Who we are
Community Connections began in 2006 when then Skillman Foundation program officer Sharnita Johnson conceived of the idea for a grassroots grantmaking program to serve as the civic engagement component of the Good Neighborhoods Program. She contacted veteran grassroots grant maker Sheila Taylor, then Director of Prevention Network in East Lansing, who developed the initial foundation for the Community Connections Grant Program. The design was soon passed on to Lisa Leverette to nurture and grow the program. Since then, the Good Neighborhoods Program has expanded to multiple grantmaking initiatives: the Lower Eastside Grant Program, the Cody Rouge Grant Program, the Workforce Development and Equity Grant Program, the Innovative Educators Grant Program, the Attendance Matters Grant Program, the Hope Starts Here Child-Centric Grant Program, the Youth-Led Action! Grant Program, and the Artist’s Collective.
In total, Community Connections has supported over one thousand innovative projects. Many find it revolutionary that we provide grants to regular folks – our expanding network of hundreds of frontline responders such as grassroots and community groups, teachers, childcare providers, and other public servants.
Residents of the community are the grantmakers. Changemaker community grantmakers meet monthly to award funds. We actively outreach and provide technical assistance to neighborhood groups in order to support a wide variety of applicants. We provide capacity building opportunities to grant reviewers and grantees, keeping them informed and informing others about trends in the field. Grantees convene regularly for networking, collaboration, and resource sharing.
Community Connections is a tool for civic engagement, identifying and supporting resident leadership, and inspiring bottom-up systems change. Continuous learning and evaluation are integrated into the fabric of the program. Problems and solutions are processed through a lens of equity in order to positively impact the most vulnerable.
Leaders in our network demonstrate first-hand how resourcing dreams for an equitable future can unleash talent and possibilities far exceeding the investment. These programs recognize and respond to the reality that marginalized and oppressed communities have been denied monetary resources, training and education, and access to power and decision-making.
We would like to express sincere gratitude to the Kresge Foundation, the Skillman Foundation, the United Way for Southeastern MIchigan, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation for their support and partnership in this important work.