Mind the Gap: Tackling Chicago’s Wealth Gap with The Chicago Community Trust

This is a guest post, contributed by Elizabeth Weber, Communications Specialist for The Chicago Community Trust

Last year, Chicago Ideas and The Chicago Community Trust joined forces to share with our communities topics and organizations that often fly under the radar but that play an important role in strengthening the fabric of our region.

Together, we created Mind the Gap, an immersive event series that connects socially-minded Chicagoans with local community activists, residents, and solutions-oriented changemakers in neighborhoods that have dealt with decades of disinvestment on the South and West Sides. In each immersion, participants received a behind-the-scenes tour of two nonprofit organizations doing work on the ground and took a deep-dive with program staff to discuss solutions for tackling complex challenges. Through these experiences, our goal was to have participants walk away with a greater understanding of the issues presented and feel inspired to get more involved, whether by giving to the organizations they met or by sharing the insights they gained with their family and friends.

One question that often comes up is why The Chicago Community Trust and Chicago Ideas came together. We believe that Chicago Ideas’ ability to spark dialogue and inspire members to turn curiosity into action matches perfectly with The Chicago Community Trust’s unparalleled knowledge of the issues facing our region and the organizations making an impact. Having been collaborative partners for almost a decade, we feel our combined expertise could mobilize our communities of civic leaders, community advocates, and generous donors to do social good.

For more than 100 years, The Chicago Community Trust (the Trust) has worked with donors to make meaningful investments that have strengthened our region. Since the beginning, we have supported efforts that improve the quality of life for all residents—whether it is providing emergency grant dollars for communities living with the effects of the Great Depression and the Great Recession, increasing food security across Cook County, supporting access to quality education, or bringing to fruition tens of thousands of affordable housing units. As we enter a new decade, the Trust has determined that we must focus our discretionary resources on bridging the racial and ethnic wealth gap, which has implications on everything from the public safety challenges our city faces to population loss to slowed economic growth.

Similarly, Chicago Ideas has spent the past decade empowering Chicago to think bigger, bolder, and beyond any limitations that geography, income, or education may present. Through their accessible programming, they’ve provided Chicagoans with access to the most innovative minds and organizations Chicago has to offer. The connections forged through their programming create new solutions to our region’s—and our world’s—most daunting challenges

Over the course of the two Mind the Gap immersions, we learned from leaders who are empowering communities to take hold of their own narratives in order to tackle equity challenges throughout the city. We met organizations developing entrepreneurs in Woodlawn and the Kinzie Industrial Corridor and organizations repurposing vacant buildings into places for residents to grow and thrive. In the video below, you can explore our first experience with Rebuild Foundation, a Greater Grand Crossing organization that leverages the power and potential of communities, buildings, and objects that others have written off to create meaningful community development.

In keeping with Chicago Ideas’ and the Trust’s shared belief that meaningful change happens when you equip people with opportunities to channel their curiosity into action, we hope to bring even greater awareness not only to our greatest challenges, but pathways to solutions. As you meet these neighbors over the course of the series, we hope you’ll activate your purpose, no matter how big or small.

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