Refined Strategy to Focus on North Flint

Fifteen years after it launched, the Ruth Mott Foundation shifted to a place-based strategy in concert with community. Along with a new strategic plan, we adopted a new organizational goal: to help residents of north Flint create and sustain opportunities to contribute and thrive.

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.

A Ruth Mott Foundation community forum at Berston Field House in 2015
A north Flint resident participates in dot voting at a Ruth Mott Foundation community forum in 2015.

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. Collecting input from the people who live and work in north Flint was crucial to the Foundation’s strategy.

Our 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, 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. Another critical data source was the Imagine Flint Master Plan process, which engaged over 5,000 Flint residents. Other sources included City of Flint Neighborhood Action Sessions, Genesee County Speak to Your Health Survey, and the Building Neighborhood Capacity Program.

The data clearly showed four recurring themes. To validate those priorities, the Foundation held eight public forums and sought feedback from north Flint residents. We also asked about two of the Foundation’s previous priorities, community health and arts. 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, public safety, economic opportunity, and neighborhoods.

Youth Voices Matter

Ruth Mott Foundation Community Youth Forum at Boys & Girls Club

In December 2017, the Ruth Mott Foundation again held community forums to gain new feedback from residents and community members about our work to date since shifting to focus on north Flint. Our query to participants was threefold: What are we doing right? What could be improved? What questions do you have for us?

We were gratified to learn that youth are still a No. 1 priority for the community, illustrated by participants’ inclusion of youth under what we’re doing right AND what could be improved. We, too, recognize that while we have made great strides toward fostering interventions designed to improve outcomes for young people in north Flint, there is still much work to be done. We were also pleased that residents recognize that community engagement is critical to our work, and that we’re on track with our north Flint strategic focus.