When we invest in our communities, we are in it for the long haul. Because change does not happen overnight. United Way of Metro Chicago’s Neighborhood Network Initiative reflects this commitment, combining long-term strategy with place-based, community-led efforts to drive neighborhood transformation. Following nearly a decade of success, the model expanded in March 2022 for the first time in six years, adding Englewood, Far South, and Garfield Park to our previous 10 Neighborhood Network communities throughout the Chicago region: Auburn Gresham, Austin, Blue Island/Robbins, Brighton Park, Bronzeville, Cicero, Evanston, Little Village, South Chicago, and West Chicago.
“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 the Englewood, Far South, and Garfield Park communities strengthens our commitment to building a more equitable Chicago region and, together, with our community partners, helping all neighborhoods and families thrive.”
COVID-19: Networks Serve as Rapid Response Hubs
Throughout the pandemic, the Neighborhood Networks have served as rapid response hubs, providing direct COVID-19 relief and aid through cash assistance, food distribution, PPE supplies, and vaccination resources for residents. In December 2020, philanthropist MacKenzie Scott donated $25 million to United Way, serving as a strong endorsement of our place-based approach to neighborhood transformation.
Our 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 is being used to support the three new Neighborhood Networks, along with investments from our partnership with the Robert R. McCormick Foundation and other funders.
Momentum Continues as Networks Expand
With the addition of the Englewood, Far South, and Garfield Park networks, our Neighborhood Network Initiative will have an even greater impact. Together, we will continue to work alongside local neighborhood leaders to help identify and address community priorities and build local infrastructure, developing affordable housing, cradle-to-career education, family wrap-around service, economic development, business ownership, and arts and culture.
Over the last 10 years, our Neighborhood Network Initiative has gained momentum and garnered millions of dollars in support from philanthropic partners, such as the Robert R. McCormick Foundation and MacKenzie Scott, among others. And these partnerships continue to grow. We recently announced that we are joining Cook County on the Transforming Places Pilot Program, a public/private approach to community-led transformation.
Cook County’s investment will allow us to expand our Neighborhood Networks in additional suburban Cook County communities, broadening our reach and deepening our impact. When we come together to make a difference, real change and opportunities are possible for all families in the Chicago region.
Meet the Leaders of Our Three New Neighborhood Networks
Banner photo courtesy of Teamwork Englewood.