2018 All-America City Finalist - Battle Creek, MI

Application Summary for the All-America City Awards:

“We Believe in Battle Creek” is a shared mantra in this city of nearly 52,000 residents.

The community launched a door-to-door campaign during a visioning process, BCVision, learning that residents wanted jobs, talent pipelines and a culture of vitality. Battle Creek’s eight Neighborhood Planning Councils are key to much of what city government does. In a journey to change policies that better reflect equity and equal opportunities, city leaders are attending training courses offered through Kellogg Community College’s Center for Diversity and Innovation. Police and fire personnel are attending CDI’s Coaching Essentials for Equity workshop, teaching participants to listen more deeply, have challenging conversations, and create more openness between people, especially as the city works toward racial equity.


Three project examples showing how this community leverages civic engagement, collaboration, inclusiveness and innovation to successfully address local issues:

 

1.) Byrne Grant: Improving neighborhoods & reducing crime
In late 2016, Battle Creek was awarded an Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant, which supports criminal justice efforts. The police department leads this initiative, with support from the Community Services Department, and partnerships with several outside organizations.

During the planning phase, a local organization, iEval, gathered research which enabled residents to understand issues, share their interpretations, and pose new questions. The police department identified hot-spot police grids with disproportionate amounts of Part I crimes (violence-related) and Part II crimes (like fraud, or drug-related), in addition to calls for service. This 1.7-square-mile area is now the target area of interest.

In a second resident interpretation session, the Southwestern Michigan Urban League took over facilitation, with targeted questions about potential crime drivers. Conversations produced root causes. Neighbors in the second interpretation session also identified local assets that could help address these issues.

A strategic plan was in the making, built upon meaningful, informed, and embedded neighbor engagement. Working with neighbors to interpret data led to robust and citizen-led ways of setting goals and determining local solutions to addressing multiple drivers of crime, condensed into two drivers: lack of trust and disordered housing.

Many activities emphasizing neighbor engagement are underway, including:

  • a neighborhood ambassador program, designed to build leadership capacity among residents and youth;
  • neighborhood action plans to identify priorities and issues; and
  • “We Are” pride projects to cover social activities, beautification projects, and safety activities.

More information:

 

2.) Battle Creek Coalition of Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation
The Battle Creek Coalition for Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation (TRHT) is designed to collectively face issues of privilege, race, and bias in Battle Creek. TRHT is a comprehensive, national and community-based process initiated by W.K. Kellogg Foundation to address the historic and contemporary effects of racism. These beliefs limit equal access to quality education, fulfilling employment, safe neighborhoods, equal housing opportunities, and quality health care.

In Battle Creek, the founding members work to engage the community in dialogue to broaden perspectives, build trust, and promote racial equity. The community leadership team, which meets monthly, is composed of representatives of the Battle Creek Community Foundation, law enforcement, city administrators, and the Center for Diversity and Innovation, among others. Using the TRHT Framework, the team will also recognize progress underway and identify potential allies.

The Battle Creek Coalition organized two National Day of Healing events in January 2017 and 2018. This year’s local event was a concert organized by WKKF. Nearly 1,200 students – from five area high schools – attended and heard a message of people coming together in unity and humanity. Also, neighbors gathered at key intersections across the city, holding large heart cut-outs to remind everyone that love is the foundation for changing hearts and minds – a first step toward racial healing. In spring 2018, the local coalition invited residents to multiple events, including a film premiere and community convenings, to generate a collective dream for promoting equity and eliminating racism in Battle Creek.

More information: W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Initiative

 

3.) BCVision
Launched in 2015, BCVision is a community-driven movement for change in Battle Creek. At the time, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and Kellogg Co. met with local leaders, businesses, and neighbors to discuss how to spark transformation and improve economic conditions in Battle Creek. Since then, these stakeholders have collaborated to create a vision and an actionable, long-term economic development plan that includes neighborhoods and community members who historically have had less access to resources that lead to prosperity.

Since the effort launched, the steering committee, action teams, BCVision supporters, and partnering organizations have worked hard to increase access for all. The group has hosted many community meetings, knocked on more than 30,000 doors, and spoken with thousands of Battle Creek neighbors to receive input. Hundreds of individuals, representing every sector in the community, have contributed. Industry experts evaluated information gathered and identified racial equity, community engagement, and communication as needing the most improvement.

The team has established three pillars:

  • increasing the number of permanent jobs;
  • building a talent pipeline by increasing college, career and kindergarten readiness; and
  • developing a culture of vitality, positioning the city as a place people choose.

This group will also launch a public data dashboard in 2018, create a resource guide mapping the small business/entrepreneurial ecosystem in the community, and work to establish a fund and deploy $50,000 into the community to focus on minority-owned businesses. An internship program with the Battle Creek Area Chamber of Commerce and Battle Creek Public Schools has already been established.

More information: BCVision

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