So far in 2018 the network has met at Sacred Keepers Sustainability Lab in the Bronzeville community, Garfield Park Conservatory, the University of Illinois in Chicago (UIC) Heritage Garden, and the Lurie Garden in Millennium Park.
Meetings are a time for network members to learn about each other’s’ initiatives, think through collaborative projects, and move forward equity-focused sustainability initiatives in Chicago. Currently there are three active working groups in the CSLN:
The Policy working group aims to create the “in-between space” that connects top-down City policymakers and bottom-up grassroots leaders. This year, the group maintained a productive relationship with the Mayor’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Chris Wheat, and members of his team. Last December, CSLN members learned about the City’s upcoming Resilience Plan and offered their recommendations on how it could best serve communities and organizations in Chicago. In March, City officials introduced to the group a suite of projects under the umbrella of the Resilience Plan that were highly responsive to the earlier suggestions. Most significantly, the City had already begun internal assessment of community engagement strategies across departments and sister agencies to begin crafting a unified definition. Both parties were optimistic and agreed to meet again in the summer.
Collaborative Events Group
The Collaborative Events working group is curating the Nourish (comm)Unity series with support from the Lumpkin Family Foundation. Nourish (comm) Unity explores community connections and holistic approaches to sustainability across four events in 2018. The first event tied into ICA’s Out and About Uptown’s Coast series to explore the Chicago coast through a tour led by indigenous youth leaders of Chi Nations Youth Council. The second explored connections across generations through blues, gardening, and goats at Harambee Garden, a hub in the Austin community.
The Publications working group plans to showcase members’ sustainability work and resources and articulate the impact of the Network. While the group is still experimenting with format and collecting stories, it aims to launch its first publication in tandem with the Network’s anniversary this October.
The Network launched in October of 2013 as a continuation of the ICA’s accelerate 77 initiative, and will be celebrating its fifth-year anniversary this year. CSLN members have been continuing to shape and morph the environmental movement in Chicago by moving past old paradigms of competition among organizations, communities and neighborhoods to a new vision of collaboration, mutual support, and collective voice. In particular, CSLN emphasizes a race-forward and equity focused lens as an example to others in the environmental movement. If past successes are any indicator, the network will continue to innovate and thrive into the future. Learn more at www.accelerate77.net/csln