Priority: Advance sustainable development through systemic change and community-based practices

Sustainable development is commonly defined as "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs." (Source: Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future: PDF) Whether for policy or in practice, sustainable development considers economic prosperity, environmental integrity and social equity as equal and fundamental components to the healthy functioning of a place, be it a building, neighborhood, municipality or region. Sustainable development takes a systems approach to resource coordination, considering all elements of community life and the relationship those elements have with one another and their collective impact on the community as a whole. For a comprehensive set of elements that contribute to overall community sustainability (going beyond the traditional economic, environmental and social sustainable development framework), see the STAR Communities Rating System.


Interconnected values that yield sustainability

The Chicago Community Trust asserts that sustainable development can help manage investments, local and shared, by upholding the three interrelated sustainable development values: economic prosperity, environmental integrity and social equity. When these values operate in harmony, our communities have the resources needed to continually flourish. Sacrifice any one of them, and our communities are set on a course to deterioration.


Grant making in sustainable development

In 2013, The Chicago Community Trust awarded 26 grants in this priority, totaling $2,669,500.

The Trust's grant funding is awarded in two complementary areas of sustainable development: systemic change and community-based.


RFP: Systemic Change Initiatives

These are macro-level initiatives, typically from regional organizations and institutions that engage particular government, market or cultural levers to affect change for large numbers of people and geographies.

This request for proposals calls for projects from organizations that work at a systemic level to advance sustainable development in the region through research, communications and educational campaigns, market creation, advocacy, policy development, technical assistance and training. Priority applicants will pursue at least one of these systemic change outcomes for the region:

  • A connected, cohesive landscape: Initiatives that replace the sprawling, fragmented development patterns with more walkable, transit-friendly alternatives that conserve open space and connect employment centers to the workforce that serves them.
  • A conservation-oriented built environment: Buildings and infrastructure that reduce carbon emissions minimize consumption of scarce natural resources and yield financial savings for private households and public taxpayers.
  • Green market development: Market innovations, from energy supply to waste management to food systems, that unleash new opportunities for economic development while preserving the environment and providing key resources to communities hampered by disinvestment.
Grant cycle and applications

The RFP for systemic change initiatives is released every March. Proposals are due at the beginning of May. Grant awards will be decided in September.


RFP: Community-Based Practices

These are initiatives that are locally driven and implemented, typically by municipalities, community-based organizations and nonprofits with local technical assistance programs that result in tangible sustainable development outcomes in a community or neighborhood. Community-based projects typically pursue at least one of the following outcomes:

  • Well-planned places: Policy plans, development provisions and design guidelines that connect and integrate a street, neighborhood or community rather than isolate, sever, congest and pollute them.
  • Informed and engaged stakeholders: Initiatives that engage and educate diverse local stakeholders, allowing for an inclusive, transparent planning and development process.
  • Impactful programs: Local program implementation that reflects the sustainable development goals of the community or region. 
Grant cycle and applications

The RFP for community-based projects is released every November. Proposals are due at the beginning of January. Grant awards will be decided in May.


Contact Us

Please direct all inquiries to Michael Davidson, Senior Program Officer, at


You can find more details about grant opportunities, and sign up for email notifications when they open, inside GrantCentral, our new online grant management system. Sign up and create an account for full access to grant programs at the Trust.


Grants in Systemic Change
March 16: RFP opens
May 1: Proposals due
September: Award decisions made
Grants in Community-Based Practices
November 16: RFP opens
January 5: Proposals due
May: Award decisions made

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