July 22, 2011

Community Forum to Highlight Local Leaders Who Have Shaped Recent Changes in Education and Health in Battle Creek

Convened by The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation and United Way of Greater Battle Creek

BATTLE CREEK, Mich., July 22, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Local leaders will gather on Monday, July 25 and Tuesday, July 26 at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation for a Harwood Intentionality Forum that will showcase how individuals and organizations have come together to address the greatest needs of vulnerable children and families in Battle Creek, and specifically those related to education, health and family financial stability.

Four years ago, leaders formed what came to be known as the Battle Creek Community Core Team of The Harwood Institute. Comprised of staff from the Calhoun Intermediate School District, United Way of Greater Battle Creek, VOCES, the Battle Creek Community Foundation and actively concerned citizens, they held in-depth conversations with people in various Battle Creek neighborhoods. The team took what they heard and used the Harwood approach to identify areas of greatest common need then engaged the wider community in efforts to meet those pressing needs. By engaging community members with the intent to learn and gain knowledge (not to validate a solution or deliver a product), the impact has been an infusion of the voice of the community (namely those of the most vulnerable) into the decisions that impact them the most.

"United Way of Greater Battle Creek is committed to continuously learning about the aspirations of our community and partnering with local funders, non-profits, government, neighborhood and business leaders," said Chris Sargent, president and CPO for United Way of Greater Battle Creek. "Using the Harwood framework we have been able to hear from everyday people about their hopes and dreams. The public knowledge we have gained, coupled with expert knowledge is key to creating positive (social) change in Battle Creek."

United Way of Greater Battle Creek works to mobilize the caring power of the community to Advance the Common Good, by collaborating with local organizations and people to identify emerging needs and issues. They are committed to creating opportunities for all and measurably improving lives by supporting the building blocks for a good quality of life: education, income, and health. United Way recruits people with the passion, expertise and resources to get things done, and invites you to join them.

Battle Creek has become a beacon community and model for others working to turn outward across the nation. The work of the Community Core Team has activated change related to education and health throughout greater Battle Creek and across many organizations, businesses and schools. Each of the projects the team members were engaged in focused on meeting the needs of vulnerable children and families, specifically the Burmese population.

Specific changes include health care providers taking what they've learned from participating in conversations with Burmese families, and making services more culturally sensitive. This has lead to several new changes being made (most notably) in the areas of Maternal & Infant Health services and emergency care, but also by innovatively re-thinking how to best provide clinical health care services and eliminating barriers for access - such as transportation to services.

"The positive changes stemming from, and then rippling out of, this work are incredibly inspiring and show us exactly what it takes to spur authentic change," said Rich Harwood, President of The Harwood Institute. "By turning outward and involving everyone in the community, this team has made an incredible impact in Battle Creek."

The Harwood Institute inspires and guides people to step forward and take action rooted in their community and stay true to themselves. Harwood works with individuals, organizations and communities to turn outward and develop their ability to make more intentional choices and judgments that lead to impact. By actively partnering with organizations such as United Way Worldwide, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, The Harwood Institute is taking this approach to scale to allow everyday people to use these ideas in their own communities. For more information please visit www.harwoodonline.org.

Rich Harwood is the leading national authority on encouraging and empowering people to live their best public life. He is the founder and president of The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation. For more than two decades, Rich has inspired and guided citizens to step forward and take action rooted in their community and stay true to themselves. He is an author and expert contributor on national and syndicated television, newspapers, radio and Web sites, including MSNBC, NPR, The Christian Science Monitor, CNN's Inside Politics, The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Special Report with Brit Hume, C-SPAN, and many other media outlets.

Contact: Whitney Soenksen
617-309-6179 (c) 301-656-3669 (w)
[email protected]