Equitable Recovery | A $17 Million Initiative

Why We’re Investing in Chicago’s Equitable Recovery

It would be easy to say that the pandemic has exposed deep-seated racial inequities in our society and in our city, but the truth is that they have existed in plain sight for a very long time. What has changed is people’s willingness to see them, and to do something more about them. The message is clear: This is a catalyst moment. And it needs to be met with more resources.

Our Approach

Polk Bros. Foundation’s Board of Directors approved $17 million in additional grantmaking over two years to help Chicago recover from the COVID-19 pandemic in a way that addresses persistent and significant racial inequities. These new resources are a chance to catalyze and mobilize additional funding and collaboration, to work across silos, to try some new things, and to make some bigger investments and some smaller investments in new ways. In deep discussion with grantee partners and listening to community members, Polk Bros. Foundation staff have been closely considering how new resources could best contribute to bringing about the kind of change we are all seeking for Chicago.

What We Support

Polk Bros. Foundation is focusing two years of significantly increased grantmaking in areas that are essential to helping Chicago’s communities heal from the many effects of the pandemic and to addressing longstanding and systemic racial inequities. Grants support efforts to increase the strength and sustainability of BIPOC-led organizations and grantees’ development of a racial equity lens in their work. Funding is also directed toward initiatives to build economic growth, community wealth, housing stability, and community safety in south- and west-side communities, to support CPS principals and teachers and better engage CPS students in learning that is responsive to this moment and supports their academic growth, and to tend to trauma and mental health, especially for CPS students.
Equitable Recovery Blog Header Polk Bros. Foundation has made the following Equitable Recovery grants, to date:

Focus Area: Economic Growth and Community Wealth

November 2020

  • $750,000 to North Lawndale Employment Network, Claretian Associates and IMAN for their finalist Chicago Prize initiatives, specifically:
    • $250,000 to North Lawndale Employment Network (NLEN) for The Time is Now: Advancing North Lawndale Together to support the creation of a workforce development campus in North Lawndale that will house NLEN’s programs and social enterprises and provide community amenities, including meeting space and a bank
    • $250,000 to Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) for Go Green on Racine to support the development of a fresh food market and community hub in Englewood
    • $250,000 to Claretian Associates for We’re Steel Here: Working Together to Reinvigorate South Chicago to support the preservation and development of affordable rental housing and redevelopment of a shuttered YMCA into a community center, business incubator, computer lab, and fitness center with a pool
  • $250,000 for the Fund for Equitable Business Growth (a multi-funder collaborative housed at Chicago Community Foundation) to help entrepreneurs of color access coordinated and trusted services with the ultimate goal of ensuring the success and growth of businesses of color — a key ingredient to a thriving, equitable and inclusive local economy.
  • $100,000 to Skills for Chicagoland’s Future for its Neighborhood Link initiative to bring the organization’s demand-driven workforce placement programming — as well as access to co-located supportive services — directly into Englewood and Austin, two communities with the highest unemployment rates.

February 2021

  • $250,000 for We Rise Together: For an Equitable and Just Recovery (a multi-funder collaborative housed at Chicago Community Foundation) to accelerate equitable economic recovery for Black and Latinx communities by distributing pooled philanthropic resources, and to reform and re-envision policies and business practices to ensure our region invests more equitably.

August 2021

  • $1,000,000 (over two years) to the Obama Foundation for its efforts to implement workforce development programs engaging south- and west-side Chicagoans in the construction and operation of the Obama Presidential Center, with particular emphasis on the neighborhoods in its immediate vicinity — Washington Park, Woodlawn, and South Shore — and to create a pipeline of new workers for future major construction projects across the city.
  • $300,000 total ($100,000 each) to HIRE360, Chicago Women in Trades, and Revolution Workshop for workforce development programs, including through the We Can Build It Consortium, designed to help residents of Chicago’s south and west sides get trained in and enter the construction trades.

November 2021

  • $250,000 for the second year of the Fund for Equitable Business Growth (a multi-funder collaborative housed at Chicago Community Foundation) to help entrepreneurs of color access coordinated and trusted services with the ultimate goal of ensuring the success and growth of businesses of color — a key ingredient to a thriving, equitable and inclusive local economy.
  • $250,000 to Neighborhood Developers Initiative's Community Desk Chicago (via Chicago Community Foundation) which will build the capacity of community-based organizations to take a more active role in the physical redevelopment of their communities. The initiative will be piloted with Teamwork Englewood, South Shore Chamber of Commerce and Puerto Rican Cultural Center in Humboldt Park. Community Desk Chicago is a partnership between the Chicago Community Trust (CCT), JPMorgan Chase Foundation and Boston Consulting Group.
  • $150,000 to Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights for its work with at least four BIPOC-led and serving organizations to ensure that the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA) programs function effectively, especially the provisions related to equitable economic opportunity. As Illinois transitions from expensive and polluting fossil fuels to affordable and clean energy, this effort will help ensure relief is provided to communities of color that have long been overburdened with polluting facilities.
  • $50,000 to Aspire to launch a two-year Chicago employment expansion project that will prepare south- and west-side residents living with disabilities to enter jobs in integrated environments and to prepare local employers to foster ongoing cultures of inclusivity.

Focus Area: Housing Stability

November 2020

  • $500,000 to Center for Housing and Health to support a new youth component of the Flexible Housing Pool (FHP) that initially aims to house 200 young adults experiencing homelessness. The FHP is an unprecedented public partnership launched in 2019 that provides a rental subsidy paired with support services for Chicagoans who are medically fragile and do not have a place to live.

February 2021

  • $105,000 to Enterprise Community Partners to work with the City of Chicago Department of Housing to advance racial equity by: 1) implementing the Assessment of Fair Housing; and 2) finalizing a Racial Equity Impact Assessment of the City of Chicago Department of Housing’s Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Qualified Allocation Program.

May 2021

  • $300,000 to United Way of Metropolitan Chicago and six community-based providers (named below) for the creation of Chicago’s Eviction Prevention Racial Equity Rapid Response Team (RERRT) to help address Chicago’s eviction crisis and ensure eviction prevention and assistance is delivered with an explicit racial equity focus. Chicago’s successful COVID-19 RERRT will serve as a model, and its focus on data, collaborative decision-making, and goals that target racially-equitable results will serve as a platform to generate effective community-based solutions to mitigate an anticipated large spike in evictions. Specifically:
    • $150,000 to United Way of Metropolitan Chicago for the hiring of a dedicated program director
    • $150,000 total ($25,000 each) to these six community-based providers for their participation in the Eviction Prevention RERRT: West Side Health Authority, Far South Community Development Corporation, Center for Changing Lives, Acclivus, ZAM’s Hope and Latinos Progresando
  • $150,000 to University of Chicago Inclusive Economy Lab (IEL) for the continued evaluation of the Families in Transition (FIT) pilot, which is providing long-term housing subsidies coupled with trauma-informed supportive services for 100 families of CPS students experiencing homelessness and housing instability. The FIT pilot is the first time that City of Chicago homelessness funds are being used to support families who are living doubled-up in addition to supporting families who are living in shelters and on the streets. The findings from this study will be the first in the nation to examine the impact of stable housing on the outcomes of families who had been living doubled-up.
  • $150,000 to Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing (LCBH) for a partnership with Communities United to prevent evictions in Austin and Roseland, communities where some of the highest case rates are expected due to the number of households that were already cost-burdened (paying more than 30% of income on rent) prior to the pandemic.
  • $100,000 to Neighborhood Housing Services for the Housing Policy Task Force to pursue policy solutions and develop programs focused on addressing the ongoing legacy of redlining and systemic bias in the real estate sector — which principally manifest today as racial lending and appraisal disparities — with the goal of ensuring more equitable access to the wealth-building opportunities of homeownership for all Chicagoans.

August 2021

  • $300,000 to All Chicago to pilot a new systems-level approach to connecting Chicago’s homeless response and workforce sectors. This pilot has the potential to move the homeless response sector from a workforce approach reliant on individual relationships to systems-level coordination with workforce providers. The goal is to ensure that people who are experiencing homelessness have the supports they need to get the jobs they want.
  • $100,000 to Chicago Video Project for website development and an educational outreach campaign to expand the reach of their five-part Shame of Chicago documentary series that tells the story of how Chicago became one of the most racially-segregated cities in the world and how that history illuminates our city’s divided present. The outreach campaign will include the creation and distribution of a high school curriculum for use in Chicago Public Schools and suburban education systems.

Focus Area: Community Safety & Systemic Reforms

February 2021

  • $140,000 to Goldin Institute for Peace By Design, a collaboration with Studio Gang that will use the tools of design and planning to help reduce violence and build positive relationships that contribute to community safety in East and West Garfield Park. A key component of this work is the Youth Design Leadership Program for Community Safety, which will introduce teen participants to the fundamentals of design and an exploration of community safety by combining hands-on educational workshops and participation in community conversations that they will use to influence design and planning solutions to promote public safety.

May 2021

  • $150,000 total to Communities United, Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation and Westside Justice Center for three community-led approaches to public safety. Specifically:
    • $50,000 to Communities United (CU) for the Healing Through Justice pilot, a partnership between CU and Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital that will engage a range of community organizations and residents who are survivors of trauma to develop a plan for community-led public safety in Belmont Cragin and Roseland.
    • $50,000 to Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation for Just Peace, a restorative justice collaborative composed of Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation, Circles and Ciphers, and Community Justice for the Youth Institute, which aims to strengthen relationships between community members, partner organizations, and other stakeholders through restorative justice practices, and for these relationships to form the foundation of a community network with the capacity to respond to acts of harm and violence in restorative and healing ways.
    • $50,000 to Westside Justice Center for Know Your Resources to build an alternative community-based response system and infrastructure in East Garfield Park and North Lawndale. Westside Justice Center will hold a series of community forums to develop a collective vision for community safety that does not rely on policing and build local capacity in collaboration with partners that offer trainings on first response for gunshot wounds, de-escalation of interpersonal conflicts, and safety when engaging with the police.
  • $50,000 to Equity and Transformation for a guaranteed basic income pilot to address economic inequality and recidivism by providing unconditional payments of $500 per month for 18 months to 30 formerly-incarcerated people in West Garfield Park, a community which has been disproportionately impacted by poverty and incarceration.

August 2021

  • $250,000 to the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities pooled fund (housed at the Chicago Community Foundation) for a neighborhood-based violence reduction strategy being piloted in North Lawndale. In collaboration with local neighborhood leaders, Heartland Alliance’s READI Chicago, Metropolitan Family Services’ Communities Partnering for Peace (CP4P), and Chicago CRED will grow their collective organizational capacity to serve 600 to 700 highest-risk individuals through street intervention and outreach accompanied by social services including cognitive-behavioral therapy, counseling, job training and legal support.
  • $150,000 total ($50,000 each) to Illinois Justice Project, Cabrini Green Legal Aid, and Business and Professional People for the Public Interest for Justice 20/20, an initiative to build an umbrella alliance of policy advocates, community-based organizations, and people with lived experience to work collaboratively to identify and advance an inclusive agenda of criminal legal system reforms, including the successful implementation of the SAFE-T Act.

Focus Area: Equity in Education

November 2020

  • $100,000 for the COVID Comeback Fund (a multi-funder initiative housed at the Chicago Public Education Fund) to provide qualifying district and charter school principals with a one-time $10,000 award to help teachers translate instruction to the virtual environment, adapt materials used previously and purchase new ones, and to engage students and parents.

February 2021

  • $340,000 total to Chicago United for Equity and National Equity Project for anti-racist/anti-bias work in Chicago Public Schools, specifically:
    • $130,000 to Chicago United for Equity (CUE) to engage 12 Chicago public school principals or assistant principals in a peer learning group focused on involving a broad group of school and community stakeholders in identifying racial equity challenges by undertaking a Racial Equity Impact Assessment and then making change where needed
    • $210,000 to National Equity Project (NEP) to enable six CPS schools and one CPS Network Chief to join an existing peer learning group called the Midwest District Network, which is focused on helping participants identify and test approaches to address equity challenges in their schools using NEP’s Leading for Equity Framework
  • $320,000 total to Thrive, Alternatives, Chicago Youth Centers, Chinese American Service League and Global Girls for remote learning supports, specifically:
    • $200,000 to Thrive to manage and coordinate community-based organization-led remote learning hubs based in Chicago Public Schools sites in the second half of the 2020/21 school year and through the summer. Learning hubs provide safe places with stable internet and appropriate technology for students to engage in remote learning, including supervision by qualified, caring adults, along with nutritious meals and access to enrichment activities and other supports and services. During the school year the learning hubs will aim to improve attendance and participation and in the summer the hubs will help address lost learning time and prepare young people and their families for the start of the 2021/22 school year
    • $120,000 total ($30,000 each) to Alternatives, Chicago Youth Centers, Chinese American Service League and Global Girls to continue their remote learning hubs through the end of the school year

May 2021

  • $225,000 to Leading Educators for Accelerating Learning in Math and Igniting Potential Post COVID-19, an effort to help principal and instructional leadership teams at eight Chicago public elementary schools accelerate instruction in math beginning in the summer of 2021. Leading Educators will support teachers to improve their content knowledge and their ability to differentiate learning, and each school’s leadership team will create an action and data plan to guide their work with students.

August 2021

  • $146,000 to the Urban Education Institute at the University of Chicago for UChicago Impact to lead the STEP Learning Recovery Project. This effort will build the capacity of teaching assistants at six elementary schools in the Greater Bronzeville area to provide one-on-one tutoring to students who are reading significantly below grade level. Each school will also be given a curated library of student books to use during tutoring that are culturally relevant and appropriately matched to students’ reading levels.

Focus Area: Access to Mental Health and Trauma Services

February 2021

  • $600,000 total to Public Health Institute of Metropolitan Chicago, Healthy Schools Campaign, and four school-based mental health providers (named below) for a coordinated school mental health data transformation project to help increase access to and connectivity between both health and education data so CPS, individual school leaders, and health providers can understand what interventions are most successful in improving both school and wellness outcomes and connect students to critical behavioral health services appropriately and equitably. Specifically:
    • $350,000 to Public Health Institute of Metropolitan Chicago for program design, project management, evaluation, process mapping, and sub-contracting with a technical advisor
    • $50,000 to Healthy Schools Campaign for project support and policy alignment
    • $200,000 total ($50,000 each) to Alternatives, Heartland Health Centers, UCAN, and Youth Guidance, the four school-based mental health providers which will participate as pilot sites in the demonstration project while also increasing service provision

May 2021

  • $200,000 to Sinai Health System for Ogden Commons Community Hub to continue the Ogden Commons Community Council which engages the broader west-side community to solicit their ideas and better understand how to enhance patient experience. Sinai Health System will also open a Multi-tiered Resource Hub to provide local residents with access to community health workers, intensive case management focused on improving the social determinants of health, and connections to key Sinai Health System programs, including early childhood intervention, prenatal care, adult protective and senior services, food and nutrition resources, and housing services.

August 2021

  • $300,000 to Health First Collaborative (HFC) pooled fund (housed at Michael Reese Health Trust) to increase the reach and service delivery of community health centers and to support the Chicagoland Vaccine Partnership (CVP), a collaboration of stakeholders dedicated to coordinating resources and learnings to ensure all Chicagoans can access COVID-19 vaccines while also strengthening a public health workforce to pursue health equity beyond this current pandemic.

November 2021

  • $70,000 to UCAN to pilot weekly hour-long grief and loss groups for students over the next 12 months in response to the increased trauma students are facing as a direct or indirect result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Focus Area: A Nonprofit Sector Ready to Advance Racial Justice

November 2020

  • $250,000 for the Racial Justice Pooled Fund (a multi-funder collaborative housed at the Crossroads Fund) to support Chicago organizations building and sustaining movements for justice that center Black lives and address anti-Blackness.
  • $100,000 to The New School to support a Chicago Color of Wealth Study, commissioned by the Chicago Community Trust, that will measure the region’s wealth gap, reveal the key drivers of assets and debt in Chicago, highlight the unique wealth profiles of specific populations, and complement other work released about the region’s disparities.

February 2021

  • $250,000 to IFF for America’s Cultural Treasures Chicago to assess the breadth and depth of challenges facing BIPOC arts organizations in the region; provide multi-year general operating support grants to local cultural treasures, as defined by a panel of arts and culture and community leaders in Chicago; and design and implement capacity-building and technical assistance services to support the long-term financial stability and resiliency of BIPOC arts organizations.
  • $100,000 to AMPT (via fiscal sponsor Chicago Cares) to help strengthen the organizational health of nonprofits on Chicago’s west and south sides, particularly small- to mid-sized organizations led by and serving Black and Latinx communities.
  • $50,000 to the Pathways Initiative (housed at the Chicago Community Foundation) to strengthen the diversity of the evaluation field by increasing the recruitment, training and retention of equity-focused, culturally-responsive evaluators of color in the Chicago region.

August 2021

  • $150,000 to Ingenuity for the Chicago Public Schools arts partner re-engagement strategy to facilitate a community-led process to understand how the artlook map and other tools are currently serving nonprofits partnering with CPS schools and how artlook and Ingenuity can support their work better, particularly following the pandemic’s disruption of arts education in CPS.
  • $50,000 for the Chicago Youth Mutual Aid (CYMA) collaboration (via fiscal sponsor About Face Theatre) for efforts to strengthen its infrastructure and capacity to serve more people in need. CYMA — a Black- and Brown-led collaboration of Assata’s Daughters, Chicago Freedom School, Circles & Cyphers, Street Youth Rise Up, and Youth Empowerment Performance Project — was launched to respond to COVID-19-related emergency needs of the people and families the organizations serve.
  • $50,000 to Forefront for the development of a Racial Equity Collective, a three-year racial justice and equity leadership initiative in Chicago and Cook County that will serve as a centralized network and convener to improve the nonprofit sector’s access to racial equity thought leadership, resources and capacity-building efforts, data and expertise, programming, and networking.

November 2021

  • $250,000 for the second year of the Racial Justice Pooled Fund (a multi-funder collaborative housed at the Crossroads Fund) to support Chicago organizations building and sustaining movements for justice that center Black lives and address anti-Blackness. In its first year, the Fund allocated $1,945,000 in grants, ranging from $25,000 to $50,000, to 54 organizations that are working to change inequitable systems and policies through advocacy and organizing.

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