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All-America City Award Finalists Stewardship in Action: Franklin, Tennessee
Photo by Ashkan Forouzani on Unsplash
Since 1949, the National Civic League has recognized and celebrated the best in American civic innovation with the prestigious All-America City Award. The 2020 All-America City Award Finalist communities focus specifically on enhancing health and well-being through civic engagement.
Stewardship is a core concept for The Commons community and collaborators working to advance equitable wellbeing across the country. When applied to collective work, the concept describes leaders—both people and organizations—who take responsibility for forming working relationships to drive transformative change in regions and communities. Stewards also have a vested interest in promoting an equity orientation in regard to purpose, power, and wealth:
"Stewards of well-being and justice are people and organizations who share responsibility for working across differences to expand the vital conditions all people and places need to thrive." —Thriving Together: A Springboard for Recovery and Resilience in Communities Across America, Introduction
All-America City Finalist communities exemplify how stewardship is best accomplished: when folks work together across differences and sectors to expand the Vital Conditions that all people and places need to thrive. Learn more about the civic engagement practices that made the community of Franklin a 2020 finalist:
Steward Snapshot: Ken Moore and Mindy Tate
Ken Moore, Mayor of the City of Franklin, and Mindy Tate, Executive Director of Franklin Tomorrow, joined Commons Good podcast host Stacy Wegley for a conversation about stewardship, belonging, and connection. Check out the excerpts to learn more about Mindy and Ken’s experiences, and click on the audio clip to hear directly from the team in Franklin.
Our health and well-being depend on the vital conditions we all need all the time to thrive. These vital conditions shape our experiences and opportunities—and the places we call home. Franklin Tomorrow and the City of Franklin created connections between one's individual health and the environment, launching a powerful way for citizens to think about well-being.
Mindy: When we revised our mission statement, we realized that the health and wellbeing of our community was not identified—and we couldn't believe it. So, we started putting together a coalition of healthcare executives, healthcare leaders, physicians, and launched an organization called Get Fit Franklin.
Our initiative was designed to encourage people to take the first step to fitness by getting out their front door for a walk. What it also allowed us to do was to advocate for greater connectivity in our community, for more trails, greenways, river walks—the things citizens had told us they wanted in surveys.
Ken: A lot of what we were doing started from a community-wide sustainability initiative. We held a community forum and invited some experts to come in—combined with community input about the health of our home—and we settled on four different areas for action: obesity, activity, mental health, and tobacco cessation.
Franklin is driven by community input and deep civic pride. Stewards like Ken and Mindy provide ongoing opportunities for residents to share ideas and create connections.
Mindy: Franklin Tomorrow and the City of Franklin try to do everything we can to make it easy to participate in civic life. We are always collaborating with other local organizations, like our Chamber of Commerce and the health department, and our events are always free.
One example of our programming is Breakfast with the Mayor, a quarterly event that started with about 50 people. We held a Zoom event in April and had over 300 people attend.
Another example is On the Table. It’s a chance to bring people together over a meal, to talk about what's good in our community, what can be better—and how, as engaged citizens, we all play a role in making things happen. In 2018, we had over 40 locations for conversations in churches, homes, businesses, public events. We had over 400 people complete the post-event survey, which guided next steps.
Ken: We conduct a citizen survey every other year to gauge how we're doing as a community. I'm proud to say that we score very high in all of those categories.
The vision for our community—the economic growth, excellent schools—I think it has attracted folks that want to be engaged in the community. Consultants will come and they say we need 500 people to answer this survey. Well, they get a thousand people to respond in Franklin. That just reflects the pride we, as citizens of Franklin, have in our community. We love our community.
As Franklin looks ahead, the community is also recognizing legacies of trauma and exclusion and striving to elevate the experiences of all residents.
Mindy: Now, we're telling a fuller story. One day the goal is to tell the full story—and to be an example of a community that can do that.