1998 – 1999: Making a Commitment to Continue

Based on the success of the community conference, the decision was made in early 1998 to sustain the Community Building Task Force. Dianne English, Executive Director of Mecklenburg Ministries, became Executive Director of the new entity, renamed Community Building Initiative.

The goal adopted for this phase of CBI’s work was "To continue the active community-building process among people of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds in Charlotte-Mecklenburg and build on what has been accomplished." Community Building Initiative (CBI) was built on the conviction that there was still real work to be done around issues of race and ethnicity and on the commitment of hundreds of people to engage in this work. Task Force Leadership Team members Mac Everett and James Ferguson agreed to serve as co-chairs and recruited a talented group of citizens to join them on the Leadership Team. Foundation For The Carolinas and Mecklenburg Ministries agreed to continue as co-sponsoring organizations, with the Foundation acting as fiduciary agent during this transitional period. CBI began operation as a special program of Foundation For The Carolinas, and the Foundation provided funding necessary to develop an action plan for continuing the work, which included:

  • Organization of Issue Action Teams around community challenges identified at the December 1997 conference;
  • Encouragement of broad-based dialogue and public awareness opportunities within the community;
  • Promotion of collaboration with existing community organizations, institutions and programs to work for community change.

"Building A Community Worthy of the Crown" was adopted as the organization’s vision by volunteers and participants. Leadership Team members worked to raise the necessary funds and set in motion a process for creating a Values & Principles Statement to challenge individuals and community institutions. They further committed themselves to developing an implementation and accountability plan for recommendations coming out of this phase of CBI’s work. A professional team of facilitators, organizational management and behavior experts, social and cultural experts and others was assembled to guide the program design and delivery and to supervise the on-going work. In March 1998 the Leadership Team reviewed 24 community challenges identified at the "Something Has Begun" conference and prioritized six issues:

  1. Education: Curriculum design and teaching methods
  2. Education: The equitable distribution of resources to our schools
  3. Education: The growing disagreement about how and whether to integrate the school system
  4. Economics: The equitable distribution of resources to neighborhoods
  5. Economics: Jobs and economic opportunities
  6. Public Safety: Recruiting, hiring, training and promoting a diverse police force to serve a diverse community

It became clear that an opportunity existed to develop a process unique from other national efforts addressing issues around race. The models employed by many communities focused on either racial dialogue or high-level problem-solving approaches. CBI intended to combine a citizen-driven process with dialogue, research and education to produce solution-driven strategies. From this work, the CBI Change Model emerged, moving from the individual, to the group, to the organizational and institutional, and finally, community-wide level. Each of the six Issue Action Teams worked to research, catalog, discuss and review information available within their area of interest, while working on a personal level to learn through continuous sharing and exchange within the group. Accomplishments include:

  • Strong relationships built across long-standing and/or traditional differences;
  • Citizens with increased awareness and information about racial and ethnic issues and their impact on community life;
  • Citizen-led research and data collection on issues related to race and ethnicity;
  • Data-based, citizen-driven strategies and recommendations addressing key community issues;
  • Passionate teams of educated citizens mobilized to move forward with positive strategies;
  • Three working documents focused on the areas of Education, Economics and Public Safety;
  • A citizen-based Resource Team Model for addressing specific community issues that features collaboration with community organizations and institutions;
  • A facilitated community conversation and feedback model;
  • Visible leadership in the area of race relations.