The W.K. Kellogg Foundation wrapped up its second annual convening of the foundation’s Michigan grantees today in Detroit. More than 300 grantees, staff and consultants gathered for the two-day “Michigan Communities in Action Annual Convening” to network and exchange new ideas that will help improve the lives of Michigan’s most vulnerable children.
Ali Webb, WKKF’s director of Michigan programming, welcomed grantees on Day One and challenged them to think about the day’s meetings in the context of connecting the dots – by connecting the individual dots we create a bigger, more compelling picture.
Before tackling the complex work around helping children and families in poverty, one first must understand the data. Kurt Metzger of Data Driven Detroit provided an insightful look at the population and demographic trends confronting Michigan. With poverty, racial disparities and single parent families on the rise, there are urgent and critical issues to address.
Next, the Aspen Institute led an interactive presentation to help grantees understand the causes of racial inequities in 21st century America, specifically examining the effects of structural racism and the challenges of changing long-standing systems that maintain inequities.
Grantees spent the afternoon in a variety of work sessions, which provided an opportunity for grantees to learn from each other about best practices and innovative models. Collectively the foundation and its grantees envision a Michigan where all the state’s children are well-educated, healthy and live in economically secure families.
During his keynote address, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder shared his appreciation for what foundations can do. A native of Battle Creek, Mich., Gov. Snyder attended Lakeview High School and Kellogg Community College, educational opportunities that propelled him to success in business and ultimately into public service. He touched on a number of initiatives in his “Reinvent Michigan” campaign aimed at helping the state’s vulnerable children and families.
Andrew Brower, program officer in Grand Rapids for the foundation, introduced a special live performance by the dynamic spoken word duo Kinetic Affect stating, “I’m standing between you and something great.”
Kinetic Affect’s Gabriel Giron and Kirk Latimer, who debuted their Michigan Poem at last year’s convening, once again wowed with powerful spoken word performances that inspired and energized. In keeping with the convening’s theme on collective impact, Kinetic Affect partnered with vocalists, musicians and other artists for the evening performances. In a particularly touching performance, youth and emerging spoken word artist Gina Huffman performed for the first time sharing her deeply personal poem, “Looks Can Be Deceiving.”
Day Two opened with another motivating performance from Kinetic Affect, in collaboration with multi-media artist Sioux Trujillo. Giron and Latimer challenged attendees to “move to action” by joining the artist in staining a white, 8-foot by 10-foot board with gray, pink, yellow and black colors. As nearly 100 people were “getting their hands dirty” staining the wall, the colors blended to reveal the words of Kinetic Affect’s latest poem, “Collecting Impact.” The poem provoked grantees in how they think about and implement their work, “to lift (their) heads from their silo work” and recognize “what community will achieve when we align our hearts together.”
Grantees continued to engage in dialogue around moving ideas to action and discussing the road ahead for work in place – Battle Creek, Detroit, Grand Rapids and innovative work across the state.
Kinetic Affect and Trujillo brought the convening to a close – whitewashing the art board the grantees had created in the morning session. The act serves as a reminder that when you do difficult work – get your hands dirty – it’s challenging to maintain the hard, constant work that’s needed to bring long-term change. The colorful board, on the surface, looked chaotic, but it was beautiful and worth the effort.
The Michigan Communities in Action Annual Convening is no ordinary gathering for the Kellogg Foundation. For more than 80 years, the Battle Creek, Mich.-based foundation has been committed to improving the lives of Michigan’s children with currently nearly $300 million invested in its priority places of Battle Creek, Detroit and Grand Rapids as well as the innovative work of organizations throughout the state.
“As the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s home state, it’s no secret that Michigan holds a special place in our hearts,” said WKKF’s President and CEO Sterling Speirn. “That’s why we are honored to host this gathering of our Michigan grantees, who work tirelessly each and every day on behalf of our children and families here in the Great Lakes State.”
Updated Oct 4, 2012