Battle Creek is the first city in the nation chosen to be a “Beacon Community”. More than a hundred area leaders began meeting Tuesday, March 5th, to learn about the three-year project organizers hope will help deal with community problems.
The effort by the Harwood Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, is co-sponsored by the United Way of the Battle Creek Kalamazoo Region with help from a $1.4 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Harwood Institute President Rich Harwood says “Beacon Communities” will not only solve problems but will also find better ways to tackle them. He says that includes bringing together “public innovators” and “boundary-spanning organizations” to cut through barriers to cooperation. Harwood also says the project will also help assure people that they can come together to solve problems. The Institute first became involved with Battle Creek community groups several years ago.
Rich Harwood: Ideals alone are not enough. We need to be really practical about what it is really going to take on the ground, in our local communities to create the kind of change we want.
United Way Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer Chris Sargent says the project will focus on making significant progress on an issue facing Battle Creek. Sargent says those involved in the effort will determine what that issue will be, although it is likely to be something related to families and at-risk children. Although Battle Creek is the first “Beacon Community” selected by the Harwood Institute, Rich Harwood says it will soon be followed by others around the country. The Institute says Las Vegas, Nevada, and Youngstown, Ohio, are among other cities that are interested.