The African American Leadership Forum (AALF) recently held a Community Harvest event at UROC (Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center) in North Minneapolis. The harvest brought together Black leaders and experts from across the Twin Cities to reflect upon the Problem Statements developed by our Collective Impact Task Force and to strategize around creative solutions to bring change to the Black community. During the event participants provided insights on the process and connected with each other, sharing ideas and exploring the action steps necessary to continue the work to empower the African American community.

Over the last five months AALF’s Task Force has been using principles of Human-centered Design to bring positive change to the Black community around four focus areas: Family & Culture, Health & Wellness, Education, and Economic Development. This cohort of Black changemakers and social innovators has been working diligently to uncover the root causes of inequity in Minnesota’s African American community and strategizing around the most effective ways to address these challenges, using a dynamic Black-centered Design (BCD) framework in which Black people use their inherent knowledge to solve problems.

AALF’s program director, LaCora Bradford Kesti, led the event in collaboration with this year’s Task Force cohort. We recently asked her to reflect on the Community Harvest and how it relates to the Black-centered Design (BCD) process currently being piloted.

AALF Community Harvest Event

AALF: How did Black-centered Design (BCD) manifest itself in the Community Harvest?

Bradford Kesti: The process of Black-centered Design (BCD) is to center Black people at the center of the problem and for Black people to use their inherent knowledge to collectively create solutions to problems; the Community Harvest did exactly that. It was a first step in the BCD process where we gathered Black community experts together and had them look at the problem statements created by the Task Force members. Community experts did some deep reflection around a specific problem in one of the four focus areas (Education, Health & Wellness, Economic Development and Family & Culture). They then spent time creating potential solutions by looking at themes or activities to combat the problem. The response to this process was overwhelmingly positive and informative for the organizations present. Community experts went from being a little skeptical to more informed and supportive.

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