Photo: Flint, Michigan

City Revitalization in Flint, Michigan

Flint, Michigan, was once a thriving metropolitan area. But manufacturing job losses, economic depression, and rising crime loomed large. Community members struggled with race and class inequities, concerns about their neighborhoods, and the need to create opportunities for young people.

The Ruth Mott Foundation, a community foundation with the mission to to advocate, stimulate, and support community vitality in the city, contracted with Essential Partners (then Public Conversations Project) to train nonprofit leaders, local political figures, artists, and young people.

Their goal: to increase the capacity of community groups to collaborate on and lead the revitalization of the once-great city.

Collective Critical Thinking

More than 70 people were trained, and many of those have convened and facilitated dialogues about a variety of issues, ranging from public art to affirmative action to school reform. 

“There’s a lot of power in having a training take place right within your community,” said Dave Miller, Ruth Mott Foundation Program Director of Applewood Estate. “People learning together, practicing together, and developing dialogue relationships with each other.That’s one of the exciting things about dialogue. It’s really taking a stab at collective critical thinking skills.

"Seeing the connections participants made with other committed Flint leaders, and how they reached out to each other to support community initiatives, was a heartening shift amidst the city's many challenges," said EP associate Dave Josephs. "Our partners at the Ruth Mott Foundation played a critical role by convening monthly meetings to support and extend learning over the course of several years."