2023 Annual Report

Community Feature

Saginaw Community Foundation

Community Feature - Saginaw Community Foundation

County-wide Coalition Catalyzing Action on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Belonging and Justice

In early 2024, the Saginaw Community Foundation (SCF) announced the Community Engagement Inclusion Council (CEIC), created by community leaders from education, business, healthcare and nonprofits, to create a brighter, more inclusive and equitable future for all in Saginaw County.

Community leaders designed a strategic plan that provides a roadmap centering equity, diversity, inclusion, belonging, and justice (DEIBJ) as the cornerstones of a community action plan. The next phase of Saginaw County’s journey is underway, with extensive community dialogues and learning opportunities planned in the coming months.

“We need to know how to work together. We need to look beyond the negativity that we see across the country and be the bigger person, be the bigger community, and show that with a little extra care, concern and support for one another, we can be successful as a community,” Reneé Johnston, president and CEO of the Saginaw Community Foundation and CMF trustee shared.

The community foundation’s internal equity journey helped inform and catalyze a coordinated county-wide approach to advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging and justice (DEIBJ).

In 2020, Johnston discussed the community foundation’s equity journey with CMF and how they were hosting DEI programming and advancing their organization’s equity journey, supporting board and staff members with trainings, assessments and resources. SCF also invited the community to participate in virtual DEI learning opportunities.

Johnston was invited to be part of a community group that was organizing around DEI and her team member, Brian Jackson, director of donor services and special initiatives, was also working with another local committee. More local groups were forming with an interest in advancing DEI in Saginaw County, so the community foundation started making connections between the groups and other community leaders, including the local NAACP chapter, bringing them all together for a county-wide approach.

“We were being asked at other tables and it only seemed right to bring those together at one table and to tie it in with the work we were doing as an organization. I feel this is a good space for community foundations to take a leadership role. It works very well for our community foundation because we seem to get called on to be a convener, so it was natural for us to make that happen,”

Reneé Johnston

President and CEO of the Saginaw Community Foundation and CMF Trustee

They hosted about 50 community members for a facilitated discussion to see how they could come together around DEI and all committed to working together.

“Every aspect of our community was represented in some way when we identified that leadership group,” Johnston said.

With a diverse coalition at the helm, the framework for the CEIC was created.

As the community foundation’s internal equity journey continued to take shape, it also helped inform what their county-wide leadership role could be.

In 2022, the community foundation made DEI a pillar of their strategic plan, deepening their commitment to their journey and identifying opportunities for the broader community to engage and learn with them.

One of the first things SCF did was articulate definitions for diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging and justice. Those definitions are core to the beginning of the CEIC’s work. They were shared at the press conference in January, announcing these efforts to the community.

The CEIC has assigned work groups to each word and its definition to come together and co-design strategies and county-wide goals for DEIBJ.

“We want the community to know that this is a journey that we want to bring everybody on,” Johnston said. “It’s not about ‘checking the boxes,’ it’s about equipping everyone to navigate DEIBJ in their own lives, in their own neighborhoods and in the community.”

Johnston shared that it was standing room only at the CEIC public announcement and they have received positive feedback and response from community members; they recognize there are challenges in trying to bring everyone on this journey. The CEIC is working on consistent messaging for questions that may arise from community members in the future to support educating all about this work.

“We have our work cut out for us in the future. We received some positive feedback but there will be people who have questions or feel that being a part of equity, being a part of justice and belonging may not be for everybody,” Johnston said.

Johnston hopes that as the CEIC outlines DEIBJ strategies and goals for the county and ongoing educational opportunities, it will foster spaces for all in the community to be inquisitive and actively engage.

“DEIBJ is all about how we as a community show love, care and concern for one another and how we as a community can work together. Our neighborhoods and communities are becoming more diverse. Reaching out or helping your neighbors is that much closer to accepting one another and seeing each other across religions, socioeconomics and more,” Johnston said.

The CEIC is working on its first-ever DEIBJ summit for the community in early 2025.