One America - Community Circles on Schools, Housing and Race

Program: Community Circles on Schools, Housing and Race, Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN
Contact(s): Dick Little, Coordinator: (612) 729-3220
Purpose: To increase awareness about the relationship between housing and educational segregation and educational achievement, and to formulate a response that will create equal opportunity for all Twin Cities children

Background Program Operations Outcomes


The Education and Housing Equity Project (EHEP) was founded in 1995 to advance public understanding of the growing economic disparities and racial segregation in the Twin Cities metropolitan area and to develop constructive community responses to these challenges. EHEP's mission is to be a catalyst in building broad-based coalitions and partnerships which engage the metropolitan community in informed public conversations, analysis and advocacy. EHEP promotes racially and economically inclusive communities that give families and citizens of all income levels, races and ethnicities access to quality schools, housing and jobs throughout the metropolitan area. In 1996, EHEP convened a partnership of over 20 organizations, including the Metropolitan Interfaith Council on Affordable Housing, the Minnesota Fair Housing Center, the Minnesota Minority Education Partnership and the Minneapolis Initiative Against Racism. This partnership, the Community Circle Collaborative (Collaborative), serves to organize a metro-wide dialogue on the challenges of education and housing segregation. The creation of the Collaborative was motivated by the pressing need to link issues of school segregation and desegregation as well as disparities in educational achievement to the broader issue of segregated housing and communities, which result in concentrations of poverty. The first dialogue was launched in 1997.

Program Operations

The Collaborative brought together 500 citizens from 35 communities and many different walks of life to participate in community circle dialogues. These circles of five to 15 participants met four to six times over three months to discuss two central issues: 1) The impacts of existing patterns of residential, economic and racial segregation on the educational achievement and life opportunities of Twin Cities area children and families; and 2) Ways in which individuals and the community can enhance educational success, housing options and economic opportunities for all children in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. The Collaborative secured sponsor organizations to convene the discussion circles, including school and neighborhood councils, facilitators and educational resources which helped to inform the discussions. A discussion guide was also prepared to provide a common focus for the work. The conversations culminated with a Metropolitan Citizens Forum and a report that synthesized the findings, conclusions and recommendations of the community circles. Throughout the rest of the year, many of the discussion circles and their sponsor organizations worked to formulate action plans and to hold town hall meetings in their schools and communities.

Outcomes and Significant Accomplishments

The Collaborative has been credited with raising the level of civic awareness, conversation and engagement in issues of race and equity in the Twin Cities area. It has brought together over 500 citizens and organizations representing thousands of citizens in conversations about issues of race. The Collaborative has expanded public support for the mediation of the education equity and adequacy lawsuits currently pending before the Minnesota state courts. The Collaborative has also supported state legislation regarding affordable, fair metropolitan housing. EHEP is planning a second, expanded round of conversations for the fall and winter of 1998 and 1999 that will build on the first round of conversations, use a revised discussion guide, and include a forum to connect citizens to efforts aimed at addressing identified issues. At the conclusion of the conversations, EHEP and the Collaborative will cosponsor a Citizens Summit with the Minnesota Meeting and Minnesota Public Radio. The summit will result in an actionable agenda addressing issues of educational access as well as housing and school desegregation. The agenda will help to shape the policy and action agendas of partners in the Collaborative and public decision-making bodies.

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