DGRI values and relies heavily on robust civic engagement because the practice delivers many benefits:
- Upholds the American ideals of democracy, transparency and responsiveness;
- Empowers the voice of the community, particularly among historically underrepresented communities/perspectives;
- Brings new and good local information, not just conventional wisdom and myth, to the decision making process;
- Enables the decision-making process to address real issues and opportunities;
- Improves the knowledge and skills of participants and builds capacity for leadership among citizens and officials;
- Equips decision-makers to better understand alternatives, and related effects, as well as the various perceptions of benefits and risks;
- Establishes a sampling of informed citizens that can efficiently vet decisions;
- Offers an empathetic forum that incorporates user needs in program design;
- Provides elected and appointed officials a defensible case for change;
- Builds community trust, ownership and confidence in the process and preferred course of action;
- Strengthens the DGRI network to drive positive community-supported change; and
- Makes the preferred course of action more effective and achieves more successful outcomes.
Citizen-Led Alliance Structure
DGRI hosts five citizen Alliances - organized to advance the goals of GR Forward - bring together people with different knowledge, perspectives, and backgrounds to solve problems, identify opportunities and support the day-to-day work of improving Grand Rapids’ central city.
Each Alliance effectively function as community-driven steering committees helping to guide DGRI’s overall body of work.
- GR Forward Goal 1 Alliance – advises on programs and projects to reestablish the Grand River as the draw to the City and region.
- GR Forward Goal 2 Alliance – advises on programs and projects to develop a true Downtown neighborhood home to a diverse population.
- GR Forward Goal 3 Alliance – advises on programs and projects to implement a 21st century mobility strategy in Downtown.
- GR Forward Goal 4 Alliance – advises on initiatives to expand economic opportunities in Downtown.
- GR Forward Goal 5 Alliance – advises on public space program and projects that create an ever more welcoming and inclusive Downtown.
The Alliances aspire to include and make good use of greater Grand Rapids’ demographic diversity. To that end, the composition of each Alliance is intentionally designed to capture and represent a wide range of individual qualities, including but not limited to skills and industry experience, race, gender, age, educational attainment, sexual preference, place of residence, as well as personal interests and passion.
Taken together, the Alliances currently engage 84 citizens. Demographically, membership on the Alliances breaks down as follows:
- 50% male (49% citywide)
- 50% female (51% citywide)
- 4% Asian (2% citywide)
- 16% African American (20% citywide)
- 10% Hispanic or Latino (13% citywide)
- 65% White (62% citywide)
- 5% Mixed Race (3% citywide)
- 2% 20-24 (17% citywide)
- 43% 25-34 (30% citywide)
- 30% 35-44 (19% citywide)
- 11% 45-54 (18% citywide)
- 14% 55+ (16% citywide)
- Sexual Orientation
- 94% Heterosexual (96% citywide)
- 6% Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (4% citywide)
Additional composition facts:
- 42 percent private sector representation from small businesses such as Sanctuary Folk Art to large enterprises such as Meijer and AHC+ Hospitality.
- 31 percent non-profit representation from organizations including but not limited to Grand Rapids Urban League, Dwelling Place, Experience Grand Rapids, ArtPrize and the YMCA.
- 19 percent public sector representation from organizations including but not limited to Kent County, the City of Grand Rapids, the Rapid transit agency and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.
- 6 percent representation from educational institutions and the academic sector.
- 2 percent representation from retired people.