| Program: || Kansas City Church Community Organization, Kansas City, MO |
| Contact(s): || Warren Adams-Leavitt, Executive Director: (816) 444-5585 |
| Purpose: || To help communities identify and change the systems and structures that perpetuate inequality, poverty and fractured racial relations |
Formed in 1978, the Kansas City Church Community Organization (CCO) is an interfaith federation of congregations organized to improve quality of life in communities. CCO, originally called the Kansas City Organizing Project (KCOP), was initially formed in response to the rapid racial transition and financial disinvestment experienced by Kansas City's southeast neighborhoods. As black families moved in during the mid-1980s, white families moved out. Banks stopped giving loans in the area, insurance rates rose and racial tensions began to increase. At the invitation of religious and community leaders, KCOP was formed to provide residents with the organizational tools and leadership skills to defend and enhance their communities. In 1989, leaders changed the name of the organization after the project began to transition to congregation-based organizing similar to the model used by the Pacific Institute for Community Organization. (PICO, also highlighted by the President's Initiative on Race as a Promising Practice, is a national organizing network with 29 organizations in 65 cities.) CCO's grassroots leadership development brings together people of all races and faiths to work for change.
Through a disciplined faith-based organizing process, CCO equips participating congregations to reach out into the broader community to listen, identify shared concerns and address pressing issues. In the process, local leaders grow in their abilities and a basis of shared values is affirmed across racial, ethnic and denominational lines. CCO works with individual congregations to develop their ability to solve problems in their communities. Each participating congregation forms a local organizing committee to address concerns in its own community. At the local and citywide level, CCO trains members in several areas: to conduct one-on-one conversations with congregation members and neighbors to build relationships and discover community concerns; to analyze power structures in public and private arenas; to research targeted issues through meetings with officials and other decision-makers; to speak in public, hold press conferences and mobilize the media; to organize and conduct large public meetings; and to negotiate with decision-makers to gain specific measurable commitments to work in partnership with the community.
Outcomes and Significant Accomplishments
CCO's livable neighborhoods campaign, an unprecedented collaboration of diverse neighborhoods, shifted $9.5 million toward neighborhood needs in the 1997 city budget. CCO also negotiated with business owners to save a key commercial development in the black community. CCO has grown from one church in the late 1970s to include 15 congregations of five denominations in 1998. The work of the Kansas City Church Community Organization inspired the development of a sister organization, the Wyandotte Interfaith Sponsoring Council, in neighboring Wyandotte County, Kansas. This council involved over 20 congregations.