Crossroads Charlotte

Location:  Charlotte, NC
Project Description: 

The Crossroads Charlotte project began in 2001 when the town of Charlotte, North Carolina participated in a national survey on social capital. The survey found that the community had high levels of faith-based involvement and philanthropy, but ranked last on social and interracial trust. The project addresses these results through the lens of the question “What happens when a whole community chooses to make an imagined story a reality?” Crossroads Charlotte uses literary arts to devise and present four stories that depict a imagined futures for the town of Charlotte based on present-day community data. It uses the stories as a means to provoke dialogue about the implications of these alternative futures, engage the community in discussions about trust, diversity, equity, and inclusion, and spur action generated by community reflection on the stories. Four stories were created. In “Fortress Charlotte”, Charlotte’s economy is in serious decline and the community is divided, with a widening gap in community income and rising tension between racial and ethnic groups. In “Class Act”, Charlotte is a world-class city with a thriving economy, but old patterns of racial, ethnic, and social divisions remain. “The Beat Goes On” tells the story of a Charlotte in which the economy is moving forward but technology-based companies in the new economy opt to bypass Charlotte for more creative, progressive destinations that do not harbor the same high levels of distrust, inequality, and resentment. In “Eye to Eye”, the final story, Charlotte has a reputation as a tolerant and trusting community, where diversity is embraced as a strength and the new economy is not only robust, but is shared by all residents as the community works collectively to govern itself in trust and fairness. These four stories have been produced in both written and video form, and are available on the project website, where Charlotte residents are asked to post responses and offer commitments for actions they will take to help craft the community’s future in more positive ways. These imagined stories have also been presented in a variety of organizational settings – local corporations, government entities, nonprofit organizations, and schools have been asked to develop their own imagined storylines within these scenarios and identify specific positive actions they can take for a better future. Over 1,800 people have participated in more than 30 public forums for initial community outreach and engagement. The focus now is on action, and to date 33 organizations have chosen to develop Crossroads Charlotte initiatives that will collectively help steer the community towards a positive future. Organizations associated with this project include: Community Building Initiative and the Foundation for the Carolinas.