Our Chicago Sustainability Leaders Network meeting on December 3rd, 2019 at the Field Museum began with the question: “What passions are you bringing into 2020?” Instead of going around and answering verbally, they were asked to submit up to three words on Mentimeter, an app that collects and displays responses in real time. As people filtered in, their passions were added to a growing word cloud at the front of the room.
“We want to rebuild the internet from the ground up,” proclaimed CSLN member Steve Ediger. As part of ChiCommons Coop, Steve is partnering with CSLN member and South Shore organizer Alvyn Walker of Windsor Park Lutheran Church to launch Block Share, a new pilot program that aims to leverage technology to strengthen neighborhood connections.
Meida Teresa McNeal grew up in the Fifth City neighborhood of East Garfield Park on Chicago’s West Side, where her parents participated in ICA’s Fifth City community development project in the 1960s. Curious about her own memories and her parents’ stories, Meida began to explore the history of Fifth City.
Darnell Shields dreams of a dynamic, bustling, and alive Austin, a community on the West Side of Chicago. As the Executive Director of Austin Coming Together (ACT), Darnell and his team have worked diligently on building a system that supplies the resources and support that local residents and organizations need to address the barriers they face. The role of community “has to be better acknowledged and valued when it comes to community development initiatives,” he says. “Developing resident capacity on the ground in neighborhoods into interconnected systems is the only way you can have harmonious allocation and distribution of resources in a place.”
In 1995, Alvyn Walker was sitting in a Giordano’s restaurant on Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago, engaged with friends in a conversation that would influence the rest of his life. “We started to brainstorm about what type of a goal would you set for yourself and how do you think that particular goal would be achieved,” he says.
“I had a vision that we needed to stop responding with force. We need to build coalitions of people and be able to converge on problems using a more thoughtful approach to solving problems.”
In 1979, Maxine Florell, Jeanette Hupp, and Janet Sullivan began operating a women’s center in Uptown with an aim that differed from many social service agencies of the time—to accept each woman as she was. To embody this value, they implemented a few rules as needed to create a safe, peaceful, and respectful space. In the beginning, that space was a second-story apartment with a handful of regular clients. It would later be named Sarah’s Circle for the cat that spent time with women in the center.
“What brought you here tonight?” asked ICA Program Manager Caitlin Sarro of the group that gathered near the dusk of September 26th at the Gold Dome Fieldhouse in Garfield Park. This simple question carries the powerful assumption that each person has their own reason for coming to a Chicago Sustainability Leaders Network (CSLN) meeting. Beyond those reasons are deeper values and motivations, the interaction of which has helped CSLN remain a dynamic, emergent network for nearly six years.
“Bronzeville is an extraordinary community filled with precious cultural artifacts and historic locations where many of our community’s best and brightest have walked, talked, laughed, and cried,” read the program guide created by Bronzeville Alliance for the second event in this year’s Nourish (comm)Unity series. On the afternoon of September 21st, participants on the FRESH Bronzeville environmental tour not only walked, talked, and laughed: they also biked.
The Accelerate Neighborhood Climate Action (ANCA) program in Denver is based on an assumption that each household and family can, by changing lifestyle behaviors, lower their own carbon footprint as well as that of their neighborhood, thus creating a healthier future for all residents. Since 2016, ANCA has been using inclusive strategies, including our Technology of Participation (ToP) methods to host Climate Action Forums that cultivate climate action block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood throughout the city.
The Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA) aims to dramatically increase investment in clean energy across Illinois, driving equitable economic development, fossil fuel divestment, and energy efficiency. CEJA is not the only energy legislation proposed in the Illinois General Assembly this fall, but it is unique in building upon a “grassroots movement of ideas from everyday people across Illinois."