In June, we were proud to unveil Cinnaire’s new five-year strategic plan. The work we introduced isn’t a mere tweak-a-vision plan, but rather a transformational vision plan that lays the foundation of what will be the Cinnaire of the future. I invite you to take a moment and read about this plan and our vision. The plan is a culmination of almost a year’s research, reflection and goal setting and it was built with the input of our staff, our Board of Directors and a team of leaders in the Community Development Financial Institution industry.
At the core of the strategy is a focus on Cinnaire’s Why. Based on Simon Sinek’s transformational work studying great organizations versus good organizations, Cinnaire dove into his theory and developed the Why of Cinnaire. Cinnaire’s Why – We believe that all people deserve the opportunities provided by living in healthy communities – builds on our culture and will make us a great organization well into the future. Our work is focused on making healthy communities a reality.
The question is, what is a healthy community? Everyone has a different answer to that. That’s the point! Every community has its own vision of what healthy is or looks like. At Cinnaire, we approach defining and creating a healthy community from the perspective of those who live there. It’s easy for an organization to come into a community with a pre-determined program that they believe will be the solution. Often, it is presented in a way that excludes the input or resources of others in the community. This type of approach to community development, one I like to call the fairy dust model, tells the community what it needs to be a healthy place to live. We are turning that model on its head.
We are listening closely to the vision of our partners in the communities we serve. Then, we collaborate with them and bring the expertise and resources they need to achieve that vision. We see ourselves as advocates, conveners, conduits, and organizers to deliver what communities seek most. This is the Cinnaire of today and tomorrow. It is a form of corporate servant leadership.
The Why of Cinnaire drives our culture and strategy. At the core of it, is a very simple premise that defines our work here at Cinnaire for the last 25 years and will for the next 25. “Remember, it is about the people.”
For me, Black History Month kicks off each year with MLK Day and all the significance that holiday holds. For the past six years, I’ve had the honor to serve as the Master of Ceremonies and the honorary chairman for the Lansing region’s Martin Luther King Jr. celebration. Lansing’s celebration of Dr. King is the oldest and largest in the country. In fact, Lansing declared his birthday a holiday to pay tribute to the leader of the Civil Rights Movement before the federal government did. This year we had over 1800 people fill the Lansing Center, and there were many moments during the powerful ceremony that I was overcome with emotion. This year’s theme was Dr. King’s quote, “There Comes a Time When Silence is Betrayal.”It’s such a timely theme and it resonated with so many. This particular quote represents so well why Cinnaire will not be silent in promoting and creating a culture that celebrates Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. We intend for our team and our work to continue to reflect that powerful declaration.
Cinnaire has made a big commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion as a cornerstone of our culture. Four years ago, we decided to ramp up our efforts and identified Diversity, Equity and Inclusion as a corporate priority. We didn’t make this decision as a marketing ploy or because it was a trending topic but as a cultural, educational, and life changing commitment. For me personally, this has been a focus of my life’s journey. Since my youth, I’ve experienced many lessons, interactions and misconceptions concerning race, class and culture and I became determined to learn from and grow those experiences. When I started this organization, I committed to building a team that viewed Diversity as an operational priority. I discovered that this was easier said than done. It required a deep awareness of the issue. It also required the organizational trust to have deep conversations with a diverse group of people to understand the true impact of discrimination and being discounted or minimized for who you are.
Since Cinnaire began in 1993, I have spent hundreds of hours having those deep conversations with neighborhood representatives, partners, and staff trying to understand how we can address the issues of race, equality and inclusion. There is no simple answer. I have come to understand it is a lifelong quest to understand and take action to address these issues. The first step in anything related to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is a willingness to even want to learn and become aware of where our weaknesses lie. We realized we couldn’t tackle this subject progressively on our own. Three years ago we hired Vince Brown of V. Randolph Brown Consulting to take us into a deep dive to shape our corporate culture to understand and address the issues of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. This has been uncomfortable work at times, but it has proven to be well worth it. We have included not only the entire staff but also our Board of Directors in intensive Diversity, Equity and Inclusion training. This has resulted in adopting more proactive hiring processes, an ongoing commitment to training, and incorporating specific goals into our five-year Strategic Plan. We are already seeing the positive results of this commitment. It’s a work in progress but as Dr. King said… “The time is always right to do what is right.”
Happy Black History Month!