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First neighborhood summit to encourage residents to voice priorities for their communities

"Strong Neighborhoods, Strong City" is the first summit of its kind in Grand Rapids, bringing together leaders and citizens with the goal of strengthening local communities.
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The city of Grand Rapids will be introducing Strong Neighborhoods, Strong City, a neighborhood summit, on March 13. The first of its kind, the summit invites citizens from all over the city to come gather to discuss how to make their particular neighborhood stronger and to define the top priorities for building up all of Grand Rapids’ neighborhoods.

The event will feature Jim Diers, author of "Neighborhood Power: Building Community the Seattle Way," and the founding director of Seattle’s Department of Neighborhoods. With over 40 years of experience in building strong communities, Diers is looking forward to bring his lessons learned to Grand Rapids.

“I'm excited about my first visit to Grand Rapids! Although I have no direct experience, I've watched that fantastic video, read the Lonely Planet review and perused the Rapidian website. It's clear to me that the people of Grand Rapids are very proud of their city and have good reason to be,” says Diers. “I believe that great cities are comprised of vibrant neighborhoods and strong communities. These are two of Grand Rapids' greatest assets and they tend to reinforce one another. The strongest communities are locally-based and those communities, in turn, are the key to creating vibrant neighborhoods. I'm eager to share the lessons I've learned about ways to make Grand Rapids' neighborhoods and communities even better.”

Organizers say the one-day summit will be an opportunity for citizens of Grand Rapids to become involved as decision makers in their own neighborhoods, and to understand the mechanics of how their city is growing, where it's headed and what they can do to impact change.

Rosalynn Bliss, current 2nd Ward Commissioner, who will welcome people to the event, anticipates good things as well.

“My hope is that the summit is a catalyst for a larger and deeper conversation about how we maintain and support strong neighborhoods throughout our city. It is an opportunity to hear from experts in other cities and to have conversations about what we can do here in Grand Rapids. I would encourage anyone who is involved or who wants to be more engaged in their neighborhood to attend,” says Bliss. 

Diers encourages citizens to get involved in their neighborhoods, as he sees strengthening neighborhoods as the key to health communities.

“While each place is unique, as it should be, I've found that there are basic principles that characterize successful community building and neighborhood development everywhere. For citizens, the key is to build broader and more inclusive community participation, and I will share tips and stories to illustrate how this can be done,” says Diers. “The value of strong communities goes far beyond building vibrant neighborhoods. There is no substitute for community when it comes to preventing crime, responding to disasters, enhancing our health and happiness, caring for one another and our planet, sustaining our local economy, strengthening our democracy and advancing social justice."

In addition to Diers' keynote, Grand Rapids Police Chief David Rahinsky willl speak about the state of the Grand Rapids Police Department. Breakout sessions will cover a variety of topics including neighborhood marketing, equity and race, walking to school, using data to drive community access and using digital tools to empower neighborhoods. 

The Strong Neighborhoods, Strong City Summit will be held on Friday, March 13, 2015, 9 a.m.- 4 p.m. at Grand Rapids Public School University, 1400 Fuller Avenue NE. Local citizens can register here

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