Goshen's Community Relations Commission (CRC) • The Good of Goshen

Goshen’s Economic Growth Supported by CRC
Work to Build Community Connections

Connecting neighbors through honest conversation is at the heart of Goshen’s Community Relations Commission (CRC) work to dismantle racism. But research indicates that the civic initiative has economic benefits for the community beyond the hope for social healing it offers.

The CRC was established in 2004 by then-mayor Allan Kauffman to address issues of racism and equity through intentional programming and community discussion. Members are appointed by the mayor and common council, with at least one student representative. The organization hosts the Community Conversations series – each session focuses on three short discussions on a single topic – but also organizes observances of Indigenous Peoples’ Day in October and Juneteenth, commemorating enslaved people’s emancipation.

The impact of CRC’s efforts to address discrimination and promote racial reconciliation is more complex than developing better neighbors. Prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion on a community-wide basis also supports vital factors contributing to Goshen’s overall economic growth.

Folks who have strong place attachment are much, much less likely to leave their communities, even in times of economic downturn. People will want to stay in those communities.

David Terrell

Executive Director,
Ball State’s Indiana Communities Institute
Juneteenth Celebration • Goshen's Community Relations Commission (CRC) • The Good of Goshen
Juneteenth Celebration • Goshen's Community Relations Commission (CRC) • The Good of Goshen
Juneteenth Celebration • Goshen's Community Relations Commission (CRC) • The Good of Goshen
Juneteenth Celebration • Goshen's Community Relations Commission (CRC) • The Good of Goshen

In 2022, the Community Relations Commission organized the first annual Juneteenth event, commemorating enslaved people’s emancipation.

‘Place Attachment’ Key to Economic Growth

In a presentation at Goshen Theater in the fall of 2021, Ball State University professors Michael Hicks and David Terrell dispelled the long-held belief that population growth follows the creation of jobs. Instead, their research pointed to a combination of factors creating goodwill and connectedness to a city or region. This “place attachment” – a sense of belonging that promotes community vitality – directly correlates to economic and population growth.

And according to the “Soul of the Community” study by the Knight Foundation and the Gallup Organization, people want to make their lives in cities that foster it.

“Folks who have strong place attachment are much, much less likely to leave their communities, even in times of economic downturn. People will want to stay in those communities,” Terrell, executive director of the Indiana Communities Institute (ICI) at Ball State, said while sharing “Soul of the Community” findings.

Terrell said Ball State’s research, led by economist and Ph.D. Hicks, identified eight essential areas to building place attachment in residents. Respondents ranked a community’s “human” qualities like trust, relationships, and cultural factors as equally important to financial concerns.

Losing talent because a workplace is not inclusive is locking you out from the full talent pool, and it means that you’re spending money on acquisition and training.

AJ Delgadillo

Director,
Community Relations Commission
Indigenous Peoples' Day • Goshen's Community Relations Commission (CRC) • The Good of Goshen
Indigenous Peoples' Day • Goshen's Community Relations Commission (CRC) • The Good of Goshen
Indigenous Peoples' Day • Goshen's Community Relations Commission (CRC) • The Good of Goshen

In 2022, the Community Relations Commission organized the first annual Juneteenth event, commemorating enslaved people’s emancipation.

CRC Fosters Place Attachment by Promoting Equity

AJ Delgadillo • Goshen's Community Relations Commission (CRC) • The Good of Goshen

As community relations director for the city of Goshen, AJ Delgadillo leads the CRC’s work to nurture human connections in the community and address racism, strengthening place attachment and bolstering economic growth. In a recent conversation, Delgadillo talked about where local businesses might be impacted most directly by the commission’s programming and detailed more about the CRC’s projects in the community.

Essay Competition Winners • Goshen's Community Relations Commission (CRC) • The Good of Goshen

In 2022, Goshen’s CRC hosted an essay competition. You can find the essay entries on the City of Goshen’s website!

A workplace culture not inviting to everyone is missing out on talent. But along with the talent that doesn’t want to show up if you’re racist, homophobic, or whatever, there’s also the level at which — if someone [hired can] tolerate a little bit — they won’t stay. There’s still that increased turnover. And turnover and training are the most expensive things for a business to address.

Losing talent because a workplace is not inclusive is locking you out from the full talent pool, and it means that you’re spending money on acquisition and training, and you’re losing productivity.

It seems like a pretty easy trade – respect everyone you work with and everyone you serve. Those words are simple, but figuring out what those practices look like in every single context gets a little bit trickier. I think that is the place where being in conversation with the CRC can really help.

And lots of people just don’t know that we exist!

With Community Conversations, 2021 and 2022 were tricky in trying to find the right way to get those going again. We hope to resume those next year.

As we’ve had them, our Community Conversations are in world cafe style. That’s three different short conversations on one theme. The point is to have a prompt, and then four people will hear each other’s responses. This gives people an opportunity to share.

The questions are designed to get people to talk about their experiences – the most important things to hear from others. Questions allow people to share who they are in a way that doesn’t end in a debate. For example, I’m not going to fight with you about how the community came together for you after your house caught on fire.

With Community Conversations, I hear a real story from you, so I’m more aware of what kinds of lives are being lived in our community. That’s important for building relationships between individuals, but I think it’s also powerful in expanding neighbors’ imaginations for what all of our different neighbors are going through.

This year we started an essay competition. All of the essays are online. We’re hoping to keep it going. The CRC serves the Goshen community by proposing programs and policies that help create a Goshen free of discrimination through problem-solving, resiliency, understanding, and compassion. So the prompts were about those CRC principles, questions like ‘Where have you seen this in your life?’ or ‘How would the community change if we applied them better?’

These are ways of cultivating that imagination in youth because we don’t magically get great leaders in five years. We need to try to pull that out of people, nurture it, and gently critique it. But we need to give a forum to elicit that thinking and hone it – especially thinking about the challenge of change with the good and negative consequences. Creative problem solvers will help us weather that, so we need to invest in our youth’s problem-solving capacity.

So our big things at CRC would be Community Conversations, the essay competition, Juneteenth, and Indigenous People’s Day.

Outward facing, this is the first time Goshen has observed Indigenous People’s Day and Juneteenth.

For Indigenous Peoples’ Day, we’re going to have information tables from different groups talking about how indigenous history — our history — and modern indigenous people interact with their work. We’ll discuss works from the Goshen Public Library collection, and Diane Hunter will be with us, too. She’s the historic preservation officer for the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma. She’ll be leading an activity in Miami ribbon work which is a traditional handicraft.

And the Goshen Historical Society will talk about what happens if you find something. How does that get recorded or repatriated? Or how do things that happen become stories, become history, and become preserved as history? What’s that process?

I think they will give us good threads to weave a better picture of where Goshen sits in time, place, history, and culture. Hopefully, in response, the community has the chance to better recognize how the city, these businesses, and this land, fit into the bigger context. It gives us more resources to think about how we fit into our community and how our community fits into this place.

All these things are about filling in gaps for what it means to live here.

– AJ Delgadillo

Written and edited by Wendy Wilson

Original publish date November 2022