Western Michigan University

Contact Information

FY 2018 Community Conversations Research

Executive Summary

In this collaboration between Western Michigan University's Evaluation Center and the Urban Core Collective, this project aims to create toolkits to encourage authentic community engagement among people of color in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Community engagement in the planning or implementation of programs or policies has been shown to reduce inequity. The research team includes evaluators from Western Michigan University (WMU), program staff from the Urban Core Collective (UCC), and community researchers. Community researchers will include a select group of alumni from the UCC's Transformational Leadership Program interested in engaging in a participatory research process and further developing their leadership skills related to community engagement. Through a participatory process, community researchers will engage residents in defining authentic community engagement and identifying strategies for engagement. This information will be pulled together to create two toolkits for community engagement: one to guide the integration of community engagement in decision making, and a second to increase awareness of opportunities for engagement among residents. It is hoped that the resulting toolkits, along with the networks of residents engaging together to address local issues of concern, will help lead to positive formal and informal changes to the civic infrastructure. Future generations could inherit a community by which the culture of civic engagement, equitable access, and action in response to struggles of the urban core is the expectation. Building off the UCC's established networks and momentum implementing systemic change at the city policy level, this project has realistic potential to address equity across sectors.

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