2018 NGen Award winner gives boost to two Grand Rapids community nonprofits
// By Jacqueline Brennan
Transformative leadership was front and center during our inaugural Upswell LA in November, where we presented the 2018 American Express NGen Leadership Award to Stacy Stout, assistant to the city manager of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Stacy’s outstanding efforts on behalf of Grand Rapids’ communities embody the award’s purpose — to recognize one emerging changemaker who has demonstrated transformative social impact through collaborative leadership. Her accomplishments include creating and implementing the Neighborhood Leadership Academy to increase sustainability of neighborhood associations and strengthen use of a racial equity and resident empowerment lens.
Stacy, a public servant, adhered to ethics guidelines and designated her award proceedings to two nonprofit organizations that have been “pivotal” in her growth, and are, in her words, working to “advance equity in an inclusive and thoughtful way.” We wanted to learn more about these organizations that have been so impactful in Stacy’s life, so we checked in with the Anishinaabe Circle and Latina Network of West Michigan to learn more about their missions.
Camie Castaneda is vice chairperson of Anishinaabe Circle (“Anishinaabe” means the First People of North America and “Circle” is significant to the cycle of life). The organization provides and promotes the physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental welfare of Native Americans and their communities by coordinating and administering culturally relevant social services intended to increase self-sufficiency and promote Native American culture.
Castaneda’s organization is working to address a number of challenges — including diminishing federal funding, and disharmony and distrust among Grand Rapids’ Urban Native Community and the larger community. Communication and coordination also are challenging, according to Castaneda, because the lack of physical places to gather makes it difficult to provide opportunities that promote a sense of togetherness, belonging, and unity.
Anishinaabe Circle is collaborating with other organizations to address service gaps, including local agencies; the Westside Collaborative, an alliance of organizations serving West Grand Rapids; and local Tribal Governments. “We also are working to improve community relations and strengthen outreach by building a website and using other social media platforms to promote an online presence,” says Castaneda. She notes they are proud and grateful that their biggest donors are Greater Grand Rapids community members themselves and local Tribal Governments.
Through continued community outreach and partnering with more established organizations, Anishinaabe Circle hopes to create “a world where Anishinaabek basic human rights are met and where they can achieve their full human potential.” Their ultimate goal, Castaneda says, “is the delivery of sustainable, recognizable services for Urban Natives that lead to healing, identity, and community connection.”
Latina Network of West Michigan
Milinda Ysasi, along with Stacy Stout, is one of four co-founders of the Latina Network of West Michigan, a collective of women focused on lifting up Latina leadership by serving as a resource for racial equity, advocacy, and connectivity. The network seeks to create avenues for greater community engagement and professional advancement for Latinas.
Ysasi says, “We have members who are overqualified for the positions they hold. There is a need for more representation in all levels of leadership in our city, bearing in mind the realities faced by our members of balancing career and family responsibilities with the desire to engage civically.”
To build connections and overall social capital, and elevate the voices of their members, the Latina Network of West Michigan regularly holds events that feature topics like selfcare and financial planning and budgeting. Ysasi says that thanks to generous donors, they are able to offer their events free of charge. They also welcome children to the events “so they can see leadership in action.”
“We want to ensure that there is not one narrative about what it means to be a Latina in West Michigan, and that work includes confronting and dismantling racism and colorism in our greater Latino/a/x community.”
Success for the Latina Network of West Michigan “would be an intentional, shared leadership model where formal leadership positions reflect the demographics of our community,” according to Ysasi. “We want to underscore for our community that we are not a monolith and that there is no shortage of Latina talent in our city.”
That talent includes our 2018 American Express NGen Leadership Award winner, Stacy Stout, and we thank Milinda Ysasi for nominating Stacy for the 2018 award!
Nominations for the 2019 American Express Leadership Awards Opening Soon!
We’ll announce the winner of the 2019 American Express NGen Leadership Award later this year when changemakers gather for Upswell Chicago, Nov. 13-15. If you know an emerging changemaker who is making impactful, lasting community change through collaborative leadership, nominate them for this year’s award. The nomination period will open later this spring, so keep an eye on this site for details. And remember, you’re also welcome to nominate yourself!