Citizen Engagement Program Unveils Future Plans
Tallahassee, Fla. – Yesterday, representatives from the Knight Creative Communities Institute (KCCI) unveiled plans to continue the organization’s citizen engagement program in the Big Bend Region. KCCI organizes volunteers to execute projects that enhance the community’s sense of place.
Research shows that communities with a defined sense of place attract and retain college graduates, young professionals and the creative class. Communities with a high concentration of these audiences fare better economically. The American Community Survey’s three-year estimates indicate Tallahassee has positive momentum, with the 25-34 year-old young professional population growing since 2009.
“KCCI unites a diverse group of Community Catalyst volunteers and connects them with community and government leaders,” said Betsy Couch, KCCI executive director. “These Catalysts become empowered with the knowledge and connections to be effective change agents moving Tallahassee forward.”
Through the vision of Mike Pate, KCCI started in 2007 with a grant by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, enabling KCCI to execute more than a dozen projects in Tallahassee. KCCI continues to be a critical asset for the Tallahassee community; however, the grant funding from the Knight Foundation expires October 31, 2014. The organization plans to continue for at least three more years but in order to do so must secure community funding.
“KCCI is truly a community effort – a project for the community, implemented by community volunteers and funded by visionary community partners,” said KCCI founder Mike Pate, who remains active in the organization.
Currently, KCCI is working to raise $150,000 in private and public funding to sustain the organization for another three years. To date, more than $110,000 has been committed by partners including Leon County; the City of Tallahassee; Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare, Inc.; Florida State University, College of Business; Taproot Creative; CenturyLink; NAI TALCOR; Capital City Bank; Nolia Brandt; Drs. Chaney, Couch and Grooters Family Dentistry; 101 Restaurant; Periodontal Associates of North Florida, PA, and more.
“As Tallahassee continues to find ways to attract and retain the creative class, KCCI is the absolute thought leader in this endeavor,” said Ed Murray, of NAI TALCOR, KCCI advisory board member and former KCCI community catalyst. “Our community is feeling the lasting impressions created by its various initiatives.”
Members of past KCCI Catalyst groups were responsible for producing projects such as:
– Get Gaines Going: This team helped push up the timetable for the Gaines Street redevelopment by 11 years. The redevelopment brought significant private development to the College Town area in Tallahassee.
– Greenovation, which created the Sustainable Tallahassee nonprofit, an organization dedicated to promoting environmental, economic and social sustainability through education and collaboration.
– Identify Tallahassee: This KCCI team worked with the Midtown Merchants Association to create a plan for long term improvements to the now-thriving Midtown area.
– Tallahassee on 2 Wheels: This initiative pushed for bike lanes on Franklin Blvd. and partnered with the city and county to focus on improving Tallahassee’s bike-friendly atmosphere.
– Cultivate Cascades: This team conducted research on Cascades Park, successfully pushed for a more extensive amphitheater in Cascades Park and collaborated with local community partners like First Commerce Credit Union to develop Discovery, a unique playscape for children.
– Amp Up Tallahassee, which promoted the local music scene and successfully pushed for construction of the Fifth Avenue Plaza in Midtown.
There are three active KCCI groups currently working on “sense of place” issues:
– Frenchtown Heritage Market: This team is working with public and private partners to resolve the food desert in the Frenchtown area. The initial farmers market kicked off in April 2014, and the KCCI team is working with the neighborhood and the City’s Community Redevelopment Agency to create a plan to sustain the market either long-term or permanently.
– Tallahassee Music Week, which is partnering with local groups to create a week of live music in 2015. This event will provide entertainment for the community and brand the local music scene. In addition to professional promoted acts, the team has also partnered with the Foundation for Leon County Schools and the area universities (FSU, FAMU and TCC) to showcase local student talent in non-traditional venues.
– Downtown Sense of Place’s team is working with partners to make Downtown Tallahassee a more attractive destination for residents. This initiative has created Capital City Date Night and is providing porch swings throughout the downtown area.
“KCCI provides a framework that harnesses the passion of community volunteers and empowers them to make a meaningful and tangible difference in our region,” said Stacey Getz, APR, a partner at Taproot Creative, KCCI advisory board member and 2007 community catalyst. “If you want to have a hand in shaping the future of this city while building lasting relationships with people who share your vision, get involved with KCCI.”
In the future, one KCCI project will be selected annually, and approximately 15 Community Catalysts will volunteer on the project. Once the KCCI advisory board selects Catalysts through the self-nomination process, the Catalysts will work together over the course of the year to develop a self-sustaining project that helps build the community’s sense of place. KCCI’s leadership team provides the guidance needed to keep teams on track.
Community catalyst applicants must live in Tallahassee or in the immediate surrounding areas. The application cycle for the 2015 year begins October 1, 2014. If you would like to get involved with KCCI projects or apply to be a 2015 Community Catalyst, please visit www.kccitallahassee.com.