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Battle Creek, Michigan, is a city of people and organizations with great intentions, and persistent challenges. At 52,000 residents, it has a large corporate headquarters, several prominent foundations, a hospital network, and a vibrant nonprofit community. Nevertheless, at the opening of this case study, education outcomes were low, dropout rates were high, and health outcomes were poor. Despite the constant presence of community improvement initiatives, it seemed that the dollars and efforts had failed to produce lasting results.
From these conditions emerged Project 20/20, an evolving network of concerned citizens, community leaders, and organizational leaders who set out to build a “public capital” infrastructure that would create the conditions for community change and a shared vision for Battle Creek. Over a period of 9 years, formal and informal leaders carefully built trust among disparate neighborhoods and organizations, a community input process that could undergird multiple community initiatives, and a bulwark of residents used to listening to each other, giving and receiving feedback, and working collaboratively on change initiatives. While Project 20/20 succeeded in building public capital, they also learned about its fragility, and the constant commitment required to make sustained collaboration work.
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Center for Educational Performance and Information (2011) State of Michigan 2010 cohort 4-year & 2009 cohort 5-year graduation and dropout rate reports. https://www.michigan.gov/documents/cepi/2010-2009_MI_Grad-Drop_Rate_345879_7.pdf. Accessed 23 June 2016
(2016) Health and health care in Battle Creek, MI. http://www.livability.com/mi/battle-creek/health. Accessed 23 June 2016
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The Harwood Institute (1999) Community rhythms: five stages of community life. http://ncdd.org/rc/wp-content/uploads/Harwood-CommunityRhythmsReport.pdf. Accessed 23 June 2016
U.S. Census (2016) Battle Creek city. Michigan. U.S. Census Bureau. http://www.census.gov/quickfacts/table/PST045215/2605920. Accessed 22 July 2016
Warner R (2008) Downtown poised for revitalization. Battle Creek Enquirer, p. A1
- A Community-Driven Change Model in Battle Creek: Project 20/20
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