“Collaborative Fund” is a New Source of Capital for Groups Advancing Neighborhood Investment 

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In 2020, the Trust’s Catalyzing Neighborhood Investment team launched the Flexible Funding Program. The program supports and builds the capacity of organizations to engage with community partnerships, increase investment opportunities, and concentrate and coordinate community action to increase the amount and impact of investment that is more aligned to community priorities.

Neighborhood investment collaborations may include – coalitions addressing business corridor improvements, community development organizations involved in transportation-related working groups, or a neighborhood council hosting city-wide investment conversations. Although the increase of collective efforts has great promise to drive more inclusive economies in communities, the Flexible Funding Program recognizes that organizations face fundamental barriers and limitations that inhibit their ability to participate in collaborative work that can lead to positive economic and community change.

Basically, it costs money and time to collaborate. The Flexible Funding Program’s Collaborative Fund pays for the time it takes to partner with others on committees, working groups and other activities that advance neighborhood initiatives to attract, retain and own capital investments.

The Collaborative Fund provides small grants of up to $25,000 to:

  • Organizations and coalitions with missions, strategies, and programs that align with the Catalyzing Neighborhood Investment strategy.  
  • Organizations and coalitions that help to advance the goals and leverage the resources of existing community/municipal planning processes and place-based initiatives.
  • Organizations and coalitions that demonstrate a community-led structure and engagement practice.
  • Individual nonprofit organizations with operating budgets under $1 million or individual group working through a nonprofit fiscal agent.
  • Organizations led by and/or predominantly staffed by individuals representing communities most affected by structural racism, discrimination or disinvestment.

The Collaborative Fund launched in a true collaborative nature!

In its first round of Collaborative Fund grants, The Chicago Community Trust’s Catalyzing Neighborhood Investment team is partnering with the City of Chicago Department of Planning & Development to provide resources to community-based organizations to play a pivotal role in the We Will Chicago plan.  We Will Chicago is a three-year, citywide planning initiative under Mayor Lightfoot that will encourage growth and vibrancy while addressing social and economic inequities across Chicago’s neighborhoods. Importantly, it’s the city’s first comprehensive citywide planning effort in 55 years.

The Trust provided pre-planning support to initiate the citywide plan. Now, the Trust is partnering with the City to maximize community participation in the planning process. The Trust selected 10 organizations, most aligned with the neighborhood investment strategy, to receive collaborative fund dollars to support their role and engagement with the citywide plan. As community partners to the City, these organizations will help to shape the policy priorities in each pillar of the plan. They will also be liaisons with their communities, hosting events to gather feedback and ideas for the plan.

“We see the importance of helping to resource the citywide planning process and at this early stage, to ensure that community voices inform and shape the plan” – Sandra Aponte, Community Impact Manager

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In the inaugural round of the Collaborative Fund, each selected organization received a $15,000 grant:

  • Bronzeville Community Development Partnership – a nonprofit development corporation that has driven revitalization in Bronzeville for more than 30 years.
  • Chicago Cultural Alliance – the only organization of its kind in the U.S., a consortium of cultural heritage museums, centers, and historical societies in the Chicago region that work together to increase capacity and understanding within their organizations and communities.
  • Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community – empowers Asian American community members in the Greater Chicago area through civic engagement and community planning.
  • Rogers Park Business Alliance – cultivates and sustains a thriving economic environment in Rogers Park, serving businesses and residents.
  • Eighteenth Street Development Corporation – includes a chamber of commerce and works to strengthen the local economy in the Pilsen community.
  • Endeleo Institute – provides resources in health, education and community development to the Washington Heights area.
  • Garfield Park Community Council – a community-building organization that works with stakeholders in the East and West Garfield Park area in decision-making efforts to promote equitable development in the area.
  • North River Commission – a community and economic development agency that unites more than 100 civic associations, businesses, schools, institutions and places of worship to improve the quality of life in Albany Park.
  • Southeast Environmental Task Force – focuses on neighborhood environment, promoting sustainable development and preservation of local natural areas that improve the quality of life in the Calumet region.
  • Territory – provides place-based skill building programs in urban design, planning, and community development for Chicago youth who want to make the city a healthier place for diverse communities.

This group of community organizations and coalitions were selected for the Collaborative Fund opportunity because of their track record in fostering equitable and connected communities. The 10 community partners are deeply rooted in or representative of diverse Chicago neighborhoods. Collectively, these organizations play an important role in helping to advance neighborhood investment efforts.

Grant applications for the Collaborative Fund opportunity will be accepted at any time. The Trust is seeking collaborative efforts that advance the goals and leverage the resources of existing community/municipal planning processes and place-based initiatives.

For more information, go to RFP: Catalyzing Neighborhood Investment – Flexible Funding Program – Collaborative Fund – The Chicago Community Trust (