Fred Rose is the co-founder of Acara — a University of Minnesota program that asks students to learn about — and develop solutions for — our world’s biggest challenges.

I’ve lived in Minneapolis since 1981. I grew up in North Dakota and went to college there and moved to California in Silicon Valley for a couple of years. Then moved here and got a graduate degree in electrical engineering here at the university and stayed. I liked living in California, but it wasn’t forever. Beautiful weather, lots of stuff to do, but just too many people for me.

Minneapolis in 1981 wasn’t as vibrant or dynamic as it is now, but I think a lot of the core culture is the same. It’s generally a place that cares about the whole person.

Acara is a derivative of a Sanskrit word which means “a stop on the way to enlightenment.” In essence I started it with the idea that we should be able to create opportunities for people to make a living, and at the same time help sustain our world. That was really a big driving force for me in much of life. The sweet spot I felt was working with young people who are at a point where they have real skills and can go out and do real things, but are still at an age where they’re still trying to determine what that role should be.

A good, stiff drink of scotch on some days. One of my first questions to any social entrepreneur is “why do you care about this?” Because eventually you’re going to wake up in the middle of the night and go “What the heck am I doing?” or “I don’t know how to make payroll.” You have to have a big reason why you care, but you also have to a viable goal for impact. Maybe it’s making a change in this neighborhood. Maybe it’s making a change at the city level. Maybe it’s a change over the 10 years in the state of Minnesota. You have to have that mix.

I would say that we’ve had an impact. There’s been a good number of students and entrepreneurs who are now making progress towards addressing some aspect of a global challenge. On one hand I feel good about it. On the other hand I feel like that is not at all good enough. It depends on the day.

I want Minneapolis to be a place that people want to be. Globally. “I’m here from Lagos, Nigeria and I’m here to work and learn for a year, then I’m going to go back.” Or, “I grew up on a farm in North Dakota and I see what they’re doing with urban agriculture.” That to me is how the local and the global tie together. We can be that city. We have people who can be those leaders. That is my vision for this city, and I think that is 100% achievable.



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