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In 2000, the City of Lansing, Ingham Regional Medical Center, and the Ingham County Health Department (through a grant from the Kellogg Foundation) became partners in a year-long community-based strategic planning process known as the South Lansing Summit. The goal was to learn from stakeholders what they thought was needed to improve the overall welfare of their community, and ultimately, encourage agencies and municipalities to direct resources and conduct programs that meet those needs. 
More than 800 residents and community leaders completed surveys and participated in focus groups over the course of a year. Their concerns and ideas were compiled in a document called the South Lansing Action Plan. Since the plan was developed and fully supported by the community, Summit coordinators hoped that local decision-makers would be more inclined to allocate resources necessary to implement the community's goals.
In 2002, Kathie Dunbar was hired to coordinate community development efforts identified in the South Lansing Action Plan. To guide her, Kathie assembled an advisory committee of Southside stakeholders. Two years later, she founded the South Lansing Community Development Association, and her initial advisory committee became the organization's first Board of Directors. In 2005, South Lansing CDA became a nonprofit organization, allowing us to leverage a wider range of resources to accomplish our goals.
Early Issues
During multiple community engagement forums between 2000 and 2004, residents and stakeholders consistently expressed feeling disconnected from their community. They had little knowledge of what was happening in other parts of the community, and they felt they had very few opportunities to gather and share information. People also commented that South Lansing offered almost no community events (e.g., festivals, fairs, concerts) to facilitate social gathering on the south side.
Many people noted a lack of pride or “place attachment” to the area known as South Lansing. Some pointed out that it was hard to establish pride in an area that so many others perceived as "the wrong side of the tracks." One business owner was encouraged by her banker to move her store out of the “ghetto.” One resident described a realtor who subtly discouraged her from looking at homes on the south side. One person was asked by a colleague if she felt safe driving through South Lansing to go to church.  
Many residents blamed the local media for fueling these misperceptions by blanket-labeling all crimes committed south of I-496 as "Southside." Arson committed on Forest Road by Michigan State University was reported as "Southside arson." Five miles away, a robbery near Waverly Road would be labeled as "Southside robbery." 
At the same time, there was negligible, if any, coverage of positive events in South Lansing. which would naturally lead anyone watching or reading the news in Mid-Michigan to develop negative perceptions about the area. Residents were legitimately concerned that negative perceptions would ultimately affect business and residential investment in South Lansing
Interestingly enough, when asked afterward why they tended to label all crimes below I-496 (basically 60 percent of the city) as "south side," some reporters said, honestly, they didn't know what else to call it. There were no distinct geographic areas within the "south side" they could identify . . . which brings us to another point revealed during the Summit - South Lansing had very few organized neighborhoods. 
Even though Lansing’s south side is geographically and demographically larger than the area north of I-496, it had far fewer active "neighboring" organizations. "Neighboring" groups include neighborhood-based associations, watches, garden clubs, etc.  To illustrate, of more than 40 Lansing neighborhood associations registered in 2002, only seven were on the south side, two of those inactive.
Without connections to the people around them, residents had a hard time developing "place attachment." Without organized neighborhood associations, residents were lacking a valuable mechanism for sharing and receiving community information. As a result, most residents were unaware of resources available in the community.
Residents weren't the only ones unaware of community resources - there had never been a network to connect the different "threads" of our community. Community organizers, business owners, school administrators, faith leaders, nonprofit executives, and elected officials were not communicating effectively amongst themselves.
As a result, many leaders felt they existed in a bubble, unaware of resources available to them and their constituents and ill-prepared to work collaboratively for the betterment of the community at-large.  Without shared vision, shared goals, or at the very least, shared information, the fabric of our community was weak.

South Lansing CDA has made great strides to strengthen our community, and we've come a long way in just a few years.  Today, there are 27 neighborhood associations on the south side.  Residents and stakeholders are connected on multiple levels, sharing information and collaborating on projects that benefit our community. Our organization hosts social and recreational events that draw thousands to the south side every year.  We've still got a way to go, but we're committed to getting us there!