MacArthur in Chicago: Reflecting on 2016

Julia M. Stasch, President

Combat veterans pair with youth exposed to violence on a joint mission for healing. A pilot CyberESL program makes it easier to learn English as a second language. Arts organizations and their funders come together to address racial imbalances in the culture sector. Urban agriculture programs provide job training and help to build healthier communities. Seventy neighborhood groups bring people together to hold sports events and block parties, offer free meals and school supplies, provide dance and other performances, conduct peace circles, and other opportunities for police to interact with community residents, building community cohesion and fostering the conditions to help keep families safe over Labor Day weekend and beyond.

In 2016, MacArthur supported these and many others of the hundreds of local nonprofit organizations engaged in creative and effective work to help address often seemingly intractable challenges and to make our hometown a better place to live and work for everyone. Our direct awards in 2016–86 grants and impact investments totaling almost $34 million* — reflect several core commitments across MacArthur’s programs:

Government Accountability

Economic Development

Youth Voices

Civic and Cultural Institutions

As we took stock of the most important issues faced by the city last year, our staff made a commitment to listen more. Through conversations with more than 100 individuals, including residents and community and civic leaders, we heard deep concern about violence, police brutality, and frustration with the persistent racial and other inequities across the city’s neighborhoods, in schools, and the local justice system, and a lack of opportunities for rewarding work. We heard candid comments about the Foundation and the philanthropic sector in general, including some that made us uncomfortable. I reported on these conversations in my annual letter.

Our work through intermediaries remains an essential tool to leverage additional resources and provide support for smaller organizations, entrepreneurs, and even individual homeowners than we are able to reach directly. Going forward, we will find additional ways to reach even more organizations and programs that work closer to the ground — while helping to ensure that leadership from Chicago’s diverse communities is strong and influential and their organizations effective and sustainable. These insights will help guide our plans for the future.

In my annual letter, I committed us to operating more openly and creatively, listening carefully, taking more risk, focusing on justice, helping support others’ ambitions and talents, and directly taking on the issue of the loss of trust in key systems, all while helping to make real progress on solving urgent problems, using all available means — around the world and here in Chicago.

Building on our historic local support — $1.1 billion for more than 1,300 individuals and organizations, more than to any other place in the world — and reflecting on what we have learned, we will complete and begin to implement a new grantmaking and engagement strategy for Chicago in 2017. I assure you of our continuing concern, energy, and support.

This post was first published on the MacArthur Foundation website.

We support creative people and effective institutions committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. ⚖🌿☮🌎

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