We focused this targeted, place-based strategy on north Flint because it’s an area with significant challenges, limited resources, and — perhaps most importantly — an opportunity to make a significant difference in the lives of Flint residents. Flint is where the Motts built their family home, raised their children, and established a philanthropic legacy that still thrives today.
At the heart of our pivot to north Flint was a renewed, vigorous, and all-encompassing approach to community engagement, putting the people we are serving at the center of our work. This commitment to community engagement was enacted in the early stages of the planning process, before the strategy was adopted.
Seeking specific guidance from the community on key concerns, the Ruth Mott Foundation compiled data from a wide variety of sources, including surveys of Summer Youth Initiative participants, Neighborhood Small Grants recipients, and Genesee County Land Bank Clean and Green participants. The surveys asked residents a variety of questions, such as, “What do you feel are the biggest problems facing youth (ages 5-17) in the community?” and “What resources are most needed by the community? By your family?” Another critical data source was the Imagine Flint Master Plan process, which engaged over 5,000 Flint residents in crafting a blueprint for the future of the city. Other sources included City of Flint Neighborhood Action Sessions, the Genesee County Speak to Your Health Survey, and the Building Neighborhood Capacity Program.
The data clearly showed four recurring themes: safety, neighborhoods, economic opportunity, and youth. To validate those priorities, the Foundation held eight public forums concluding in early 2016, and sought feedback from north Flint residents while asking them about the issues that were important to their lives. We also asked about two of the Foundation’s previous priorities, community health and arts, topics that were also featured in the city’s master plan. The forums were held in locations throughout north Flint: Berston Field House, Boys & Girls Club of Greater Flint, Flint Northwestern High School, Flint Potter Elementary, Hasselbring Senior Center, Hispanic Technology & Community Center, Joy Tabernacle Church, and River Park Apartments.
After the forums were over and all the participants’ votes were counted, the Ruth Mott Foundation adopted residents’ top four priorities — youth, safety, economic opportunity, and neighborhoods — along with the accompanying focus areas.
Collecting input from the people who live and work in north Flint was crucial to the Foundation’s strategy. The approach was welcomed and the response was robust.
In all, more than 500 people attended the forums, with the majority coming from north Flint neighborhoods. We define north Flint as the city limits on the west, north, and east, and the street known as Flushing Road/5th Avenue/Longway Boulevard on the south (area shaded in yellow). The region encompasses both of the areas traditionally known to residents as the north side and the east side.
Moving forward, all grants must address youth, safety, economic opportunity, or neighborhoods—and specifically the focus areas within them that residents identified as most important. As we continue to pursue this strategy, we pledge to continue to work with community and take a stand on matters that are important to the people of north Flint.