We have already launched 1 of our new City Shapers cohorts. Now, we’re getting ready to launch a cohort in another city, Holland, Michigan. Both of these new cohorts have been made possible by a $1 Million Thriving Congregations grant FCS received one year ago from the Lilly Endowment. We’ll be launching 12 City Shapers cohorts over the next few years, and Holland is the second of these cohorts to launch.
Holland, Michigan is a city of about 30,000 people in Southwestern Michigan. It’s relatively far from other major cities, and it’s home to the world’s largest pickle factory! We first got connected to Holland through 3Sixty, a small community development organization there.
We sat down with 3Sixty’s Executive Director and City Catalyst Jake Norris to hear more about how he found the Lupton Center and what he’s looking forward to over the next two years!
Lupton Center: You’re a little bit newer to our work – will you tell us how you first got connected to the Lupton Center?
Jake: It all started when a colleague shared the Flourishing Neighborhood Index with me. I completely geeked out when I saw it and started reading everything on the website. I was hooked and jumped on the email list.
Lupton Center: What struck you about the FNI?
Jake: I was touched by the attention to figuring out how to make sure a neighborhood is really flourishing. I have always been able to tell stories about what’s happening in the neighborhood, but I loved a tool that could capture what was happening in a thorough, methodical, and measurable way. It really helped us illustrate for neighbors and stakeholders what flourishing meant, what quality of life we wanted our neighbors to have.
Lupton Center: That’s great! And then when you saw City Shapers, how did you know it would be a good fit?
Jake: The groundwork was really already laid here in Holland. We have broad agreement in our neighborhood about wanting to avoid toxic charity and work collaboratively with the community. It can be harder said than done. There’s no denying that institutions like businesses and nonprofits all have a high level of influence in a neighborhood or a city, but I like that City Shapers isn’t just about those individuals. It sees people in those institutions as part of a puzzle and really emphasizes residents and people who have a stake in their neighborhood. It helps make us listeners and collaborators. Building that kind of coalition made us excited to host City Shapers.
Lupton Center: Absolutely – that’s core to the model of City Shapers. Are there ways you’re already seeing that kind of coalition starting to come together?
Jake: Yes, but I’m looking forward to seeing it grow. A couple of years ago we really shifted to start identifying community leaders in our neighborhood. Now we have 5 core leaders who have a lot of influence not only on their block but throughout the neighborhood. We started to gather them regularly, thank them for the ways they’re showing up, and listen to them. They have had such an important perspective that has really guided the decisions we’ve made as an organization. I think we’ll just see that kind of listening and co-creation really grow.
Lupton Center: Organizing like that is so important. We’re already so impressed and enthusiastic about what you all are doing. We can’t wait to see how it grows and makes an impact on Holland over these next two years!
To learn more about City Shapers and how to apply to host a City Shapers cohort, click here.