Chicago, Illinois

The third largest city in the United States, Chicago had a population of nearly 2.7 million residents at the time of the 2010 census, and covers 237 square miles of land.  The city's population is 32.9% African American, 28% Hispanic, 5% Asian, and the remainder mostly non-Hispanic white.   It is also one of the most segregated cities in the country, with a black-white dissimilarity score of 75.9 percent according to a study of 2010 Census data, with African-Americans living primarily in the south and west side neighborhoods of the city. 

Known as “the city of big shoulders” for its past reliance on heavy industry including steel and meatpacking, Chicago experienced significant industrial loss in the second half of the twentieth century.  The result – as with other post-industrial cities – was population loss and urban decay. Starting the 1990s, however, those trends began to reverse as the city gained population due to a wave of new, young, and largely Latino immigrants.  Meanwhile, median household income grew at twice the national average. Much of this had to do with the continued importance of the city as a transportation and trade hub, but also as a growing finance and tech center. Community wealth building institutions have played an important role in the city's turn-around as well. 

Chicago has a strong history of community organizing and development rooted in labor and anti-poverty activism going back to the days of the settlement house movement started by Jane Addams in 1898 and galvanized by Saul Alinksy in the 1930s with his Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council. Ultimately Alinksy’s Industrial Areas Foundation and organizations like the Woodlawn Organization (TWO) gave Chicago a reputation as a center for organizing.  At the same time, community development corporations in Chicago have earned national recognition.  Mayor Harold Washington – the first African-American Mayor of the city who served from 1983 until his death in 1987 – worked to integrate neighborhood-oriented economic policies at all levels of city government. 

These community-building legacies live on in city neighborhoods, programs and policies, with anchor institutions increasingly stepping up to the plate today. Both DePaul and the University of Illinois, Chicago, have actively promoted community partnerships. A new effort known as Chicago Anchors for a Strong Economy (CASE) connects institutions to local suppliers to fill their procurement needs.  And New Era Windows attracted national attention in 2012 when its workers bought out their employers and took over production of energy-efficient windows in a new factory location. 

An overview of these and other community wealth building efforts follows:

Anchor Institutions

Chicago Anchors for a Strong Economy (CASE)

Chicago Anchors for a Strong Economy (CASE) is a group of Chicago-based anchor institutions that are committed to using their purchasing power to help boost the local economy.  Participating anchors identify their procurement needs, and CASE helps identify and connect local firms to these opportunities.  To boost the competitiveness of of local firms, CASE has contracted with Next Street, a merchant bank with expertise in capacity building, to provide business consulting and technical assistance services. Read more about Chicago Anchors for a Strong Economy (CASE)...

Steans Family Foundation

The Steans Family Foundation aims to collaborate with residents and institutions to help revitalize the North Lawndale community.  In 2010, it made more than $2 million in grants, which focused on early childhood development, school-based education, parent/caregiver advocacy and leadership, and capacity-building for both Lawndale residents and organizations. Read more about Steans Family Foundation...

Community Development Corporations (CDCs)

Bethel New Life

A faith-based community development organization serving residents of the West Garfield neighborhood of Chicago since 1979, Bethel New Life has invested over $650 million in a range of programs and initiatives aimed to reduce poverty.  Since its establishment, it has created over 1,000 units of affordable housing, facilitated the development of a mixed-use, transit-oriented development project around the “West Garfield” elevated transit stop, and has been a leader in developing a comprehensive asset-based approach to community development. Read more about Bethel New Life...

Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation

Founded in 1967 to serve low and moderate-income residents in Chicago’s West Town, Humboldt Park, Logan Square, Hermosa, and Avondale communities, Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation has produced more than 1100 units of affordable homes and rental units. Membership and voting privileges are extended to individuals who live or work in the target area as well as organizations operating within the target area. In 1992, Bickerdike developed the food market El Mercado. Locally owned Cermak Produce serves as the anchor business and employs 30 persons—75% of employees are local residents. Read more about Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation...

Eighteenth Street Development Corporation

The Eighteenth Street Development Corporation focuses on providing capacity building services, technical assistance, guidance, and advocacy to local businesses and entrepreneurs.  Since its establishment in 1976, it has assisted over 1,000 businesses and entrepreneurs, which has resulted in the creation of more than 500 new jobs and the retention of an additional 1,000 jobs. Read more about Eighteenth Street Development Corporation...

Greater Southwest Community Development Corp.

Established in 1974, Greater Southwest Development Corporation (GSDC) has been a CDC leader in commercial and industrial development. Successes include developing a supermarket, attracting the interest of developers seeking to build a ten-screen movie theater, and bringing a newly constructed plastics manufacturing plant owned and operated by an African-American female entrepreneur to a previously underutilized site at 77th Street and Columbus Avenue. Read more about Greater Southwest Community Development Corp....

Lawndale Christian Development Corporation

Established in 1987 by Lawndale Community Church to help revitalize the Lawndale neighborhood, the Lawndale Christian Development Corporation’s (LCDC’s) work focuses on community organizing, youth education, and real estate development.  In 2013, LCDC opened a social enterprise, Roots Café, to create job opportunities for community residents, entrepreneurship training for low-income business owners, and healthy food choices for neighborhood residents.  The Café also has a spin-off operation, Westside Men Can Cook, which provides healthy catering to area hospitals and food preparation class Read more about Lawndale Christian Development Corporation...

Local Initiatives Support Corporation Chicago (LISC Chicago)

Local Initiatives Support Corporation Chicago (LISC Chicago) connects neighborhoods to the resources they need to become stronger and healthier.  Its flagship program is the New Communities Program (NCP) Network, a partnership with 17 community-based "lead agencies" that coordinate the work of more than 70 partners across 28 community areas. The NCP methodology centers on the development of “Quality-of-Life Plans” under the supervision of a local lead agency selected by LISC in each participating neighborhood. Read more about Local Initiatives Support Corporation Chicago (LISC Chicago)...

Near West Side Community Development Corporation

The Near West Side Community Development Corporation (Near West) was founded in 1988 to create a viable, mixed-income community in West Haven without displacing low and moderate-income residents.  It not only maintains and helps develop the area’s commercial corridor but also offers a range programs focused on job preparation, life skills training, and financial literacy; social services to public housing residents; permanent housing to residents facing homelessness; and diverse youth programming.  Moreover, as a lead agency for LISC Chicago’s New Communities Program, Near West works direc Read more about Near West Side Community Development Corporation...

North Lawndale Employment Network

Founded in 1999, the North Lawndale Employment Network provides employment services and transitional jobs to North Lawndale residents, many of whom face significant employment barriers.  In 2004, NLEN launched Sweet Beginnings, a social enterprise that produces and sells all-natural skin care products featuring its own urban honey and that provides full-time transitional jobs to formerly incarcerated individuals and others NLEN clients. Read more about North Lawndale Employment Network...

Quad Communities Development Corporation

Focused on the South Side communities of North Kenwood, Oakland, and portions of Douglas and Grand Boulevard, Quad Communities Development Corporation (QCDC) convenes residents, organizations, businesses and institutions to plan, guide, support, and monitor human infrastructure and community development activities.  As a lead agency for LISC Chicago’s New Communities Program, QCDC led an 18-month planning process, bringing together over 400 community residents and stakeholders to develop a 10-year Quality of Life Plan, and now implements and supports other groups in implementing community Read more about Quad Communities Development Corporation...

The Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation (GAGDC)

Aiming to revitalize the low-to-moderate income communities of Auburn Gresham, Englewood, Greater Grand Crossing and West Chatham, GAGDC focuses on designing and implementing programs that improve community economic viability; increasing the availability of quality housing; maintaining and improving existing affordable housing; and enhancing the delivery of social services, particularly to senior citizens.  As the lead service provider to Special Service Areas 32—a designation created in 2001 to boost investment within the 79th Street Business District and funded through a special property Read more about The Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation (GAGDC)...

The Resurrection Project

Aiming to build relationships and challenge people to act on their faith and values to create healthy communities through organizing, education and community development, The Resurrection Project (TRP) works to revitalize the predominantly low-income Latino communities on Chicago’s Southwest side.  Its core programs include financial education and counseling, property and asset management, real estate development, community engagement and education, and economic development.  In 2013, it worked with several partners to convert a failed bank into Second Federal Credit Union, helping preserv Read more about The Resurrection Project...

Woodlawn Community Development Corporation (WCDC)

Founded by the social service-focused nonprofit, The Woodlawn Organization (TWO), to coordinate TWO’s real estate development and management activities, the Woodlawn Community Development Corporation (WCDC) has developed more than 1,659 units of single family and senior housing in 14 different projects since its establishment in 1972.  Moreover, WCDC and TWO are together credited with housing more than 10,000 citizens and serving more than 20,000 people on an annual basis. Read more about Woodlawn Community Development Corporation (WCDC)...

Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs)

Accion Chicago

Launched in 1994, Accion Chicago is an alternative lending organization dedicated to providing credit and other business services to small business owners who do not have access to traditional sources of financing.   Unlike conventional financing groups that make loans based on revenue, collateral, and/or credit, Accion Chicago’s lending is largely character-based and relies on a client’s commitment to his/her business and references from customers and suppliers. Since inception, Accion Chicago has disbursed $28 million in loans to more than 3,600 businesses. Read more about Accion Chicago...

Alliant Credit Union

Established in 1935 by a small group of United Airlines employees, Alliant now serves employees and members of about 250 diverse organizations and residents of 20 Chicago neighborhoods.  With over 270,000 members worldwide and over $8 billion in assets, Alliant ranks as the 6th largest credit union in the nation.  Over a decade ago, Alliant launched a Civic Affairs Program to formalize and emphasize its commitment to the community.  Through one initiative catalyzed by the program, Alliant employees have been teaching financial literacy classes to students in Chicago area public schools sin Read more about Alliant Credit Union...

Chicago Community Loan Fund

Chicago Community Loan Fund (CCLF) provides low-cost, flexible financing to nonprofit community development organizations for affordable housing, commercial development, and nonprofit facility initiatives. Since 1991, CCLF has grown from an initial investment of $200,000 to over $40 million in total capital under management.  To date, it is credited with closing more than $95 million in community development financing, which has or will leverage an additional $1 billion in public and private sector financing for Chicago-based development projects. Read more about Chicago Community Loan Fund...

Community Investment Corporation

The Community Investment Corporation (CIC) provides loans for the acquisition, rehabilitation, and preservation of affordable rental housing in the Chicago Metropolitan area.  To do so, it manages a $417 million loan pool, which includes funds from 40 investor banks that have made multiyear commitments to CIC.  Since 1984, CIC has made 1,976 loans totaling $1.13 billion for the rehabilitation of more than 51,000 units that provide affordable housing for more than 125,000 people. Read more about Community Investment Corporation...

IFF

IFF, formerly known as the Illinois Facilities Fund, provides loans and real estate consulting to nonprofits based in the Midwest, with a particular focus on those that serve low-income communities and special needs populations. It is the largest nonprofit CDFI in the Midwest and one of only a few nationally to earn the CARS AAA+1 rating Established in 1988, IFF now has assets of more than $305 million. Read more about IFF...

Northside Federal Credit Union

Founded in 1974 by a small group of women who believed all people should have equal access to capital, the Northside Federal Credit Union aims to provide affordable banking services and expand the availability of alternative financial resources.  North Side has a “social change” philosophy based on the notion that alternative resources can lead to a more economically just community and greater financial stability for its membership.  The credit union currently holds $4 million in deposit accounts and has disbursed $45 million in loans since its inception. Read more about Northside Federal Credit Union...

Community Land Trusts (CLTs)

Chicago Community Land Trust

The Chicago Community Land Trust (CCLT) was founded in 2006 to address the increasingly limited supply of funding for affordable housing. The goal is to preserve the long-term affordability of homes created through city programs for low- and moderate-income families. Through the CCLT, subsidies used to make homes affordable are preserved and leveraged over time to create a permanent pool of affordable homeownership opportunities. The program is primarily targeted to families earning less than 100 percent of the area median income. Read more about Chicago Community Land Trust...

First Community Land Trust of Chicago

Founded in 2003, the First Community Land Trust focuses on providing permanently affordable single-family homes for first-time homebuyers in Chicago’s West Humboldt Park neighborhood.  Aiming to empower community residents, FCLTC also provides training and one-on-one mentoring in household financial planning and has programs to foster active community engagement. Read more about First Community Land Trust of Chicago...

Cooperatives (Co-ops)

Qumbya Cooperative

Founded in 1989 by students at the University of Chicago, the Qumbya Cooperative now provides housing for roughly 50 student and non-student members in three houses in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood. Read more about Qumbya Cooperative...

Seminary Bookstore Cooperative

Founded in 1961 by 17 book lovers who invested $10 each, this consumer-owned bookstore cooperative now has over 50,000 members, two locations, and holdings of over 100,000 titles ranging widely across the humanities and social sciences. The flagship store on University Avenue is widely considered to be among the country's best academic bookstores. Read more about Seminary Bookstore Cooperative...

Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs)

Herbst, Lazar, Bell, Inc.

Herbst LaZar Bell Inc. is an employee-owned, product design consulting firm with nearly 100 employees. Founded in 1963 in Chicago, the firm opened a second office just outside Boston in 1991; and a third in LA in 2001. In 1996, HLB became the first 100% employee-owned product design firm in the country. Read more about Herbst, Lazar, Bell, Inc....

Kennicott Brothers

Kennicott is one of the oldest continuing operating businesses in Illinois. Dr. John A. Kennicott founded The Grove Nursery in 1836 and Kennicott Brothers Company, which incorporated in 1881, became the first wholesale florist company in the Midwest. In addition to its store in downtown Chicago, it now operates four other showrooms in Illinois as well as showrooms in Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Georgia. In May 2000, Kennicott became a 100% employee-owned company, as the Kennicott family used an ESOP to transfer ownership to the firm's employees. Read more about Kennicott Brothers...

Green Economy

Elevate Energy

Elevate Energy (formerly CNT Energy) is a "think-and-do" tank that combines research with effective solutions. Elevate Energy focuses on helping customers and communities access the information and services they need to control energy costs and to become more energy efficient. Through relationships with municipalities in the Chicagoland region, utilities throughout Illinois, and other non-profit environmental organizations, Elevate Energy is able to achieve actual results in providing innovative solutions to energy challenges. Read more about Elevate Energy...

Growing Home

Growing Home operates a Chicago-based organic agriculture business which grows produce organically and sells it at local farmers markets. Clients include high-end Chicago restaurants and individual Chicagoans through a community supported agriculture (CSA) program. This social enterprise employs and trains homeless and low-income Chicagoans; since 2002, the nonprofit business has assisted over 100 participants to transform their lives. Read more about Growing Home...

Local Food Systems

City Farm

City Farm aims to transform fallow, vacant city land into productive farmland.  Through its urban farming program, it establishes organic farms, creates compost from food waste and other by-products of the urban environment, and sells its products at farm stands, farmers markets, through CSAs and to restaurants. Its Farm’s Food-to-Farm service creates compost from food scraps it picks up from restaurants and City institutions.  City Farm also has a Food Rescue initiative, which supplies fresh food for 40,000 meals a month that would have been thrown away by restaurants and grocers. Read more about City Farm...

Green City Market

Established in 1998, Green City Market is a nonprofit marketplace for local, sustainable food that educates, promotes, and connects local farmers and producers directly to chefs, restaurateurs, and the public.  Committed to educating people about the importance of sustainability, the Market also provides free educational resources and runs a range of programs focused on local issues related to sustainability.  One key initiative is its “Edibles Gardens,” which is a public space featuring 5,000 square feet of organically grown vegetables, fruits, herbs, grains, and flowers designed to show Read more about Green City Market...

Municipal Enterprise

O’Hare Airport

Officially opening in 1955, Chicago’s O’Hare airport is now the third largest airport in the world in terms of passengers per year.  The airport is credited with supporting 450,000 jobs in the Chicago region and generating $38 billion of economic activity.  With a strong commitment to sustainability, O’Hare houses the first airport-based rooftop aeroponic garden that provides airport vendors easy access to fresh produce, affords preferential treatment to compressed natural gas taxicabs, and runs a range of programs to encourage sustainable practices including wetlands restoration and soil Read more about O’Hare Airport...

Reclaiming the Commons

Garfield Park Conservatory

The Garfield Park Conservatory aims to grow community through the combination of people, plants, and place.  To do so, it offers a variety of free programs, including hand-on training in gardening, composting, and beekeeping.  It serves about 160,000 people a year, including more than 21,000 school children. Read more about Garfield Park Conservatory...

Social Enterprise

Anixter

The Anixter Center Businesses began as a means to provide work skills training to people with disabilities. Today, Anixter runs several businesses including a packaging service and a janitorial company. In recent years they have generated over $3 million in annual revenue, equivalent to roughly 10% of the nonprofit's total annual income. Read more about Anixter...

Chicago Lighthouse

The Chicago Lighthouse was founded in 1906 by a group of women volunteers who were both blind and sighted and offered housing, clothing, and food assistance to people who were blind. Chicago Lighthouse Industries, founded in 1977, employs about 30 people who are blind or visually impaired and generates about $16 million a year in revenue. The business sells clocks to the federal, state, and local governments as well as to commercial customers. Read more about Chicago Lighthouse...

Humboldt Construction Company

Created by Bikerdike Redevelopment Corporation to ensure its development work could create skilled job opportunities for community residents, Humboldt Construction Company is a social enterprise that serves as a full-service, general contractor and carpentry subcontractor specializing in residential and commercial construction, value engineering, and project planning and management. Read more about Humboldt Construction Company...

Sweet Beginnings

As a wholly owned subsidiary of the North Lawndale Employment Network, Sweet Beginnings offers full-time transitional jobs to formerly incarcerated individuals and others with significant barriers to employment in a green industry. Sweet Beginnings produces and sells all-natural skin care products featuring its own urban honey. The workers at Sweet Beginnings deal with every step of the process from caring for the bees and hives, and harvesting the honey to packing the products and selling them at retail outlets and special events. Read more about Sweet Beginnings...

Thresholds

Since 1959, Thresholds' mission has been to provide people with mental illnesses the tools they need to create meaningful lives. Threshold began its social enterprise ventures in 1978 to give people with psychiatric disabilities gainful employment and to raise revenue to support its core mission. Businesses include a laser cartridge manufacturer, a packaging and assembly business, a janitorial company, a photocopy firm, and a full-service florist. Today these enterprises generate over $7 million a year in revenue or roughly 15% of the nonprofit's annual income. Read more about Thresholds...

State Asset Building Initiatives

Illinois Asset Building Group

The Illinois Asset Building Group, first convened by the Woods Fund of Chicago in 2003, has proposed an extensive community wealth building policy agenda that includes expanding access to financial education and financial services, removing asset barriers in public benefit programs, supporting children's savings accounts, promoting affordable housing and homeownership, and combating predatory lending.  Aiming to boost asset ownership and protection, the Chicago-based group currently focuses on policy development, coalition building, stakeholder engagement, educating policymakers, and advoca Read more about Illinois Asset Building Group...

Transit-Oriented Development

Alternate Transportation for Chicagoland (ATC)

Alternate Transportation for Chicagoland (ATC) is a local nonprofit affiliated with the Center for Neighborhood Technology that aims to create an integrated, multimodal transportation system and ensure Chicago residents can “live well” without owning a car.  Its current initiatives include the Solar Canopy and EV Charging Station Project, through which it operates four solar-power charging stations for electric vehicles (EVs), and Peer-to-Peer Carsharing (P2P), which is testing three different P2P models. Read more about Alternate Transportation for Chicagoland (ATC)...

Center for Neighborhood Technology

Founded in 1978, the Chicago-based Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) aims to promote more livable and sustainable urban communities.  CNT works across disciplines and issues, including transportation, community development, energy, water, and climate change, and encompasses three core activities:  1) research, 2) coalition building to advocate for public policies, and 3) economic development demonstration projects to address urban sustainability in innovative ways. Read more about Center for Neighborhood Technology...

University & Community Partnerships

Depaul University, Irwin W. Steans Center for Community-Based Service Learning and Community Service Studies

Established through a $5 million challenge grant from philanthropist, banker, and DePaul trustee Harrison I. Steans, the Center helps students develop a lifelong commitment to service, civic engagement, and leadership. Since the Center was established, more than 7,000 DePaul students have participated in direct service delivery, project development, technical assistance, and community research as part of their academic coursework, benefiting nearly 100 community organizations. Read more about Depaul University, Irwin W. Steans Center for Community-Based Service Learning and Community Service Studies...

Great Cities Institute

The UIC Great Cities Institute is a research center committed to creating, disseminating and applying interdisciplinary knowledge to urban affairs. It implements dozens of teaching, research and service programs designed to improve the quality of life in metropolitan Chicago and other urban areas. Among its programs is its Neighborhoods Initiative, which works with local community groups on health, technology, leadership development, and other issues of mutual concern. Read more about Great Cities Institute...

Worker Cooperatives

Café Chicago

Catalyzed by the nonprofit Latino Union and the Chicago Coffee Federation to provide quality job opportunities for low-income day laborers, Café Chicago is a worker cooperative that roasts, packages, and distributes fair trade, organic coffee in the Chicago area.  Profits are also funneled back to the Latino Union to help fund its social justice organizing. Read more about Café Chicago...

Center for Workplace Democracy

The Center for Workplace Democracy aims to develop strong local economies and grow small businesses by promoting workplace democracy, worker-owned enterprises, cooperatives, and other models of employee ownership.  To do so, it provides public education, advocacy, training, technical assistance, and networking opportunities. Read more about Center for Workplace Democracy...

New Era Windows Cooperative

Formed by the workers who occupied their Chicago factory in 2008 and again in 2012, the New Era Windows Cooperative was formed with the support of the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers Union (UE) and the Working World, an organization that formerly helped finance worker-run businesses in Argentina.  Buying out the equipment from their former employer, 24 worker-owners started production of energy efficient windows in the new factory in 2013. Read more about New Era Windows Cooperative...

Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs)

Accion Chicago

Launched in 1994, Accion Chicago is an alternative lending organization dedicated to providing credit and other business services to small business owners who do not have access to traditional sources of financing.   Unlike conventional financing groups that make loans based on revenue, collateral, and/or credit, Accion Chicago’s lending is largely character-based and relies on a client’s commitment to his/her business and references from customers and suppliers. Since inception, Accion Chicago has disbursed $28 million in loans to more than 3,600 businesses. Read more about Accion Chicago...

Alliant Credit Union

Established in 1935 by a small group of United Airlines employees, Alliant now serves employees and members of about 250 diverse organizations and residents of 20 Chicago neighborhoods.  With over 270,000 members worldwide and over $8 billion in assets, Alliant ranks as the 6th largest credit union in the nation.  Over a decade ago, Alliant launched a Civic Affairs Program to formalize and emphasize its commitment to the community.  Through one initiative catalyzed by the program, Alliant employees have been teaching financial literacy classes to students in Chicago area public schools sin Read more about Alliant Credit Union...

Chicago Community Loan Fund

Chicago Community Loan Fund (CCLF) provides low-cost, flexible financing to nonprofit community development organizations for affordable housing, commercial development, and nonprofit facility initiatives. Since 1991, CCLF has grown from an initial investment of $200,000 to over $40 million in total capital under management.  To date, it is credited with closing more than $95 million in community development financing, which has or will leverage an additional $1 billion in public and private sector financing for Chicago-based development projects. Read more about Chicago Community Loan Fund...

Community Investment Corporation

The Community Investment Corporation (CIC) provides loans for the acquisition, rehabilitation, and preservation of affordable rental housing in the Chicago Metropolitan area.  To do so, it manages a $417 million loan pool, which includes funds from 40 investor banks that have made multiyear commitments to CIC.  Since 1984, CIC has made 1,976 loans totaling $1.13 billion for the rehabilitation of more than 51,000 units that provide affordable housing for more than 125,000 people. Read more about Community Investment Corporation...

IFF

IFF, formerly known as the Illinois Facilities Fund, provides loans and real estate consulting to nonprofits based in the Midwest, with a particular focus on those that serve low-income communities and special needs populations. It is the largest nonprofit CDFI in the Midwest and one of only a few nationally to earn the CARS AAA+1 rating Established in 1988, IFF now has assets of more than $305 million. Read more about IFF...

Northside Federal Credit Union

Founded in 1974 by a small group of women who believed all people should have equal access to capital, the Northside Federal Credit Union aims to provide affordable banking services and expand the availability of alternative financial resources.  North Side has a “social change” philosophy based on the notion that alternative resources can lead to a more economically just community and greater financial stability for its membership.  The credit union currently holds $4 million in deposit accounts and has disbursed $45 million in loans since its inception. Read more about Northside Federal Credit Union...

Transit-Oriented Development

Alternate Transportation for Chicagoland (ATC)

Alternate Transportation for Chicagoland (ATC) is a local nonprofit affiliated with the Center for Neighborhood Technology that aims to create an integrated, multimodal transportation system and ensure Chicago residents can “live well” without owning a car.  Its current initiatives include the Solar Canopy and EV Charging Station Project, through which it operates four solar-power charging stations for electric vehicles (EVs), and Peer-to-Peer Carsharing (P2P), which is testing three different P2P models. Read more about Alternate Transportation for Chicagoland (ATC)...

Center for Neighborhood Technology

Founded in 1978, the Chicago-based Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) aims to promote more livable and sustainable urban communities.  CNT works across disciplines and issues, including transportation, community development, energy, water, and climate change, and encompasses three core activities:  1) research, 2) coalition building to advocate for public policies, and 3) economic development demonstration projects to address urban sustainability in innovative ways. Read more about Center for Neighborhood Technology...

Social Enterprise

Anixter

The Anixter Center Businesses began as a means to provide work skills training to people with disabilities. Today, Anixter runs several businesses including a packaging service and a janitorial company. In recent years they have generated over $3 million in annual revenue, equivalent to roughly 10% of the nonprofit's total annual income. Read more about Anixter...

Chicago Lighthouse

The Chicago Lighthouse was founded in 1906 by a group of women volunteers who were both blind and sighted and offered housing, clothing, and food assistance to people who were blind. Chicago Lighthouse Industries, founded in 1977, employs about 30 people who are blind or visually impaired and generates about $16 million a year in revenue. The business sells clocks to the federal, state, and local governments as well as to commercial customers. Read more about Chicago Lighthouse...

Humboldt Construction Company

Created by Bikerdike Redevelopment Corporation to ensure its development work could create skilled job opportunities for community residents, Humboldt Construction Company is a social enterprise that serves as a full-service, general contractor and carpentry subcontractor specializing in residential and commercial construction, value engineering, and project planning and management. Read more about Humboldt Construction Company...

Sweet Beginnings

As a wholly owned subsidiary of the North Lawndale Employment Network, Sweet Beginnings offers full-time transitional jobs to formerly incarcerated individuals and others with significant barriers to employment in a green industry. Sweet Beginnings produces and sells all-natural skin care products featuring its own urban honey. The workers at Sweet Beginnings deal with every step of the process from caring for the bees and hives, and harvesting the honey to packing the products and selling them at retail outlets and special events. Read more about Sweet Beginnings...

Thresholds

Since 1959, Thresholds' mission has been to provide people with mental illnesses the tools they need to create meaningful lives. Threshold began its social enterprise ventures in 1978 to give people with psychiatric disabilities gainful employment and to raise revenue to support its core mission. Businesses include a laser cartridge manufacturer, a packaging and assembly business, a janitorial company, a photocopy firm, and a full-service florist. Today these enterprises generate over $7 million a year in revenue or roughly 15% of the nonprofit's annual income. Read more about Thresholds...

Community Development Corporations (CDCs)

Bethel New Life

A faith-based community development organization serving residents of the West Garfield neighborhood of Chicago since 1979, Bethel New Life has invested over $650 million in a range of programs and initiatives aimed to reduce poverty.  Since its establishment, it has created over 1,000 units of affordable housing, facilitated the development of a mixed-use, transit-oriented development project around the “West Garfield” elevated transit stop, and has been a leader in developing a comprehensive asset-based approach to community development. Read more about Bethel New Life...

Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation

Founded in 1967 to serve low and moderate-income residents in Chicago’s West Town, Humboldt Park, Logan Square, Hermosa, and Avondale communities, Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation has produced more than 1100 units of affordable homes and rental units. Membership and voting privileges are extended to individuals who live or work in the target area as well as organizations operating within the target area. In 1992, Bickerdike developed the food market El Mercado. Locally owned Cermak Produce serves as the anchor business and employs 30 persons—75% of employees are local residents. Read more about Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation...

Eighteenth Street Development Corporation

The Eighteenth Street Development Corporation focuses on providing capacity building services, technical assistance, guidance, and advocacy to local businesses and entrepreneurs.  Since its establishment in 1976, it has assisted over 1,000 businesses and entrepreneurs, which has resulted in the creation of more than 500 new jobs and the retention of an additional 1,000 jobs. Read more about Eighteenth Street Development Corporation...

Greater Southwest Community Development Corp.

Established in 1974, Greater Southwest Development Corporation (GSDC) has been a CDC leader in commercial and industrial development. Successes include developing a supermarket, attracting the interest of developers seeking to build a ten-screen movie theater, and bringing a newly constructed plastics manufacturing plant owned and operated by an African-American female entrepreneur to a previously underutilized site at 77th Street and Columbus Avenue. Read more about Greater Southwest Community Development Corp....

Lawndale Christian Development Corporation

Established in 1987 by Lawndale Community Church to help revitalize the Lawndale neighborhood, the Lawndale Christian Development Corporation’s (LCDC’s) work focuses on community organizing, youth education, and real estate development.  In 2013, LCDC opened a social enterprise, Roots Café, to create job opportunities for community residents, entrepreneurship training for low-income business owners, and healthy food choices for neighborhood residents.  The Café also has a spin-off operation, Westside Men Can Cook, which provides healthy catering to area hospitals and food preparation class Read more about Lawndale Christian Development Corporation...

Local Initiatives Support Corporation Chicago (LISC Chicago)

Local Initiatives Support Corporation Chicago (LISC Chicago) connects neighborhoods to the resources they need to become stronger and healthier.  Its flagship program is the New Communities Program (NCP) Network, a partnership with 17 community-based "lead agencies" that coordinate the work of more than 70 partners across 28 community areas. The NCP methodology centers on the development of “Quality-of-Life Plans” under the supervision of a local lead agency selected by LISC in each participating neighborhood. Read more about Local Initiatives Support Corporation Chicago (LISC Chicago)...

Near West Side Community Development Corporation

The Near West Side Community Development Corporation (Near West) was founded in 1988 to create a viable, mixed-income community in West Haven without displacing low and moderate-income residents.  It not only maintains and helps develop the area’s commercial corridor but also offers a range programs focused on job preparation, life skills training, and financial literacy; social services to public housing residents; permanent housing to residents facing homelessness; and diverse youth programming.  Moreover, as a lead agency for LISC Chicago’s New Communities Program, Near West works direc Read more about Near West Side Community Development Corporation...

North Lawndale Employment Network

Founded in 1999, the North Lawndale Employment Network provides employment services and transitional jobs to North Lawndale residents, many of whom face significant employment barriers.  In 2004, NLEN launched Sweet Beginnings, a social enterprise that produces and sells all-natural skin care products featuring its own urban honey and that provides full-time transitional jobs to formerly incarcerated individuals and others NLEN clients. Read more about North Lawndale Employment Network...

Quad Communities Development Corporation

Focused on the South Side communities of North Kenwood, Oakland, and portions of Douglas and Grand Boulevard, Quad Communities Development Corporation (QCDC) convenes residents, organizations, businesses and institutions to plan, guide, support, and monitor human infrastructure and community development activities.  As a lead agency for LISC Chicago’s New Communities Program, QCDC led an 18-month planning process, bringing together over 400 community residents and stakeholders to develop a 10-year Quality of Life Plan, and now implements and supports other groups in implementing community Read more about Quad Communities Development Corporation...

The Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation (GAGDC)

Aiming to revitalize the low-to-moderate income communities of Auburn Gresham, Englewood, Greater Grand Crossing and West Chatham, GAGDC focuses on designing and implementing programs that improve community economic viability; increasing the availability of quality housing; maintaining and improving existing affordable housing; and enhancing the delivery of social services, particularly to senior citizens.  As the lead service provider to Special Service Areas 32—a designation created in 2001 to boost investment within the 79th Street Business District and funded through a special property Read more about The Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation (GAGDC)...

The Resurrection Project

Aiming to build relationships and challenge people to act on their faith and values to create healthy communities through organizing, education and community development, The Resurrection Project (TRP) works to revitalize the predominantly low-income Latino communities on Chicago’s Southwest side.  Its core programs include financial education and counseling, property and asset management, real estate development, community engagement and education, and economic development.  In 2013, it worked with several partners to convert a failed bank into Second Federal Credit Union, helping preserv Read more about The Resurrection Project...

Woodlawn Community Development Corporation (WCDC)

Founded by the social service-focused nonprofit, The Woodlawn Organization (TWO), to coordinate TWO’s real estate development and management activities, the Woodlawn Community Development Corporation (WCDC) has developed more than 1,659 units of single family and senior housing in 14 different projects since its establishment in 1972.  Moreover, WCDC and TWO are together credited with housing more than 10,000 citizens and serving more than 20,000 people on an annual basis. Read more about Woodlawn Community Development Corporation (WCDC)...

Worker Cooperatives

Café Chicago

Catalyzed by the nonprofit Latino Union and the Chicago Coffee Federation to provide quality job opportunities for low-income day laborers, Café Chicago is a worker cooperative that roasts, packages, and distributes fair trade, organic coffee in the Chicago area.  Profits are also funneled back to the Latino Union to help fund its social justice organizing. Read more about Café Chicago...

Center for Workplace Democracy

The Center for Workplace Democracy aims to develop strong local economies and grow small businesses by promoting workplace democracy, worker-owned enterprises, cooperatives, and other models of employee ownership.  To do so, it provides public education, advocacy, training, technical assistance, and networking opportunities. Read more about Center for Workplace Democracy...

New Era Windows Cooperative

Formed by the workers who occupied their Chicago factory in 2008 and again in 2012, the New Era Windows Cooperative was formed with the support of the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers Union (UE) and the Working World, an organization that formerly helped finance worker-run businesses in Argentina.  Buying out the equipment from their former employer, 24 worker-owners started production of energy efficient windows in the new factory in 2013. Read more about New Era Windows Cooperative...

Anchor Institutions

Chicago Anchors for a Strong Economy (CASE)

Chicago Anchors for a Strong Economy (CASE) is a group of Chicago-based anchor institutions that are committed to using their purchasing power to help boost the local economy.  Participating anchors identify their procurement needs, and CASE helps identify and connect local firms to these opportunities.  To boost the competitiveness of of local firms, CASE has contracted with Next Street, a merchant bank with expertise in capacity building, to provide business consulting and technical assistance services. Read more about Chicago Anchors for a Strong Economy (CASE)...

Steans Family Foundation

The Steans Family Foundation aims to collaborate with residents and institutions to help revitalize the North Lawndale community.  In 2010, it made more than $2 million in grants, which focused on early childhood development, school-based education, parent/caregiver advocacy and leadership, and capacity-building for both Lawndale residents and organizations. Read more about Steans Family Foundation...

Community Land Trusts (CLTs)

Chicago Community Land Trust

The Chicago Community Land Trust (CCLT) was founded in 2006 to address the increasingly limited supply of funding for affordable housing. The goal is to preserve the long-term affordability of homes created through city programs for low- and moderate-income families. Through the CCLT, subsidies used to make homes affordable are preserved and leveraged over time to create a permanent pool of affordable homeownership opportunities. The program is primarily targeted to families earning less than 100 percent of the area median income. Read more about Chicago Community Land Trust...

First Community Land Trust of Chicago

Founded in 2003, the First Community Land Trust focuses on providing permanently affordable single-family homes for first-time homebuyers in Chicago’s West Humboldt Park neighborhood.  Aiming to empower community residents, FCLTC also provides training and one-on-one mentoring in household financial planning and has programs to foster active community engagement. Read more about First Community Land Trust of Chicago...

Local Food Systems

City Farm

City Farm aims to transform fallow, vacant city land into productive farmland.  Through its urban farming program, it establishes organic farms, creates compost from food waste and other by-products of the urban environment, and sells its products at farm stands, farmers markets, through CSAs and to restaurants. Its Farm’s Food-to-Farm service creates compost from food scraps it picks up from restaurants and City institutions.  City Farm also has a Food Rescue initiative, which supplies fresh food for 40,000 meals a month that would have been thrown away by restaurants and grocers. Read more about City Farm...

Green City Market

Established in 1998, Green City Market is a nonprofit marketplace for local, sustainable food that educates, promotes, and connects local farmers and producers directly to chefs, restaurateurs, and the public.  Committed to educating people about the importance of sustainability, the Market also provides free educational resources and runs a range of programs focused on local issues related to sustainability.  One key initiative is its “Edibles Gardens,” which is a public space featuring 5,000 square feet of organically grown vegetables, fruits, herbs, grains, and flowers designed to show Read more about Green City Market...

University & Community Partnerships

Depaul University, Irwin W. Steans Center for Community-Based Service Learning and Community Service Studies

Established through a $5 million challenge grant from philanthropist, banker, and DePaul trustee Harrison I. Steans, the Center helps students develop a lifelong commitment to service, civic engagement, and leadership. Since the Center was established, more than 7,000 DePaul students have participated in direct service delivery, project development, technical assistance, and community research as part of their academic coursework, benefiting nearly 100 community organizations. Read more about Depaul University, Irwin W. Steans Center for Community-Based Service Learning and Community Service Studies...

Great Cities Institute

The UIC Great Cities Institute is a research center committed to creating, disseminating and applying interdisciplinary knowledge to urban affairs. It implements dozens of teaching, research and service programs designed to improve the quality of life in metropolitan Chicago and other urban areas. Among its programs is its Neighborhoods Initiative, which works with local community groups on health, technology, leadership development, and other issues of mutual concern. Read more about Great Cities Institute...

Green Economy

Elevate Energy

Elevate Energy (formerly CNT Energy) is a "think-and-do" tank that combines research with effective solutions. Elevate Energy focuses on helping customers and communities access the information and services they need to control energy costs and to become more energy efficient. Through relationships with municipalities in the Chicagoland region, utilities throughout Illinois, and other non-profit environmental organizations, Elevate Energy is able to achieve actual results in providing innovative solutions to energy challenges. Read more about Elevate Energy...

Growing Home

Growing Home operates a Chicago-based organic agriculture business which grows produce organically and sells it at local farmers markets. Clients include high-end Chicago restaurants and individual Chicagoans through a community supported agriculture (CSA) program. This social enterprise employs and trains homeless and low-income Chicagoans; since 2002, the nonprofit business has assisted over 100 participants to transform their lives. Read more about Growing Home...

Reclaiming the Commons

Garfield Park Conservatory

The Garfield Park Conservatory aims to grow community through the combination of people, plants, and place.  To do so, it offers a variety of free programs, including hand-on training in gardening, composting, and beekeeping.  It serves about 160,000 people a year, including more than 21,000 school children. Read more about Garfield Park Conservatory...

Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs)

Herbst, Lazar, Bell, Inc.

Herbst LaZar Bell Inc. is an employee-owned, product design consulting firm with nearly 100 employees. Founded in 1963 in Chicago, the firm opened a second office just outside Boston in 1991; and a third in LA in 2001. In 1996, HLB became the first 100% employee-owned product design firm in the country. Read more about Herbst, Lazar, Bell, Inc....

Kennicott Brothers

Kennicott is one of the oldest continuing operating businesses in Illinois. Dr. John A. Kennicott founded The Grove Nursery in 1836 and Kennicott Brothers Company, which incorporated in 1881, became the first wholesale florist company in the Midwest. In addition to its store in downtown Chicago, it now operates four other showrooms in Illinois as well as showrooms in Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Georgia. In May 2000, Kennicott became a 100% employee-owned company, as the Kennicott family used an ESOP to transfer ownership to the firm's employees. Read more about Kennicott Brothers...

State Asset Building Initiatives

Illinois Asset Building Group

The Illinois Asset Building Group, first convened by the Woods Fund of Chicago in 2003, has proposed an extensive community wealth building policy agenda that includes expanding access to financial education and financial services, removing asset barriers in public benefit programs, supporting children's savings accounts, promoting affordable housing and homeownership, and combating predatory lending.  Aiming to boost asset ownership and protection, the Chicago-based group currently focuses on policy development, coalition building, stakeholder engagement, educating policymakers, and advoca Read more about Illinois Asset Building Group...

Municipal Enterprise

O’Hare Airport

Officially opening in 1955, Chicago’s O’Hare airport is now the third largest airport in the world in terms of passengers per year.  The airport is credited with supporting 450,000 jobs in the Chicago region and generating $38 billion of economic activity.  With a strong commitment to sustainability, O’Hare houses the first airport-based rooftop aeroponic garden that provides airport vendors easy access to fresh produce, affords preferential treatment to compressed natural gas taxicabs, and runs a range of programs to encourage sustainable practices including wetlands restoration and soil Read more about O’Hare Airport...

Cooperatives (Co-ops)

Qumbya Cooperative

Founded in 1989 by students at the University of Chicago, the Qumbya Cooperative now provides housing for roughly 50 student and non-student members in three houses in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood. Read more about Qumbya Cooperative...

Seminary Bookstore Cooperative

Founded in 1961 by 17 book lovers who invested $10 each, this consumer-owned bookstore cooperative now has over 50,000 members, two locations, and holdings of over 100,000 titles ranging widely across the humanities and social sciences. The flagship store on University Avenue is widely considered to be among the country's best academic bookstores. Read more about Seminary Bookstore Cooperative...