Building Blocks helps participating residents in Kalamazoo’s central city neighborhoods build community, to strengthen and revitalize their neighborhoods.
The Building Blocks Sustained Program began in 2012. The Sustained Program builds from groups established in our Catalyst (short-term) Program and continues developing the capacity of grassroots leadership to increase neighborhood resilience and to accelerate community development with essential resident involvement.
The Building Blocks Sustained Program initiates and nurtures the development of resident-led block-action groups, groups of residents living on or around a block. Block-action groups (BAGs) identify issues to address and projects to complete, plan for action, and act. Examples of issues addressed and projects completed include: a community vegetable garden with 16 raised-beds on a lot adopted from the Land Bank; the shut-down of a vacant house used for trafficking drugs and prostitution; a Wild Ones certified community garden acting as a butterfly way-station and educational opportunity for urban gardening; a lighting project that beautifies individual properties while significantly increasing safety on the street; a block-action group attending city commission meetings to voice support for park enhancements and those enhancements being approved by the commission; and more.
The Sustained Program builds the collective leadership capacity of block-action groups with the end goal that groups are capable of self-initiating work, recruiting new residents, and taking action. Building Blocks provides training through workshops, one-on-one meetings with residents, and block-action group meetings on the block. Training is catered to fit the needs of the specific block-action group in their unique stage of maturity. Building Blocks recognizes the transience of the areas in which we work, a lack of resources, and the unfamiliarity of collective action in the neighborhoods we serve, therefore Building Blocks has made an indefinite commitment of support to the block-action groups established through our programs. Not only does each block-action group receive on-going training but each block-action group also receives seed funding from Building Blocks to support the work prioritized by that group. Wherever possible, Building Blocks partners with other agencies to leverage additional resources.
What is the purpose of the Sustained Program?
The purpose of the program is to strengthen and reinforce Block Action Groups (BAGs) that form during the Catalyst Program, or may have already existed. As the block further establishes its collective capacity through self-organizing and cooperation, the group will rely less on the organizing support from Building Blocks each year.
What does The Sustained Program focus on?
The Sustained Program focuses on projects that are for the entire group, and not individual projects or solely home-improvement.
What defines a Block Action Group in the Sustained Program?
A Block Action Group (BAG) consists of members of a city block within Kalamazoo City in the neighborhoods we serve. Members of the group provide input in the form of active participation in meetings, engaging in planning and attending and contributing during planned work days. BAGs also participate by addressing street level issues. The group makes decisions together on the use of funding and what projects or issues will be addressed.
What are some expectations of the BAGs?
- Spend the budget in a manner the upholds BB mission/vision
- Work together as a group
- Complete a project that the group agreed upon
- Complete a project that involves/benefits the entire group
- Support the growth and autonomy of the BAG
How does the Sustained Program differ from the Catalyst Program?
- Focuses on large group projects
- Community wide focused, Not home-improvement focused
- Significantly lower budget
- More flexibility within schedule
- Less support from BB / More autonomy
- Goal is to reinforce and grow existing community and address street level issues/improvements
What is similar between the Sustained Program and Catalyst Program?
- BB Program
- Goal to enhance community-building
- Opportunity to work with your neighbors on your street