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City leaders and local activists kicked off the Greater Together Challenge this afternoon at City Hall.

Greater Together Challenge aims for greater segregation awareness

Milwaukee is a city on the rise, but it's no secret that it is also plagued by some of the nation's worst segregation, as well as alarming racial and social inequalities. The Greater Together Coalition – a newly assembled volunteer group led by AIGA Wisconsin, supported by NEWaukee and comprised of a significant of local organizations and groups – hopes to do something about that.

Today marked the kickoff of the Greater Together Challenge, a competition launched to create awareness, hope and ideas to dismantle segregation, as well as address racial and economic inequality in greater Milwaukee.

"When the Anne E. Casey Foundation announced that Wisconsin is the worst state in the union to raise a black child, it broke my heart," said Ken Hanson, CEO of Hanson Dodge Creative and one of the key people behind the initiative's launch. "I suggested to AIGA Wisconsin that we harness the talent of the creative community to focus on the issues. That evolved to the concept of a contest that calls solutions."

The competition starts with concerned individuals and groups submitting ideas designed to address and dismantle Milwaukee's segregation problem, as well as racial and economic inequalities.

Ideas can be submitted for entry at Greater Together's website until the Sept. 7 deadline. Along the way, Greater Together will organize small-group discussions and dialogues across the city to discuss the issues, brainstorm ideas and potentially develop worthy proposals.

"If segregation was easy to talk about, we would be already talking about it," said Katherine Wilson, executive director at the Ziedler Center for Public Discussion, which will be helping organize the guided dialogues.

From the submitted ideas, a panel will select 10 finalist ideas. Each finalist will be paired with a design team to help craft a six-minute presentation, which will be delivered on Oct. 7. The proposals will be judged on whether the central idea is clear and understandable, its strength, its feasibility, the commitment level of the group or person behind the idea and its potential for public support.

The winning proposal will be announced the next day, with the winner receiving a $5,000 grant to put toward implementing their idea.

More information about the competition, the groups behind it, the summer public discussions and other ways the Greater Together Coalition aims to promote the contest – and promote awareness for Milwaukee's severe segregation and inequality woes – are also available on the initiative's website.

The contest was officially kicked off and announced this afternoon at City Hall, where city leaders and local activists – including Mayor Tom Barrett, Hanson Dodge Creative CEO Ken Hanson, NEWaukee president Jeremy Fojut, NAACP director James Hall, Centro Hispano director Tony Baez and Milwaukee filmmaker-designer Xavier Ruffin – spoke and elaborated upon the ideas, plans and hopes behind the Greater Together Challenge to the sizable crowd.

"Collaboration is not just a good idea," said Neil Hoffman, president of MIAD. "It's essential for change in our community on many important levels."

Near the end of the program, the coalition opened the floor to the crowd, drawing some questions about further involvement and plans. There were also several tough questions about the challenge's potential for calling political attention to the city's segregation woes and therefore moving toward true change and progress, as well as the real collaborative power of an inherently competitive contest.

The real answers to those questions will start to reveal themselves come early October, when a winner is announced and an idea starts getting put into action.

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