Tackling Grand Challenges: 2018-2019 A Community Table Outcomes

By: Katie Kleinhesselink, DU Grand Challenges Program Manager, CCESL

DU Grand Challenges (DUGC) believes that together we can develop, implement, and pursue actions that make a real impact for our communities.

That’s one of the many reasons we established A Community Table.*

In April 2018, we asked A Community Table participants to talk about the issues that had to be addressed to improve daily living. Four big issues emerged with participants telling us that work was needed to address Crime & Safety, Food & Housing Security, Migration, and Urban Sustainability. Conversations also shed light on how to address those issues. In particular, campus and community participants made clear they wanted to solve problems by creating, strengthening, and sustaining research, creative work, and classes together. In response, DUGC created four Collective Impact Cohorts comprised of faculty, students, staff, and community members to meet the call to action that came out of A Community Table.

Image may contain: 3 people, people sitting, child, table and outdoor

Collective impact isn’t just about people working together to address issues. It’s a long-term strategy that requires participants to develop and execute action plans that capitalize on the individual strengths and talents of team members in service to a larger goal. Through intentional, strengths-based relationship building, collective impact participants can meaningfully tackle complex issues that no one individual or agency could address.

DUGC Collective Impact Cohort members have spent countless hours researching, developing, and implementing their action plans. These complex, multifaceted projects will wrap up in the 2020-2021 academic year. We’re excited to share a sample of the projects that are currently in progress.

As you peruse the summary below, start thinking about the ideas you might bring to the 2020 A Community Table.

Crime & Safety

  • Currently conducting a needs assessment of Colorado communities around children, families, schools, and neighborhoods based on indicators associated with justice system involvement.
  • Developing a resource map of available organizational and community resources that can address critical needs and reduce justice system involvement.
  • Planning a 2020 “Outside In” Correctional Conference—a conference held within a prison–for incarcerated people, correctional system professionals, community-based treatment and reentry organizations, academic institutions, and community members, to present and attend sessions about innovative correctional and reentry approaches.

Food & Housing Insecurity

  • Working in partnership with the Colorado Front Range Safe Parking (CFRSP) Initiative to provide legal parking locations for individuals and families experiencing homelessness who are living in vehicles in Colorado’s Front Range communities. The Cohort will provide CFRSP with legal support, marketing and communications support, and program evaluation. CFRSP has identified these projects as critical to the success of its initiative.
  • Working in partnership with Hunger Free Colorado to design a DU-specific outreach strategy for engaging food insecure DU students; recruit students to join a food insecurity advisory council and invite campus stakeholders to participate in strategy development and implementation.


  • In partnership with World Trade Center Denver, the Cohort has developed and launched non-credit coursework to prepare migrants for further student opportunities and more gainful employment.
  • In partnership with the Refugee Speakers Bureau, Lutheran Family Services, and Refugee Action Coalition of Colorado, the Cohort is developing refugee civic engagement through public speaking and storytelling.
  • Currently conducting an interdisciplinary research study on public perceptions and negative associations between immigrants and crime.
  • Sponsored the 2019 Migrahack, a multimedia storytelling and data-driven approach to improving understanding about immigration with a collaboration of journalists, community partners, web developers, and designers. To learn more about the Migrahack and the projects that participants developed, click here.

Urban Sustainability

  • Currently working with multiple faculty and community partners to create an Urban Sustainability Network that will facilitate the engagement of the DU community with the Denver community around themes in sustainability.
  • Developing a human and ecological wellbeing (HEW) index focused on health and environmental flourishing.
  • Determining the feasibility of an interdisciplinary sustainability and environmental justice clinic to provide assistance, advice, guidance, support, or representation to people seeking to improve their communities or to engage on project proposals that might impact them.
  • Piloting a “Green Teams” Incubator project that supports co-curricular student clubs in Denver Public Schools to collaborate on environmentally sustainable projects as prioritized by individual students, teachers, school administrators, parents, and neighbors.

Based on the feedback from last year’s A Community Table, we are preparing to announce new actions for the year ahead.

And now it’s time to get organized to keep the ideas flowing this April so that DU Grand Challenges can continue to take bold, collaborative action. Learn more about A Community Table here and register to host a conversation during the week of April 20-25.

* Editor’s Note: A Community Table is modeled after the Chicago Community Trust’s successful On the Table initiative.

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