United Way of Metro Chicago Deepens Commitment to Community-Led Transformation through Expansion of Neighborhood Network Initiative

Success of place-based investment model allows for launch of new Neighborhood Networks in Englewood, Garfield Park and Far South

Chicago, IL – March 15, 2022 - United Way of Metro Chicago has announced the expansion of its Neighborhood Network Initiative in three communities: Englewood, Garfield Park and Far South. Following nearly a decade of success in the Networks, the community-led investment strategy is expanding for the first time in six years. The expansion will mark more than $25 million invested in the Networks, both from United Way direct funding and through a partnership with the Robert R. McCormick Foundation. The three communities will add to the vibrant network of 10 existing Neighborhood Network communities across the Chicago region.

“We are thrilled to expand our reach and impact in the Chicago region,” said Sean Garrett, president and CEO of United Way of Metro Chicago. “Broadening our Neighborhood Network Initiative in Englewood, Garfield Park and the Far South communities strengthens our commitment to building a more equitable Chicago region and, together, with our community partners, helping all neighborhoods and families thrive.”

As a leading supporter of community-driven efforts, United Way of Metro Chicago launched its Neighborhood Network Initiative in 2013. Working alongside local neighborhood leaders to help identify and solve community priorities and build local infrastructure, the Neighborhood Network strategy is an “inside-out” place-based approach to neighborhood transformation. Almost a decade later, this community-led strategy has gained momentum and garnered millions of dollars in support from philanthropic partners.

In 2018, United Way and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation formed a partnership to co-invest in the Neighborhood Network. “The United Way-McCormick Partnership for Strong Neighborhoods is a best-in-class example of neighborhoods collaborating to create thriving communities,” said Timothy P. Knight, president and CEO of the Robert R. McCormick Foundation. “Our shared focus on Englewood, Little Village and the broader Neighborhood Network is a unique opportunity to leverage our philanthropy to deepen investment on Chicago’s South and West Sides and make a lasting impact in the Chicago region.”

In October 2019, BMO Harris Bank invested $10 million in the Neighborhood Network strategy, deepening United Way’s impact in the Austin community and aligning with the launch of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s INVEST South/West development plan. The investment was the largest corporate gift in United Way of Metro Chicago’s history.

Throughout the pandemic, the Neighborhood Networks have served as rapid response hubs, providing direct COVID-19 relief and aid through cash assistance, food distribution/pantry and PPE supplies for residents. In December 2020, philanthropist MacKenzie Scott donated $25 million to United Way, serving as a strong endorsement of the organization’s place-based approach to neighborhood transformation. The Neighborhood Networks’ successful local community response to the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with Scott’s gift, resulted in unprecedented visibility and opportunity for the model, including the potential to expand into new communities. A portion of Scott’s gift will be used to support the three new Neighborhood Networks, along with investments from United Way’s partnership with the Robert R. McCormick Foundation and other funders.

Each Neighborhood Network is led by a “community quarterback,” an established agency that brings together a coalition of organizations, local leaders and resources to develop a community vision and execute plans related to affordable housing, cradle-to-career education, family wrap-around services, economic development, business ownership and arts and culture. In many of the Neighborhood Networks, United Way’s investment through financial and capacity-building support, leadership development and networking opportunities has been instrumental in assisting in the implementation of their LISC Quality-of-Life Plans.

“The Neighborhood Network Initiative has been instrumental in helping communities across the Chicago region move forward with implementing their Quality-of-Life Plans,” said Lauren Lewis, program officer for LISC. “The Quality-of-Life Plans are visions for a community’s future created and owned by the community and have served as a guide for investments in initiatives related to better education, housing, broader job choices, safer streets, new economic opportunities and more.”

The “community quarterbacks” joining the Neighborhood Networks are Teamwork Englewood in Englewood, Garfield Park Rite to Wellness Collaborative in Garfield Park and the Far South Chicago Coalition in Far South. Over the next three years, the new Networks in Garfield Park and Far South will continue to engage their existing coalitions and implement visions to improve the quality of life for residents that have faced systemic disinvestment in their communities. In Englewood, Teamwork will continue to activate a network of residents and local organizations to advance the community’s Quality-of-Life initiative, which began with Englewood’s first Quality-of-Life Plan in 2005.

“We are fundamentally lifting up the humanity of the people so that we can successfully make a collective impact for the betterment of us all,” said Joyce Chapman, president of the Far South Chicago Coalition. “This investment in the Far South and specifically in the Roseland community will help us create programs such as Culinary Arts Vocational Education, designed so that each individual will have the opportunity to be empowered and to achieve their life successes.”

“The Englewood Neighborhood Network will help us support our efforts to improve the quality of life for residents, designed to increase Teamwork Englewood’s capacity as well as our partners,” said Cecile De Mello, executive director of Teamwork Englewood. “Having partners like United Way who value a place-based, community-led approach is vital to transforming neighborhoods and improving health, educational and economic outcomes.” 

“United Way’s partnership with the Garfield Park community helps strengthen our coalition of residents, faith-based and health care institutions, nonprofits and other stakeholders,” said Theodore Joseph (TJ) Crawford, executive director of the Garfield Park Rite to Wellness Collaborative. “Being a part of the Neighborhood Network Initiative furthers our mission to develop leaders and create opportunities and programs that build a thriving Garfield Park community.”

In addition to the three new Neighborhood Networks of Englewood, Garfield Park and Far South, United Way’s Neighborhood Networks include Auburn Gresham, Austin, Blue Island/Robbins, Brighton Park, Bronzeville, Cicero, Evanston, Little Village, South Chicago and West Chicago. To learn more about United Way’s neighborhood work, visit LIVEUNITEDchicago.org/neighborhood-networks.


About United Way of Metro Chicago
United Way of Metro Chicago brings together businesses, government, nonprofits and community leaders to deliver funding, resources and expertise to nonprofit organizations across greater Chicago. We are working alongside our partners at the neighborhood level to tackle the systemic issues that have plagued our region, creating communities where children and families can thrive. United, we’re building stronger neighborhoods for a stronger Chicago region. Learn more about United Way of Metro Chicago at LIVEUNITEDchicago.org.

Media Contact:
United Way of Metro Chicago – Kris Adamik, 312-906-2291, kris.adamik@liveunitedchicago.org

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