalists were contacted by telephone to
inform them of their selection and to ask them if
they would continue to participate in the study.
All of them agreed to do so. A letter was sent to
each family confirming their selection and
outlining our work plan. In order to acquire
permission for the use of information and images
from the candidates a Photographic and Interview
Release was developed. This form was sent, along
with the confirmation letter, for the families to
complete and sign.
Recording of Participants
original project proposal submitted to the
Partnership had three possible work plans, with
three different funding levels. The most
comprehensive work plan included participation by
The Rural Development Council as a project
partner. They would have provided a student
through the Community Assistantship Program (CAP)
who would have been responsible for the video
camera recordings and development of a production
video on the study. Since funding was not received
for the CAP student it was our intention to limit
the photographic work to a still camera. However,
Ways of Wisdom decided to do the additional work
of videotaping the families because we believe it
will be useful in workshops and will produce a
more complete picture of the participants’
were able to borrow a good video camera from Holly
Nelson who videotapes government meetings and
sports events for the local public access TV
channel. We choose to focus our video work on some
of the most important events in our
participants’ lifestyles. For instance we
recorded the Chapman family’s winter dog sled
business, the Spinler’s commercial maple
syruping work, the Jewett’s farm and value added
logging business, and the Hoffman’s garden
harvest. Due to unforeseen circumstances we were
not able to record the Abazs family’s CSA
business. We plan to do this in the summer of
Workshop Presentation at Renewable Energy and
Sustainable Living Fair
in the year Ways of Wisdom submitted a proposal to
the Midwest Renewable Energy Association to
present a workshop at the Renewable Energy and
Sustainable Living Fair in Amherst, Wisconsin in
June 2001. This proposal was accepted and the
workshop was presented to an audience of over 100
people using both overhead projections and slides.
The intention of this presentation was to share
with people findings from our study. We were
speaking to an audience of people who were either
living sustainably or were interested in learning
more about it. Consequently we designed the
presentation to use slides to show actual examples
of innovative approaches to sustainable living in
Northeast Minnesota. We included our farm in the
presentation with the homesteads of the study
participants so the audience could learn about
sustainability from six perspectives. Subject
areas included housing, heating, electrical
systems, water systems, food systems, waste
management, transportation issues, and income
generation. Due to the limited amount of time for
the presentation, only 70 minutes, we could not
cover other subject areas.
in Progress Spring 2002
extension for completing the grant work was
requested from the Sustainable Development
Partnership in November 2001. This request was
granted. On April 30, 2002, Ways of Wisdom
participated in a poster session at the University
of Minnesota Humphrey Institute in St. Paul.
Posters of sustainability projects around the
state were presented that demonstrated the
collaboration between the University of Minnesota
and the State’s Regional Sustainable Development
will be a final workshop to present findings from
the case study research on May 9, 2002, at the
University of Minnesota in Duluth. Further
information on this workshop can be found by
clicking on the link at the bottom of this page. A
final report on this study is being prepared and
will be submitted to the NMSDP. When additional
findings have been developed from this study they
will be posted on this web site.