LISC/Chicago's New Communities Program
New Communities Program neighborhoods
"Comprehensive" development in 16 Chicago neighborhoods
The new communities program is a long-term initiative of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation/Chicago to support comprehensive community development in 16 Chicago neighborhoods. The 10-year effort seeks to rejuvenate challenged communities, bolster those in danger of losing ground, and preserve the diversity of areas in the path of gentrification.
Commitment to lead agencies and partners
NCP neighborhoods span a cross-section of Chicago's South, Southwest, West and Northwest sides. Each effort is led by a neighborhood-based lead agency that coordinates programs among other local organizations and citywide support groups. The 14 lead agencies (one of which serves three adjacent communities) have at their disposal:
- Two full-time staff positions: an NCP director and an organizer.
- A pool of loan and grant funds to mount short- and long-term initiatives. The funds, distributed by LISC on a competitive basis, serve as seed money to leverage other public and private resources.
- Technical support and peer-learning opportunities, including planning expertise, trainings, access to subject-area experts and meetings with peers in other NCP agencies.
Lead agencies are encouraged to forge partnerships with other nonprofit groups, businesses, government and residents to address issues such as affordable housing, prisoner re-entry, cultural programming, education reform, community marketing and open space.
Neighbors get together around "quality-of-life" planning
All NCP neighborhoods have undertaken a structured community planning process that involved local residents and leaders in the creation of strategies to improve the community's quality of life. Three communities completed plans in a pilot phase of the program, from 1998 through 2002; most of the others participated in neighborhood planning programs leading to a quality-of-life plan between May 2003 and May 2005. A total of 3,000 people across the city participated in the meetings that produced the NCP plans, which were unveiled May 18, 2005 during a downtown ceremony attended by 500 residents and other partners including Mayor Richard M. Daley.
Projects and partnerships to address range of issues
Agencies involved in NCP will spend 10 years and perhaps more implementing their plans. Creating local and citywide partnerships, communities are addressing issues including employment, parks and recreation, health care, housing affordability, commercial and retail development, child care, education quality, neighborhood aesthetics and personal security.
Goal: trigger large-scale improvements, mesh with market forces
NCP is designed to strengthen communities from within - through planning, organizing and human development. The comprehensive approach helps broaden opportunities for local residents through better education, broader job choices, safer streets, new economic opportunities and stronger personal finances. This strengthened community is better equipped to take advantage of larger market forces:
- Attracting retail and housing development to areas that have experienced little new construction.
- Achieving economic balance in neighborhoods where working-class residents fear displacement by higher-income newcomers.
- Creating stronger connections to metropolitan-wide business, employment and educational opportunities.
Emphasis on documentation, sharing of knowledge
A central NCP strategy is to create active communication among participating communities, lead agencies and support organizations. By documenting the activities and sharing strategies and methods through a newsletter, meetings, training sessions, web site and other methods, NCP hopes to multiply the impact of each neighborhood's work while advancing knowledge of community development practice.
Core funding in place; additional resources being pursued
More than $47 million has been committed to NCP by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and LISC/Chicago to provide lead agencies with staffing, planning assistance and project seed money. Additional funding has been secured from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Bank One (Chase), Joyce Foundation, Living Cities, Mayor's Office of Workforce Development, Partnership for New Communities, Polk Bros. Foundation, State Farm Insurance Companies and the Steans Family Foundation. LISC/Chicago and the lead agencies will seek the additional private and public support necessary to implement the quality-of-life plans. NCP is one of four demonstration projects of Living Cities, a partnership formerly called the National Community Development Initiative.