You may recall that 18 months ago, we stepped into a tremendous opportunity: we received a $1 million grant to expand the work of the Lupton Center at FCS. Specifically, these funds would empower us to launch City Shapers cohorts in 12 cities over the next few years.
Today, 3 City Shapers cohorts are underway, with one nearing completion. These groups of committed individuals and organizations are spread across the country, and their impact is going deep.
“We realized we needed to strengthen the social infrastructure in Alton if we wanted change to take off in a healthy way. City Shapers gives us a chance to do that. And I think we are doing it,” commented Peter, a City Catalyst in Alton, Illinois.
Creating those deep bonds in the neighborhood has fostered a lot of trust. In these focus neighborhoods, it also led to the identification of critical local leaders and perspectives.
Jake, a City Catalyst of Holland Michigan, said, “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 see just that kind of listening and co-creation really grow.”
These two cohorts are the most recent. Our inaugural cohort, in Bowling Green Kentucky, has celebrated even greater gains. They got off to a tumultuous start. Soon after launching the cohort, the Covid-19 pandemic broke out. The team shifted to meeting and connecting virtually. After over a year of working together, they faced a destructive tornado that tore through their focus neighborhood in December 2021.
These challenges strengthened the commitment of the cohort members and opened their eyes to the dynamics of toxic charity in real time. After the tornado, the Bowling Green cohort saw the challenges of charity that didn’t emerge from relationships. Waves of people came to help. Donations poured in. But much of the crisis relief offered wasn’t what the affected residents really needed. It was a wake up call for practical application of what the cohort had been learning.
The Bowling Green cohort members turned to the community. As a result, they now have a group of residents and organizational leaders who have drafted and are spearheading a long-term tornado recovery plan. Another group has committed to overseeing holistic development in the neighborhood for years to come.
“When I think about an ideal cohort for City Shapers, it’s easy to look at our group in Bowling Green,” says Stacy Brungardt, Lead Trainer and Consultant for the Lupton Center. “They are passionate about place-based development yet humbly postured to follow the neighborhood’s lead. That posture and drive are essential. It’s why they’ve seen so much positive change.”
We couldn’t be more excited about the equitable development happening in these cities, and we are just as excited to see where the next City Shapers cohort will launch. The Lupton Center team is currently working to identify 1-2 more cities who can launch City Shapers before the end of the year. If you think that your city might be a good candidate, click here to reach out to the Lupton Center today.
Your support is making equitable development possible in Atlanta and beyond. Thank you for joining us as we seek to share our model.