Transform Rockford: Setting the Stage for Change

It’s time to move from talk into action. See how the Transform Rockford movement is stepping into a new phase and empowering local organizations to ignite transformative change.

Transform Rockford envisions Rockford being a Top 25 community by 2025. To get there, it’s spent the past three years mapping the tools and framework necessary to improve the Rockford region. Finally, the time has come for the community members supporting this group to turn talk into action.
This November, the nonprofit Transform Rockford unveiled its list of formal projects that, according to its 14 “spokes,” or subject-matter groups, promise to truly change our fortunes.
Weeks ahead of the meeting, Jacob Wilson, program director for Transform Rockford, had a list of some 200 project ideas proposed by the group’s 14 “spokes.” Divided into areas such as Families & Neighborhoods, Safety, Economy & Jobs, and Education, these spoke teams have spent more than a year researching best practices in successful communities, with the hopes of delivering transformational projects to the Rockford region. Now, these groups are laying the groundwork for collaborative action.
In one example, Transform Rockford is helping to address the re-entry of incarcerated people into society. Project director David Sidney and Angie Schmidt convened some 50 local agencies this year, in a series of community work sessions, to map what resources are available for those who’ve been in prison or on probation. Sidney, whose background is in urban planning, is now helping to facilitate these local agencies as they better align their resources. The ultimate goal is to reduce recidivism in the region.
“Individuals and organizations want to see formerly incarcerated individuals be successful in the community,” says Sidney. “The group supports a collective impact model to mutually reinforce each others’ activities around a common agenda and outcomes.”
This October, Transform Rockford also welcomed the Rev. Jeffrey Brown, of Boston’s RECAP (Rebuilding Every City Around Peace), to talk about keeping urban youth away from crime, gangs and drugs. Brown supports broad coalitions of community groups who together attack urban violence at its roots.
“RECAP is a nationally recognized organization helping communities throughout the United States,” says Sidney. “The Rev. Jeffrey Brown, through his work with the Boston Ten Point Coalition and RECAP, has been accredited for Boston’s success in reducing youth violent crime.” Over an eight-year period, Boston saw a 79 percent reduction in youth violence.
The Families & Neighborhoods spoke, meanwhile, is teaming up with the Education spoke to address the developmental needs of children. During its research, both teams landed on the Search Institute’s list of 40 Developmental Assets – qualities a child needs to live a successful life. Assets include family support and parental involvement, community service, accountability, morals/values and social competencies.
Wilson says the Transform Rockford teams are asking what would happen if those assets were used to align youth program curriculum around the region – at places like schools, churches or YMCAs.
“It could involve figuring out who supports which assets, or who’s buffering these individual assets in youths’ lives,” says Wilson. “We could first map this out, so everyone knows that youth aren’t falling through the cracks or assets aren’t being underrepresented. So, for example, if nobody had asset No. 34, we can say, ‘What’s going on? Who can provide it?’”
Still other groups are looking for ways to increase civility and respect for divergent viewpoints. Though these collaborators differ on what shape a civility campaign might take, they agree on the endpoint.
“A lot of their work is relating to our shared values,” says Patrick O’Keefe, communications manager. Those values focus on inclusion, respect, unity and transparency. “We should think before we act, or talk, and consider how it affects others.”
Wilson guesses that, of all the proposed Transform Rockford projects, more than 100 of them promise a truly transformational change to the region. The impact of any project will be the ultimate litmus test, he says.
“Our teams have been identifying which of those projects are transformational, meaning they’re a step change – projects which will lead to transformational change and will get us to our vision of being a Top 25 community by 2025,”says Wilson.
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