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Job well done: LINC celebrates emerging leadership

This dispatch was added by one of our Nonprofit Neighbors. It does not represent the editorial voice of The Rapidian or Community Media Center.

We celebrate the emerging leadership that is a true testimony of all neighborhood engagement efforts. Let us share with you some of the amazing things that are going on in the neighborhoods that we work in every day.
Dad and daughter at a Parent Essential meeting in the morning.

Dad and daughter at a Parent Essential meeting in the morning. /Photo courtesy of LINC.

The Power of Community Voices.

We’ve all heard it before, because it is so true: Change is made by those who show up. Getting involved in your community and speaking up on issues that affect you & yours is a crucial way to make positive changes in our world. We all know it can be tough to get  out there on your own—that’s why LINC wants to help you get involved.

Want to speak about something affecting your city? Come to LINC on a City Commission meeting day and join your fellow residents in speaking directly to those in power. Want to make a change to a policy that affects your child at Grand Rapids Public Schools? Mark your calendars to come to the LINC gallery for the next board meeting. We’ll provide dinner, discussion space and transportation to and from the meeting. All you need to do is show up. Call Lamont Cole at 616.451.9140 or email [email protected] to join in on the action today.

Or attend a LINC Opportunity Center Orientation every other Wednesday to learn more about how our LOC coaches can help you connect to resources and reach your goals, as well as to find out more about the LINC Academy for Social Transformation. Call 616.451.9140 for more information today, and visit our events page to find out more amazing things going on in your community.

“So what is the impact? How do you measure it?”

“How do you know you’re making a difference?”

If you are a concerned citizen, a funder, a peer—really, anyone with an interest in community revitalization—these are the questions you may be ask. Depending on the answer, you may walk away satisfied—or you might walk away discouraged, weary of yet another program, another effort you can’t see results from. At LINC, we take pride in the work we’ve done so far in engaging communities throughout Kent County. But more importantly, we celebrate the emerging leadership that is a true testimony of all our neighborhood engagement efforts. Let us share with you our successes, especially in our leadership development and civic engagement work.


THE FEELING OF the room when more than 500 people are sharing the space for one single purpose—to help improve public schools for all children—is awe-inspiring. LINC Liaisons and Natural Helpers organized, pounded the pavement, flyered the neighborhoods and connected with stakeholders in four areas of the city of Grand Rapids, designated Hope Zones under the Believe 2 Become movement. LINC Liaisons built up the relationships that are at the heart of community change. And that is what LINC has learned—social capital equals social impact. LINC Liaisons have been critical in parent engagement in schools and now bring innovative ideas like Parent Essentials to schools and the community. And the results are nothing short of extraordinary:

  • More than 250 new parent leaders in schools
  • Over 400 resident leaders trained through the LINC Academy for Social Transformation
  • More than 10 parent meetings a month engaging hundreds of dads and moms in their children’s schools
  • Thousands involved in community planning and solutions

Now that LINC Liaisons are helping to channel this resident power around community issues beyond education, the beauty and unlimited potential of our communities is truly shining. Recently, GVSU spoke with residents about their experience with LINC over the past three years. To measure impact, most of the time we use numbers and data, a few photos to try to capture a feeling. But at LINC, we measure impact like this:

“I was working at a local school. My task was to teach and promote parent involvement in their children’s education. But I was not successful because the parents were not listening to me. After my training at LINC, I do my job successfully and I am now a well-respected individual in my community… This is because of LINC.” – Focus group member, GVSU Evaluation Report, 2014.


THE WORK OF LINC LIAISONS has been the lever for change, but that is not where it ends. LINC recognizes that there is not only a need to build capacity in our schools and other structures, but within families. That is why we nurture the growth of hundreds of residents who have been empowered through our efforts with the LINC Coaching Team. LINC coaches work hand in hand with families and individuals to remove barriers and encourage growth towards their goals. But it’s not about how many residents they have met with, or how many people they have placed in jobs. When one of our clients gets their GED, it’s not a mark on the wall and then move on. When success happens with their clients, stuff gets real in the room. From tears and hugs to extra hours helping someone tweak a resume, LINC Opportunity Center Coaches invest not only their time, but themselves into each and every person. And because of that, the impact takes care of itself – over 120 residents have been placed in jobs, many more have made their way out of foreclosure, and much more!

The fact is—when LINC talks about connecting people to places and opportunities, it’s the people that really matter. From late night Zumba classes to keep healthy to nurturing new artists in the LINC Gallery, it’s not always about something quantifiable. It’s about the relationships, and about the real strength that comes from the relationships we build with one another in our communities, every day.

“This is truly what LINC and what our community building is all about – creating social capital and setting the foundation for ongoing civic engagement. Residents are not only partners in our work, they are change agents, they are change makers working tireless and in humbling ways to give back to the community, to reweave our social fabric. LINC’s neighborhood engagement is about putting residents on the forefront and here are the examples of success. These are the markers of our impact. It tells the story of humbling and rewarding this work is,” said Ana Doonan, Senior Director for LINC Community Revitalization.


YOU CAN SEE the pictures of people’s hopes and dreams for the future on the walls at LINC. A Dad writing down why he sees his child’s education is important is captured nicely in a photo. A woman proudly displaying her view on what leadership means to her is inspiring, and we’ll never let it gather dust. These are all measurable impact, a proof to show off of community change.

But what we want you to see when you look at these photographs aren’t just the hope, or the inspiring words. The woman walked with a renewed confidence when she left LINC, full of ideas for change in her community. The Dad came early that morning, and brought his child to school. He sat and enjoyed a breakfast snack with his child as the morning sun shone into the school library. Solidarity among fathers was born as they listened to inspiring words from a speaker who said, “Guess what, you’re not alone.”

The impact of social change can be hard to measure. But when dive deep into the work LINC has done, the synergy, the connectedness and emerging leadership throughout the communities we serve are indications that we are on the right path.

As far as impact goes, we’ll take that.

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