Our approach is Kalamazoo

Our vision:
Kalamazoo County is the most equitable place to live.
Our mission:
Remove barriers through building relationships and connecting resources so people can reach full potential.

As we see it, that community is one in which all kids start school ready to learn, are supported throughout their academic career and are prepared for life after high school. It’s one in which all adults have the skills they need to live their best life and are able to support themselves and those who depend on them. It’s one in which every person feels safe in every neighborhood. It’s one in which identities and attributes aren’t predictors of one’s ability to live a high quality, self-determined life.  

We’ve come to a fundamental understanding that achieving this vision depends on recognizing who in our community is not able to reach their full potential and why. As a community, we must address the causes of inequities by changing discriminatory laws, policies and procedures. We must build programs that correct imbalances, expand opportunities and improve access to resources for marginalized community members. We must ensure all people can live authentically, embracing and celebrating their identities and cultures. 

Removing barriers and addressing the needs and challenges of our community’s most marginalized people will help Kalamazoo County be a better community overall. 

Equity with an emphasis on education

Despite our community’s collective best efforts, we haven’t been able to break its cycles of poverty and low academic achievement or attainment for marginalized individuals. 

We focus on equity and education because any program that impacts education-related outcomes and uses an equity lens can lead to sustained individual and community prosperity. Organizations from all sectors (e.g. social service, health care, the arts, economic development, education) can work toward reducing disparities and use an equity lens. 

When educational and career advancement for adults is supported and achieved, the effects of generational poverty are minimized, which helps neighborhoods and households become more stable. In turn, stable neighborhoods and households improve educational outcomes for children. For this reason, our highest investments will be in programs that improve education-related outcomes and advance equity.

Looking ahead

There will always be a need for programs and services that help individuals meet their immediate basic needs. While we’ll always support organizations that provide these services, we believe the community investments we make in long-term efforts to address the causes of challenges and change systems will positively affect community conditions, reducing the necessity for immediate-needs services and programs. 

Therefore, when community conditions indicate and data supports that it’s appropriate, we’ll direct even more of our resources toward efforts that identify the causes of challenges and create change at the system level. Creating such change will make impact significant and sustainable.  

This is a pivotal moment for our community. Engaging in this work at this time will disrupt cycles of poverty and illiteracy. Engaging in this work will make our vision — a community where every person can reach full potential — a reality. In that reality, every person who calls this place home has the skills and opportunities they need to live a high-quality, self-determined life. In that reality, this community — Kalamazoo County — is one where we all love to live.

Read more: our approach to community philanthropy 

Read more: Be part of our work

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