Seeds of Promise launched from the vision of our Founder and Executive Director, Ronald Jimmerson. He had already launched Cascade Engineering’s nationally acclaimed “Welfare 2 Career” model, as well as their “Prison 2 Career”, and “School 2 Career” programs. These programs have helped hundreds of families transform a life of dependence into self-dependence. Ron envisioned adapting the principles of these programs to become community-based and resident-directed.
For a few years colleagues supported Ron exploring launching this vision through an urban business association and through a network of churches. These experiences led to developing a strategy that focused on a high needs Grand Rapids, Michigan urban neighborhood that had an under-performing elementary school. This created access to high needs families, as well as residents who were willing to re-engage to create a vision of hope after having many disappointing improvement experiences. During this time, Ron also recruited many (now over 70), non-profit and private organizations to become Endorsing Partners, publicly committing to adapt their service delivery to the residents’ improvement strategy.
What was needed to formally launch Seeds was a neighborhood place to operate from, a system to operate within, and funding to cover the cost of operations. A local neighborhood association graciously offered to share space for a few years until Seeds could help with rent. Help Build Community provided the prosperity improvement system and coaching, impact team structure and process, and a self-sustainability strategy. Through multiple departments, Grand Valley State University provided critical resources. Ron Jimmerson and others agreed to provide in-kind leadership. A benefactor committed to covering operating expenses.
In 2011, Seeds launched formal operations in the neighborhood. A group of residents formed Seeds’ interim Governance Board to guide the initiative’s development. Soon afterward the W.K. Kellogg Foundation initiated discussions with Seeds. The Foundation had already searched the market to locate a resident-governed model, but could not find any. A year later, the Foundation committed to help fund Seeds to build a replicable model for residents to serve as the formal governance board for Seeds. The residents’ Host Neighbor Leadership Council now directs the Seeds strategy. A sub-group of these residents serve as the majority of the Seeds corporate board and report to the non-formal Leadership Council.
In 2014, Seeds moved to our own offices. A year ago, we acquired the adjoining space, remodeled it, and in February 2016, launched the Seeds Solution Center, where planning gets done and problems get solved. Multiple Impact Teams led by residents meet regularly. Staff from about thirty-five community organizations participate regularly on these teams in a collaborative strategy to improve resident prosperity and Endorsing Partners’ measurable impact.