Progressive think tank Minnesota 2020 shuts down

Minnesota 2020, a nonprofit think tank which worked closely with many Macalester students and faculty, closed on Monday due to funding shortages.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune and MinnPost first reported the closure on Monday, saying that MN2020’s Board of Trustees voted last week to shut down the organization. A statement from Dave Colling, a consultant who helped MN2020 close down operations, said the organization “made the difficult decision to suspend most operations due to funding constraints.”

Matt Entenza ’83 founded the think tank in 2007, and dedicated it to producing research and policy briefs on issues facing Minnesota from a progressive perspective. Right before its closing, MN2020 produced an analysis of the state’s 2014 property tax rates. In the past, they have produced reports on other issues such as racial injustices, transportation policy and economic development.

Entenza founded the organization after a failed run for Attorney General in 2006. During that time, he represented District 64A, which includes Macalester, in the State House and served as House Minority Leader.

Entenza served as Chairman of the MN2020 board until 2009, after which he sought the DFL nomination for Governor in 2010 and ran for State Auditor in 2014. The latter bid attracted the ire of many party activists, and he lost by 62 points to the incumbent, Rebecca Otto.

Many Macalester students and professors have worked with MN2020 in various capacities throughout the years. A few Macalester professors are Fellows at MN2020, and some students have served as undergraduate research fellows or Chuck Green fellows at the think tank.

Environmental Studies professor Roopali Phadke and her Environmental Politics and Policy class worked with Minnesota 2020 on an op-ed writing project this fall.

“We’ve had a great relationship with [Minnesota 2020] for the last five years. They have supported our students in many ways, including course projects and internships,” Phadke said in an email. “I hope there is a way to keep their organization afloat because it is important that progressive think tanks exist that focus on regional issues. Our work with them has helped students understand what role think tanks play in politics, and the challenges of generating news and data that [serve] public policy goals.”

Rachel Fehr ’16 worked as an undergraduate research fellow throughout the past year, assisting the organization with GIS and their mapmaking. Fehr worked in a role started by Zack Avre ’14 as part of his Chuck Green fellowship with the organization.

Fehr said she “was a little surprised” to hear of the organization’s closing, but said that John Van Hecke – the former Executive Director – had stepped down and their public relations employee had left over the summer, which had raised questions about the future of the organization.

Shruthi Kamisetty ’16 also worked as a research fellow last spring, focusing on health care in Minnesota. MN2020’s closing was a shock to Kamisetty.

“It came as a big surprise to me, and I was sad to hear it [was closing],” Kamisetty said.

She pointed to MN2020’s connection with Macalester as one of its greatest strengths, which will be missed going forward.

“Now that it’s gone, it’s hard to picture an easier to way to get involved in Twin Cities issues,” Kamisetty said. “This was a secure opportunity due to its connection with Macalester. It was a reputable, good organization.”