Generating ideas, connections, and action

Leadership Development Hiding in Plain Sight: LINC Community Revitalization, A Model

Last week I was able to speak with Darel Ross and Jorge Gonzalez from LINC Community Revitalization in Grand Rapids. I am inspired to share the story of our conversation with our community since we are passionate about the LINC model of community change focused on promoting collective impact, racial justice and civic engagement.


Why is LINC demonstrating important models of Leadership development?


LINC is an example of leadership hiding in plain sight, because of its holistic approach to revitalizing communities and neighborhoods in Kent County, Michigan. Holistic means that to establish healthy communities, LINC tackles issues such as affordable housing, community engagement, economic development, and education as well as provides personal coaching through place making activities and community activism. Central to LINC’s mission is the belief that everyone is a leader and that creating spaces for community residents to have authentic conversations about community issues, builds indigenous capacities to create change. 


LINC’s mission places a strong emphasis on place based approaches. Darel tells me, “We are big fans of place based strategies- we use geographical areas for 99% of our recruitment.” Jorge adds, “Graduates tell their neighbors and they tell the people in their communities.” LINC’s also places a strong focus on an intergenerational methodology which is an important keystone to its leadership development model. Whether it’s participating in the LINC Academy for Social Transformation (L.A.S.T.) or its Believe 2 Become Early Education Program, LINC recruits by geographical area and targets families of LINC program alumni for future cohorts. Another strong emphasis is around the intentionality of bringing groups together around a goal for impact especially those that have been historically divided like African Americans and Latinos in Grand Rapids in neighborhood engagement work. Jorge reflects, “The goal is to build leaders of households, public boards, commissions, and so forth to be a part of impacting change in their own communities.”


When I asked Darel and Jorge to tell me more about the skills, knowledge and behaviors that enable participants to be successful individually and together they said, “At LINC there is an understanding of different leadership styles of people in their groups or community, there are power dynamics. We focus on systems lens- systems of race and class and a historical perspective of how these systems have impacted policy. These are all central skills to our program.”


In fact, graduates of LINC programs have been effective in changing Michigan state policy. For example, a particular LINC community member was very instrumental in getting community and local government support which resulted in a state change for youth undocumented migrant drivers’ licenses. In 2012, the Obama administration gave temporary approval through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) so that undocumented youth could legally work and drive in the US. However, the Secretary of State in Michigan overthrew the opportunity for youth to have drivers’ licenses. A LINC community member was able to gather community and set up meetings with mayors; and in the end the state law was overturned. 


This is a great example of community organizing for collect impact and change.


Learnings around Intentionality


I asked Darel and Jorge to share what they have learned so far about what it takes to really help individuals and groups work more effectively together. And they both answered with brilliant but basic ideas around intentionality. Darel shared, “It’s really about the intentionality of bringing groups together and aligning around a goal for impact and then measuring the work by that impact. In our experience, there is always a willingness to make change and work in the community. But often people in poverty are marginalized and the opportunity is not given to them. By introducing them to skills [see paragraph 4 of this article] the community has owned their work. And groups even go on without our assistance with this work.”  Jorge offered more  about intentionality around historically marginalized groups, “Historically, there was never the opportunity for black and brown people to work together in our community. In our programs, we are able to bridge the black brown divide and work on issues that affect both communities. And this is making an impact.”


LINC is doing great work to address racial inequities and build community capacity for impact.

To learn more about LINC please visit their website. And check out the LINC model also available on their website.