Our Partners

Hmong American Partnership

Conversations for Change and Growth in St. Paul's East Side Communities

Located in the heart of St. Paul's East Side, Hmong American Partnership (HAP) is the largest Hmong social service organization providing culturally competent services and programs to meet the needs of Hmong immigrants and refugees living in Minnesota. Since 1990, HAP has provided critical services to thousands of Hmong refugee and immigrant families. HAP used the NGEC Minnesota Community Engagement Process as an opportunity to gather information from the community and to reflect upon the organization's current and future roles for serving a growing and changing Hmong community.



HAP was founded in response to the needs and concerns of an expanding Hmong community in Minnesota. Using a bi-cultural model, HAP's focus was to help the Hmong community establish roots in Minnesota, while also preserving their cultural heritage. Even as this holds true today, HAP recognizes that its primary role may need to shift as the community changes. Although Hmong immigrants and refugees continue to have needs for basic support and resettlement services, many second, third, and fourth generation Hmong now face additional challenges, some of which include mental health, educational barriers, racial discrimination and intergenerational tensions.

Exploring how to respond to these changes, HAP engaged their stakeholders in a series of conversations. They asked participants, community leaders, youth, Elders, Board of Directors, staff and other East Side community organizations three central questions: How would you define your existing relationship with HAP? How well do the services currently provided by HAP meet the needs of the community? And in what ways can HAP expand or enhance programs to result in greater community impact? HAP was especially interested to learn more about the issues of health, economic development and the needs of the East Side community, all issues that had already been raised by HAP participants.

Through nearly 20 breakfast conversations, focus groups, and an in-depth board retreat, HAP gathered valuable information about the needs and concerns of the community. Stakeholders shared concerns about growing health issues, such as diabetes and heart disease, and micro-enterprise and small business opportunities were identified as ways to improve the economic stability of families.

One of the unexpected benefits of the community engagement process was the opportunity for East Side nonprofit organizations to hear about each other's work and build momentum for future partnerships. For HAP, this was an exciting step toward seeding more intentional collaborations with organizations on the East Side of St. Paul, all of which share an interest in promoting the economic growth, health, and social vitality of the neighborhood.

"We were able to gather input from a broad cross-section of our community. Based upon the community's input, we need to be vigilant about our organization's ability to respond to changing community needs. We need to embrace a proactive approach to decision-making that ensures our organization stays responsive to the community." - HAP Staff

As a result of the community engagement process, HAP identified changes that could be made in order to better meet the needs of the community. First, HAP recognized a need to expand and improve external communication about the organization's programs and services. This issue rose out of a common theme that community members are not well-informed about HAP's programs and services. A great need was identified to reach beyond current participants and intentionally distribute information to the participants' families and the broader community.

Additionally, the community engagement process identified a need to shift HAP's focus from helping participants achieve self-sufficiency to promoting participants' self-empowerment. HAP is already taking next steps to bring together a thoughtful group of decision-makers, organizational leaders and other stakeholders to explore how to best carry out this new direction. Furthermore, HAP recognized a future role not only to provide direct services, but also to advocate for participants' needs with locally elected officials.

Hmong American Partnership has shown their commitment to gathering feedback and engaging the communities they serve in meaningful dialogue. The community engagement process provided HAP with the tools and information needed to remain responsive to the community's needs and prepared the organization with new partners and new visions for the future of St. Paul's East Side.