In 2017, Chicago Cares, the city’s number one provider of impact volunteerism and corporate volunteer activation, and Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) Chicago the local office of the nation’s leading community development support organization, joined forces to accelerate impact in Chicago neighborhoods where both organizations were operating. We knew, instinctively, that we would get farther faster if we combined forces rather than going it alone – and that has proven to be true. Here’s how.

LISC Chicago has worked directly for almost two decades with Chicago neighborhoods to create Quality-of-Life Plans identifying the top priorities local residents and institutions want to see in their future, and more importantly their commitment to champion them.  A local non-profit convenes a 1-2 year planning process, supported by LISC’s proven model and lessons from similar communities. LISC works to strengthen local relationships with citywide institutions like Chicago Cares to extend each neighborhood’s power to make their vision a reality.

Through its new Community Investment Strategy, Chicago Cares is committed to investing in neighborhoods where volunteerism can be catalytic and where they can work together to amplify existing community change efforts.  Where community partners have created a collective impact strategy through a Quality-of-Life Plan, Chicago Cares can bring the volunteers, the capacity, and the corporate relationships and resources to address community needs already identified and endorsed by the neighborhood.

To ensure that our presence in the community would be sustainable, both Chicago Cares and LISC commit to strong, strategic partnerships with the grassroots organization in each neighborhood leading the charge on the Quality-of-Life Plan. For example, LISC funds a two-year staff position at each convening agency to organize planning, and a small pool of funds to immediately try out good ideas as “early action” projects. Chicago Cares, in turn, hired a part-time staff member from each neighborhood who works out of the partner’s office and provides the extra capacity they need to manage volunteer projects, often starting with those early actions.

In 2017, our partnership started with two neighborhoods on Chicago’s south side, Englewood and Auburn Gresham, and is expanding this year to Belmont Cragin on the northwest side. Due to Chicago Cares and LISC’s concentrated efforts, we were able to make substantial investments in our core neighborhoods last year:

  • In Englewood, we engaged 810 volunteers at 15 community-driven volunteer projects and leveraged $200,000 in corporate resources, staffing and organizational support.
  • In Auburn Gresham, we engaged 802 volunteers at 13 community-driven volunteer projects and leveraged $206,000 in corporate resources, staffing and organizational support.
  • Since LISC and its partners published the Quality-of-Life Plans in late 2016, these two communities have attracted more than $10 million in combined outside investment. Additionally, Belmont Cragin’s plan, which launched in 2015, has already leveraged $10 million to date mostly in public and philanthropic funds. This new partnership will help expand corporate relationships and investment.

By collaborating with one another and the community to build volunteer projects that accelerate the implementation of each neighborhood’s plan, we breathe new life, energy and resources into the process. Together, we are investing directly in the communities that need us the most and creating transformational change based on their vision, not ours.