Vital Communities Initiative
What is the BGSU Vital Communities Initiative?
The Vital Communities Initiative (VCI) pairs Bowling Green State University students and faculty members with Ohio communities to identify and address projects that serve the public good, engage students in high impact learning, impact citizens of our region, and catalyze community and university resources for sustainable, livable, and vibrant communities in our region and beyond. The Vital Communities Initiative (VCI) is grounded in an on-going commitment to the City of Bowling Green and Wood County, building on this foundation to expand our work throughout our region, the Vital Communities Initiative extends and deepens all of our partnerships.
The VCI views community vitality in its broadest sense. We look at projects having to do with quality of life, community pride and engagement, individual and community success, smart use of resources, participation in city/community governance, access and diversity issues, health and wellness, and improved community spaces for attracting and retaining engaged, happy citizens.
Projects and ideas that address perennial community-wide problems are great candidates for BGSU-VCI projects. BGSU-VCI staff members and faculty members are available to help brainstorm projects and think through what may be possible.
The Vital Communities Initiative (VCI) is grounded in an on-going commitment to the City of Bowling Green and Wood County, building on this foundation to expand our work throughout our region, the Vital Communities Initiative extends and deepens all of our partnerships.
- The initiative will always engage in Bowling Green as our home community and engage BGSU and a regional community through a two year, year-by-year VCI partnership.
- The model links existing courses and projects with issues and needs identified by the partner community.
- Faculty members who are interested in participation will integrate community-identified projects into their courses, focusing students’ academic experiences to provide solutions and new ideas to address these real-world projects.
- The Vital Communities Initiative (VCI) will also engage faculty members in community-based research with student research teams and/or through advisement of Public Policy Projects.
- Partnerships for the Vital Communities Initiative (VCI) are based on a reciprocal and mutually beneficial exchange of ideas and expertise, and link, where possible, with the work of other regional networks and organizations, including Chambers of Commerce, regional economic development groups, community coalitions and networks, etc.
- Each partner (BGSU and the partner community) commits human, intellectual and practical resources to coordinate and guide the projects, ensuring that appropriate resources (material and financial) are available to make the projects successful and to promote and celebrate the partnership commitment and outcomes.
- BGSU faculty members and students from a variety of disciplines and majors bring time, creativity, and expertise to address community-defined needs, issues, and dreams.
- Partner communities get new ideas, energy, and insights to support new directions.
- Our region benefits from a community-engaged public university committed to working for the public good.
- We all benefit when we grow and nurture sustainable, livable, and vibrant communities in our region and beyond.
From the outset, the partnership stems from open communication between the BGSU and the VCI partner. From initial discussions with BGSU, the community partner has identified several potential projects that can be advanced with the assistance of faculty and students engaged in community-based learning courses. Stepwise, an effective partnership emerges as presented below:
- The community partner representative facilitates the partnership and acts as the organizer on the community side. This person dedicates a few hours each week to the program and is the key contact for BGSU-VCI program staff and the community.
- The BGSU liaison works with the community partner to identify projects that can be addressed in specific courses. Community project lead personnel are identified that can work with BGSU staff to develop the scope of the project.
- Community project leads are department heads or officials who take the lead on a specific project being done in conjunction with the BGSU-VCI program. They communicate with students, faculty, and BGSU-VCI staff, provide reviews and advice to projects, and attend final presentations.
- Students take on a BGSU-VCI project as part of their regular coursework in a class they would already be taking. Students present their projects at the end of the semester to community stakeholders and deliver a professional report on their work that the community can use as a resource.
- Faculty dedicate or adapt an existing course project to the BGSU-VCI program.
- Faculty communicate with community partners and BGSU-VCI staff throughout the year to gather materials and facilitate the project while guiding their students.
- BGSU-VCI staff are members of the Center for Public Impact. They are program liaisons and act as the lead contact for the community partner and the partner lead contacts.
- BGSU-VCI staff help to match projects to courses, recruit courses and faculty to the program, ensure project coordination, and organize the reports and final presentations of the program.
- Sign Inventory & Replacement Project -‐ provide recommendations about where the city/community could locate new signage to direct visitors and residents to key community attractions and the downtown.
- Analyze current bike systems, on-street and off, identify the dead ends and gaps, propose connections to make the system complete for bikers and walkers
- Research, prepare, or analyze community policies and incentives
- Develop a volunteer park patrol program
- Develop plans for new parks and public spaces
- Produce historical films and content on communities and neighborhoods
- Art displays, theatre productions, and concerts
- Design demonstrations of innovative stormwater management techniques (rain gardens, swales, pervious pavement, etc.)
- Greenhouse gas emissions inventory of the city’s operations, as well as action plans to help city government reduce its emissions
- Idea Generating: Community Partner proposes a list of potential projects (encouraged to collaborate with other local entities)
- Memorandum of Understanding: Community and University develop an MoU delineating project process and outcomes expected
- Project matching: BGSU-VCI staff and community partner lead contact discuss modifications to the proposed projects to match the projects’ scope and scale with availability and interest of BGSU courses and faculty
- Project development: BGSU-VCI staff suggest additional projects, based on the University’s capacity that could meet the partner’s sustainability and livability goals.
- Confirm Memorandum of Understanding: Community and University confirm an MoU based on final decisions about the projects and the commitments from BGSU faculty members and courses and partner units/organizations.