CCED Flint Update: "North Start of Greater Purpose"

By Bob Brown, Director, Flint CCED

As I sit here in my basement home office, I struggle with holding both the continuation of day-to-day CCED work activities and my community’s valiant struggle with our response to COVID-19. Holding, honoring, and acting on both will be critical over the next weeks and months. In 1970, 17.6 percent of people in this country were poor (those at or below 125 percent of the poverty rate). In 2018, 16.0 percent of people were poor. Almost 50 years of human service program intervention only reduced poverty by 1.6 percent decrease. Michigan's official poverty rate in 2016 was 15 percent, with 1.45 million people in poverty. That's 78,000 fewer than in 2015, when the poverty rate was 15.8 percent.

Flint, however, has the nation's highest poverty rate among U.S. cities, with at least 65,000 residents, according to 2016 data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The Bureau estimated that 45 percent of Flint residents lived below the poverty line in 2016, up from 42 percent in 2015. Flint also ranked first in childhood poverty: An estimated 58 percent of Flint residents under age 18 live below the poverty line compared to a national average of 18 percent.

The current poverty reduction paradigm isn’t working. It is characterized by problems to solve and driven by funding; it’s agency and program centered; professionals and experts operate the system; clients need outside help because they don’t have the ability to raise themselves up; expert knowledge informs; and agency self-interested collaboration dominates. Steeped in the undergirding of racism and classism, its lack of results is criminal. It is a system of good-hearted employees who, for the most part, are trapped in a system that doesn’t work and those who are poor pay the price for its failures. The future of our community must not be bound to this failure.

CCED believes in a different way forward. We champion asset-based community-driven development, a bottom-up way of working with people that focuses on individual and neighborhood/community strengths and assets rather than on deficits and problems. Asset based community development (ABCD) is built on four foundations (Kretzmann, 2010; Kretzmann & McKnight, 1993; Mathie & Cunningham, 2003):

  1. It focuses on community assets and strengths rather than problems and needs.
  2. It identifies and mobilizes individual and community assets, skills and passions.
  3. It is community driven – “building communities from the inside out” (Kretzmann & McKnight, 1993)
  4. It is relationship driven.

Our paradigm is characterized by: There are opportunities to realize; it is relationship driven; it is people and neighbor centered; the neighborhood is the system operated by those who live there; people can build their own capacity; community wisdom and science informs; gifts (assets) and generosity are foundational; networks are the predominant structure for authentic, deep collaboration. This is the foundation to overcome implicit bias, racism and classism. This is the foundation of overcoming COVID-19. This is our North Star of Greater Purpose.

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