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Banking on KC – Klassie Alcine of KC Common Good

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Kelly Scanlon:

Welcome to Banking on KC. I'm your host Kelly Scanlon.

Kelly Scanlon:

A nonprofit that aims to curb violence in Kansas City by addressing its root causes has added several new programs and partners during the last year called KC Common Good. The organization has created a virtual community hub designed to unite the business community, citizens and key stakeholders throughout the region.

Kelly Scanlon:

With us today on Banking on KC is Klassie Alcine. The CEO of KC Common Good. Klassie has a strong background as a political consultant, crisis management expert, nonprofit executive, and successful entrepreneur. She's drawing on all that experience and training in an effort to curb violence right here in our hometown. Welcome, Klassie.

Klassie Alcine:

Thank you, Kelly. I'm so excited to be here today.

Kelly Scanlon:

Let's start with your basic approach, addressing the root causes of violence. What are some of those root causes and more specifically, how do they contribute to violence?

Klassie Alcine:

Yeah. This is always a question I think people struggle with because we're watching the news every day, we're seeing folks who are being impacted by the violence in our community, and we're thinking, "How do folks get there?" So I just remind folks, it's almost like a tree. So the leaves are what we see, but underneath there are multi-layers of causes that we have to think about.

Klassie Alcine:

So when I first started this position back in 2018, I was looking at a report from the KC Health Department called the Blueprint. And that was a long-term study talking to the community, looking at data to identify where are the root causes of violence in our community. And there are actually five. So one is lack of access to resources. The second one is repeated family trauma within the households. The third one is concentrated poverty. The fourth one is high unemployment. And the fifth one is high school dropout rates. So a lot of the dynamics of this are economic, but they're also historical. So when people ask about how do we get to the root causes, we have to look at the systems that have been put in place where lack of access to resources ends up being an impact for a lot of the folks that we're trying to reach out to.

Kelly Scanlon:

Who are you trying to reach with KC Common Good?

Klassie Alcine:

We focus on three different subgroups. So we have at-risk youth, folks who are living in zip codes with the highest crime rate and lowest life expectancy. We also focus on veterans because the suicide rate is extremely high. But we also recognize that veterans, at-risk youth have been those who are coming out of the criminal justice system, which we identify as justice-involved individuals. All have a hard time transitioning into the community. And when you look at the violence in our community, we're not just talking about the homicide themselves, we're also talking about the suicides, violence against children. There are a lot of categories under violence itself.

Kelly Scanlon:

Tell us about two of the more recent additions that you are delivering. One of those is called the Community Connector. The other is the Community Calendar. How do those two work hand in hand to help you deliver your resources?

Klassie Alcine:

So we spoke with the community back in 2019 about what was the biggest pain point. And they were like, "Trying to find resources. We don't even know where to go if we need help for [inaudible 00:03:49] or looking for transportation needs." We went through a series of community input sessions with hundreds of folks. The community connectors are free, anonymous, an up-to-date platform that uploads thousands of community services, government addiction, mental health, that's powered by United Way 211 data.

Klassie Alcine:

And then what we do is we add additional resources based on our impact groups. So that was a really critical resource because the community made it very, very clear they wanted it to be simple. They wanted it to be anonymous and as many doors as possible to information. Then the second part of the calendar was critical because right now if you Google community events, you may have 10 different resources pop up. So we decide to have one place that folks can go to. You literally go to kccommongood.org.

Klassie Alcine:

You click on the calendar, you click on add an event, and then we will funnel it from our backend to approve it. But this really was compiling this information so everyone can be engaged. So to me, the Community Connector is not just for the folks who need help and those immediate needs, but also for folks who are trying to get engaged in these different spaces.

Kelly Scanlon:

What organizations are you looking for to join this network?

Klassie Alcine:

I think what's really key is the additional resources that we're trying to seek out are those that are providing support and mentor groups for our impact groups. So whether you're at-risk youth, or you're a veteran, or you're someone who's coming out of the criminal justice system, that's a huge gap that we have to focus on. Also, the areas of not only mental health but housing, employment opportunities, educational resources are really, really key also.

Kelly Scanlon:

So a real holistic approach with these resources, not just a focus on one single area, but all of the things that people might need.

Kelly Scanlon:

In addition to the Community Calendar, KC Common Good has teamed up with a few other local organizations to introduce an initiative and it's called Working For Youth. Tell us about that program.

Klassie Alcine:

Yeah. Working For Youth was about the community coming together in a way that was authentic and recognizing the inclusion of youth. So we hyper-focused around a six-area zip code identified by the KC Health Department. And that zipcode represents the lowest life expectancy and highest crime rate in our region. Our goal there was how do we help youth get access to employment. Because we know that opportunities like this with mentorship, with employment, rewarding those different skills helps to change the trajectory for young people.

Klassie Alcine:

I started having conversations back in 2020 with multiple youth organizations. And I asked them, "What is your biggest pain point?" And collectively, they all said, "Finding employers." So we did a partnership with Hire KC, Entrepreneurship KC. This was Mayor Lucas about how do we employ as many youth as possible from those zip codes. Within three weeks, over 1000 youth applied. And we were able to have over 89 employers provide jobs this summer and they were paid and over 45 financial contributors supported these stipend funds to pay almost 500 young people.

Kelly Scanlon:

You also have some other pilot programs and several other initiatives that you are working on. Can you tell us about some of those?

Klassie Alcine:

Yes. We also have something called the Lansing Prison's Career Campus and that is in partnership with the Kansas Department of Corrections in the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, about 20 other community partners. But the whole goal here is how do we expand employment to those who are coming out of the criminal justice system? But also when we look at the statistics in Kansas, in Missouri, the recidivism rate after a year is about 50%. And we found that the biggest barrier was trying to find employment, which a lot of jobs now require some level of education, whether it's a certification or a four-year degree. This was a pilot, I think is supercritical to changing how we deal with folks who are just as involved to not only reintegrate into the community but also have this supportive environment where folks can learn those skills so that when they get out, they can secure the employment that they need.

Kelly Scanlon:

So that's one of several others and actually, the many of these others that you have just like the program there at Lansing, they deal with the root causes that you spoke of earlier, that they are very specific to a particular root cause. A couple of other examples.

Klassie Alcine:

Yes. We also have the home equity pilot that we're working on that deals with a new term called house vesting. And that is where the person who is in the home actually has an interest in the home. And why that's critical is that we've been looking at these issues and Kansas City has been talking a lot around the homelessness that we're experiencing, but also this issue around the affordability of homes. So we may see a lot of folks building spaces, but are they building them for a family? Are they allowing folks to gain wealth in this process? So what I love about the project, it's about going to neighborhoods that have historically not had this opportunity and rebuilding community in real-time. And it's bringing together a larger conversation around the land bank and many other issues in our region on how we make these processes more effective for developers, but also help the community members living their help to grow a safer and healthier community?

Kelly Scanlon:

Klassie, I know that something that's very important when you're talking about initiatives as broad as yours, and that relies on so many partners for success is data. Are we addressing the correct issues? Do we have the right resources in place? Are we providing the community with what they really need? Tell us about how you're making sure you're staying on track with those things.

Klassie Alcine:

With the Community Connector, we are using the data to identify resources that people need in real-time. So we are addressing the services that are in the greatest demand on a regular basis. Then we're reporting out to the service providers that we work with on what's going on. And what's really key is that the data that we have coming in, we have to analyze it over time to make sure that it's useful. So there's a lot of data coming in, but we actually have a data collective to interpret that and really get to the root of how can the community most effectively distribute the funding, collaborate on projects, and identify gaps for new and innovative opportunities are possible?

Kelly Scanlon:

How is the word getting out about what you're doing and this resource hub that you've created?

Klassie Alcine:

We're really doing word of mouth. We're using social media, we're using our over 100 community partners to get the word out about what we are doing. We also talk and work with the community on a daily basis. So KC Common Good is in a lot of community events. We also do a lot of presentations to community groups and to corporate groups because we understand the violence in our community does feel very overwhelming. But also, there is a layer of hopelessness around what we can do together. In 2021 alone, over 244 lives were violently lost across the metro. So I know that sometimes folks may feel like, "Well, what can we do more of?" And what's key is that can we strategically work together in these projects? I mean, working for youth is a perfect example.

Klassie Alcine:

We didn't know how this was going to turn out. But when you put out the ask, when you talk about the reduction in gun violence in our community, we saw folks step up from everywhere. So we're really key on listening to the community and then helping the community get to the solutions. And then we help from the standpoint of that backbone support to identify the shared mission and vision, the steps of the project itself, the fundraising of the project. And we help to move them at a more effective rate than if an organization tried to do it on their own.

Kelly Scanlon:

And I believe that with all of the partners you have, you refer to your approach as a collective impact model.

Klassie Alcine:

Absolutely.

Kelly Scanlon:

And I know that approach is something you've said has been successful in other cities.

Klassie Alcine:

Yeah. The process of change for a collective impact model, there are four parts. One is community engagement and shared decision-making. The second is creating the environment to reduce the violence in the community, unemployment and to improve educational outcomes. And then the third one is this unique combination to generate public and private investments. And then the fourth part of a collective impact model through the process of change is building wealth in ownership in the community. So I researched dozens of collective impact models around the country. And the model that kept coming up was something called the Empowerment Network in Omaha, Nebraska. So they are a collective impact model. That's been for about 15 years.

Klassie Alcine:

And they were at a similar space where we're at now, where we're dealing with a lot of stress and trauma, high unemployment, lot of gang-related activities. And when they started this model, 10 years later, they saw the outcomes that unemployment dropped from 21% to 7.5%, high school graduation rates went from 64% to 81%. But what's even bigger there is the gun violence itself decreased by 74% through this collective impact model. Because what makes a collective impact model really effective is that you focus on these solutions and it's through those solutions that you see these outcomes of lower violence, higher clearance rates on actual crime.

Kelly Scanlon:

What inspired KC Common Good to even launch here in Kansas City?

Klassie Alcine:

So we were founded in 2018 through American Public Square, which is a local nonprofit that focused on like-minded people during fact-based conversations. Back in 2018, they hosted about four events around violence in our area. And these are in-person events before COVID had happened. And over 1000 people showed up at those four events. And then larger conversations happened of like, "Wow, there's a lot of interest around that." So a leadership committee was developed which I was on and we spoke a lot to violence intervention and prevention groups. And we kept following this common thread of not having a space where we can collectively come together around these different issues. And that was really the birth of KC Common Good. And it's such a beautiful story because it really was the community that helped to create it and even to name it. It was named by a group of religious leaders in our region.

Kelly Scanlon:

You spoke on a panel recently that was hosted by UMKC about what it means to authentically represent your mission. And it was really quite interesting. And I mentioned earlier that you have quite a background. I mean, it's really varied. So first, what do you see as your personal mission, Klassie? And second, how is serving as CEO of KC Common Good allowing you to essentially marry all that previous experience and to authentically live that mission?

Klassie Alcine:

What it means to me as a leader is be the change you wish to see in the world. And I do believe in the power of community. And from my experience being on the political consulting side, taking a candidate and really talking to voters about what they're passionate about and seeing that change in real-time, I believe that those can be translated into this issue around the violence in our community. What really inspired me to do this job is I had the honor to work for a former US Senator, Claire McCaskill. And she told me that the purpose of a servant leader is to listen to the softest voices in the room.

Klassie Alcine:

And that sticks with me every single day. So to me, the softest voices are the children. They are the folks being impacted by the violence that we are seeing. So as the CEO, I translate that every single day of my job. My job is emotionally hard because you're talking about an issue that folks are losing their lives in a situation that is preventable. And on a weekly basis, I'm looking at the homicide rate in our region and I think that this is the assignment that I've been given I brought all those different skillsets of working with the community, understanding how to strategize, and get outcomes.

Klassie Alcine:

And every single day I think about we are at a crisis point in the violence that we're seeing, and we must act with the urgency that is caught for in a crisis. And that's a skill set that I've been working with my whole career. We are going to succeed. And I'm so grateful for all of the community partners and the funders that got behind KC Common Good because it is thinking outside of the box to what we would traditionally do. And that's why I love being a social entrepreneurship nonprofit. It really is looking at the solutions to the social issues. And I do believe that together we can collectively reduce the violence that we are seeing. So there's definitely more to come, more announcements for 2022, but I want to go through this journey with the community because they are the ones who essentially created this.

Kelly Scanlon:

Thank you so much, Klassie. We really appreciate you being here and for all that you're doing in our community.

Klassie Alcine:

Thank you.

Joe Close:

This is Joe Close, President of Country Club Bank. Thank you to Klassie Alcine, for being our guest on this episode of Banking on KC. Violence in our communities takes a personal toll on families and individuals, on public health, and on the economy. It's easy to feel overwhelmed by its adverse impact. But as Klassie noted, a community has the power to curb violence by working together to address its root causes. When community partners, citizens, and others mobilize strategically, we can make progress toward a safer, healthier, and more successful future for everyone. We're banking on you, Kansas City, Country Club Bank, Member FDIC.

 

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