“If Grand Rapids is to increase equity and inclusion in our neighborhoods,
across the city and within City Hall, resident voice must be included.
Planning and decision-making requires it,
especially when formulating policy and initiatives that impact communities.”
This "voice" message was a key theme of the 2016 Grand Rapids Neighborhood Summit. More than 350 people attended the Friday, March 11 event at GRPS University.
The Summit included four workshops and a Keynote address:
Housing for All
City Commissioner David Allen of the Kent County Land Bank Authority and Gustavo Rotondaro of Metrica, LLC. presented this workshop on affordable housing in Grand Rapids. Attendees shared that it was “Outstanding!” and “Extremely eye-opening.”
Race & Equity
Program officers of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Andrew Brower and Yazeed Moore, who co-lead the foundation’s work in Grand Rapids, presented the workshop to maximize participant voice. The session captured recommendations for the City and other stakeholders moving forward. The Grand Rapids Racial Equity Network (GRREN) and the Summit Committee are now completing the summary of equity recommendations, expected at the end of April.
Economic and Community Empowerment
Presented by Grand Rapids Economic Development Director Kara Wood; Lisa Haynes from the Westside CID and West Fulton Business Association; Jorge Gonzalez from the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; and Valencia Johnson Cooper, a local entrepreneur and Madison CID member, this workshop focused on the use of CIDs (Corridor Improvement Districts) and BIDs (Business Improvement Districts). The discussion centered on these districts and how each can benefit area residents.
Neighborhood School Renaissance
Presented by Bridget Cheney of the Grand Rapids Public Schools and Elizabeth Hoffman Ransford of East Hills Loves Congress, this workshop highlighted the success, challenges and strategies used in transforming a neighborhood school through resident engagement and leadership. Attendees commented that the workshop contained “excellent content and delivery” and that they had a “great experience! Learned a lot.”
Summit Keynote Address
Renowned community engagement leader Eureka People Smith, owner of Evolve!, Inc., provided strategies to use for authentic community partnership. Evolve!, Inc. is an Indianapolis-based consulting firm with several clients in Grand Rapids.
During the Keynote, Smith detailed her A.L.L. (Ask. Listen. Learn.) strategy:
Ask powerful questions for culture, context and perspective.
Listen for the story. Every community has a story.
Learn what community really wants.
According to the results of Summit evaluations and recommendation ballots, the five top themes emerged from event participants are:
- affordable housing, advocacy at the state level and increased local commitment;
- income disparities and a call for local hiring and livable wages;
- authentic resident engagement;
- a targeted universal approach to increase capacity of neighborhoods with the strongest need, knowing the strongest need area might not have a neighborhood association and will need infrastructure support; and
- a strategy to operationalized equity into decision-making.
2016 Summit Recommendations Report.pdf
Several of these recommendations align with current City and community initiatives. The Great Housing Strategies report and the 2015 Summit recommendations contain many of these suggestions. With the Mayor’s commitment to addressing racial issues in Grand Rapids, the recommendation to improve equity within our organizations gives Grand Rapids a chance to lead by example.
Going forward, the Summit Committee encourages local partners and social justice organizations to continue their leadership and innovation connected to the recommendations. A major effort and win would be to have businesses hire local residents at a cost of living wage. The finalized recommendations will be available on this website by the end of April.
The Committee thanks Summit participants for sharing their voice and perspectives. The recommendations will help strengthen neighborhoods and make Grand Rapids a stronger, more equitable place to live and work
This event is made possible through the generous support of our sponsors and volunteerism and leadership of the Strengthening Neighborhoods Taskforce.
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