The Chicago Sustainability Leaders Network (CSLN) has been working on neighborhood sustainability across Chicago and around the Midwest. In partnership with the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), ICA and three member organizations of CSLN—Chinese American Service League in Chinatown, Centers for New Horizons in Bronzeville, and Sacred Keepers Sustainability Lab in Bronzeville—have been awarded a $250,000 grant from ISEIF, the Illinois Science & Energy Innovation Foundation, to integrate Smart Grid consumer education into ongoing efforts to become neighborhood-based sustainability hubs.
All partners are trusted community educators with extensive experience working on sustainability and have strong cultural ties with diverse, low- to moderate-income communities. Smart Grid education will become part of their holistic approach to engaging constituents in energy work, which involves addressing energy as it relates to people’s everyday lives and priorities, e.g., through housing, youth development, senior services, nutrition, and other programs. In addition to conducting their on-campus Smart Grid project, UIC will train and assign student interns to work with community partners. Work on the project started in January 2015 and will conclude at the end of the year. To lean more about the ISEIF project, visit the accelerate77 website.
Although still early in the grant implementation, a diverse group of 5 CSLN members presented on the ISEIF project at the third annual Integrated Network for Social Sustainability (INSS) conference at Michigan State University. The presentation “Smart Grid, Historic Landmarks, & Corner Stores: A Network Approach to Sustainability in Chicago Communities”, shared the CSLN partners’ cultural and value-based approach to Smart Grid education. Designed as a participatory presentation, the CSLN group was able to both present on their individual approaches as well as dialogue with participants about the process. The presentation shared a unique practitioner perspective at the conference, and had a fully engaged audience.
The conference aimed to approach the topic of sustainability from various disciplines, both academic and community-minded, and the group is looking forward to following up with kindred spirits from Detroit and the Lansing area to continue sharing knowledge and building national connections.
The ISEIF initiative, however, is only one of many collaborative CSLN projects. Launching from the Is it Just Space? event in October 2014, CSLN members have co-created a series of interactive discussions and activities exploring how to create public spaces that are truly sustainable: just, safe, environmentally and climate friendly, and welcoming to people of diverse cultures, ages, and backgrounds.
This series recently launched with a Saturday afternoon session titled Urban Ecology Classroom: The Tale of Two Migrations - Monarchs in Bronzeville. Attendees watched Flight of the Butterflies: a movie chronicling the discovery of the Monarchs’ migration from Michoacan, Mexico to Chicago then Canada and back. After the movie, attendees planted milkweed, and explored parallels between the Great Migration of African-Americans and migration of the Monarchs.
The Is It Just Space? series of events will continue monthly until October, when the network will gather to discuss implications for future action. Read more details at the accelerate77 website!