Sheldon of all Trades
Sheldon Mains Consulting, 2718 East 24th St.
by Dave Madsen
Sheldon Mains, a technology specialist for local nonprofits and active member of many community organizations, jokes that his wife says he suffers from Attention Deficit Disorder when it comes to his career. Whether it is helping community organizations with gaining access to new and functional databases, helping the Twin Cities Media Alliance raise money as chair, or serving for as co-president of the Seward Neighborhood Group (SNG), Sheldon always finds a way to stay very active and engaged in the interests of Seward.
With an undergrad degree in Electrical Engineering from the U of M and a graduate degree in Public Policy from the Humphrey Institute, he has worked on several projects that combine technology with public policy. In the 1990s Mains worked on a number of projects to bring the Internet to the Twin Cities nonprofit community, culminating with rebuilding the technology services program at the local Management Assistance Project for Nonprofits. About seven years ago, Mains moved on to opening his own firm and began his consulting business. In essence, Sheldon Mains Consulting (www.SheldonMains.com) is a service that can be utilized by nonprofit organizations in order to gain access to technology and better work within the community. With his experience in engineering and community engagement, Mains’ consulting business works with smaller organizations and grass roots initiatives to help bridge the gap between technology and society. More specifically, Mains work includes, but isn’t limited to, helping nonprofit organizers find and implement databases to help improve their businesses, setting up phone systems, and developing community blogs for urban and rural neighborhoods. According to Mains, much of his work is approached with the mentality of: “We have a problem, so how can we use technology to help fix it?” When Mains’ time isn’t consumed with his consulting business, he serves as the Co-President of SNG (www.SNG.org), a predominantly volunteer-run organization that, according to the SNG’s website, has a commitment to making the Seward neighborhood “a better place to live, work, and play.” Mains took on a leadership role with SNG just as the recession hit. However, after a three-year process of recovering from a “fiscal meltdown,” Mains reported that the SNG is now in very good financial shape. The Neighborhood Group divides its focus into five areas: Community Development, Crime and Safety, Environment, History, and Restorative Justice. As Co-President of the Board, Mains works with each of these sectors, but his main area of work lies in Community Development. According to Mains, this year has been a very productive one in regard to the volunteers’ engagement with the community. Mains said that the SNG is working to better engage the African community; he also added that he is working very closely with the Bedlam Theater. A unique aspect of the neighborhood, said Mains, is that the Seward community doesn’t automatically reject low-income housing; instead, the SNG works directly with the neighborhood in order to ensure the most effective implementation of those developments. In addition to his work for the SNG, Mains serves as a Board Chair for the Twin Cities Media Alliance. Its primary program is the Twin Cities Daily Planet (www.TCDailyPlanet.net). The Media Alliance began its work in 2005 with intent to unify media professionals with interested community members to create a news source that was fully representative of local neighborhoods. Since the Alliance’s formation, it has offered journalism workshops to engaged citizens, created and established the Twin Cities Daily Planet as an alternative news source, and organized and hosted public forums to discuss important neighborhood matters. Main’s interest in the Media Alliance stemmed from his appreciation of the First Amendment and not from his writing ability. “Engineers are trained to not write well,” Mains joked. As a Board Chair, Mains’ responsibilities include organizational matters, fund raising and how to better engage the surrounding areas of Minneapolis. In Mains’ words, “the Daily Planet is designed to help communities tell their own stories in the shadow of the larger reporting on the metropolitan area.” Since Mains joined the Media Alliance, he has witnessed the growth of the organization and the success associated with the expansion. In fact, Mains reported that in the past year, the Daily Planet doubled its individual donations. In addition to monetary support from neighbors, the Media Alliance has received funding from the Challenge Fund for Journalism, the McKnight Foundation, the Minneapolis Foundation, the Saint Paul Foundation, the Still Ain’t Satisfied Foundation, and the F.R. Bigelow Foundation. According to Mains, there isn’t a week-to-week—much less a day-to-day—routine for his work life. When a client requests services from his consulting business, Mains’ priorities always default to that commitment. If Mains’ consulting service is running slow, and he cannot find an ample amount of time to invest in SNG or the Media Alliance, Mains’ fourth job consists of improving and remodeling his “full-time hobby home” in Seward. For those who are interested in participating in neighborhood involvement, Mains encouraged that residents and business owners first decide on what area they are interested in. Whether it is becoming personally involved in the restorative justice process, or submitting an article to the Daily Planet, Mains said that it is important to choose an area to focus on in order to not get too overwhelmed. According to Mains, anyone who shows up to SNG’s public meetings can vote on matters as long as they live, work or own property in Seward , and anyone in the neighborhood can become involved with a committee by just showing up. Visit http://sheldonmains.efoliomn.com/ to read more about Mains’ consulting business, http://www.sng.org/ for more information about SNG, and http://www,TCDailyPlanet.net to read the Twin Cities Daily Planet.
2619 E Franklin Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55406