“The power of storytelling is a driving force that engages communities. Stories have been the basis of culture from the beginning of time,” said Adam Gebb, Executive Director of Andes Amazon Conservancy, during the first in a series of webinars on climate change and environmental sustainability co-sponsored by ICA and the Center for Strategic Facilitation (CSF).
Beginning with the premise that “human-caused climate change is a defining issue of our time,” the Success through Participation: Environmental Sustainability Webinars, or “eco-webinars”, was launched to facilitate a multicultural, multinational exchange between leaders and projects who are working to address climate change.
“Race has to do with the ecology of human community, as does racism. It’s an ecological issue because it has to do not just with the ecology of human communities, but to our relationship with other biological communities,” said antiracism trainer James Addington during a talk on his new book, Tragic Investment, at ICA GreenRise on November 21, 2019.
That same evening, in the same room, we also hosted the second-ever screening of Monty and Rose, a film that “tells the story of a pair of endangered piping plovers that successfully nested at Chicago's Montrose Beach in the summer of 2019, the first of the species to nest in Chicago in 64 years.”
Over 500 Illinoisans gathered at the State Capitol in Springfield during 2019 fall veto session of the Illinois General Assembly to show support for the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA). The energetic supporters, who filled several buses and crowded the rotunda, were only a fraction of the more than 10,000 “community cosponsors” who have pledged support for the bill. Many of those community voices have been activated through nearly 100 community conversations as part of the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition’s (ICJC) Listen. Lead. Share. (LLS) campaign.
LLS conversations are designed to raise awareness about CEJA and gather additional feedback from residents on how to improve the bill. ICA joined the campaign this year, organizing three LLS events in Chicago ahead of the fall veto session.
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.