Giving Compass' Take:

• The MacArthur Foundation created the New Communities Program (NCP) and provided funding to 16 communities to try a community and economic development approach to local problems in each neighborhood. 

• The foundation was able to empower communities to solve their own problems. Why is this model for community development an effective one? 

• Read about why community development is important for healthy youth development. 

Throughout our 40-year history, MacArthur has invested over $1.3 billion in Chicago organizations and individuals—more than any other place in the world. Despite this deep and enduring commitment to the place we call home, we still heard the skepticism in the voices of some Chicagoans who feared that we were disinterested in supporting new ideas that emerged from communities and neighborhoods.

As the Chicago Commitment team developed our grantmaking strategy, we listened to a range of individuals—some were familiar to us, like current or former grantees and peer funders, but many more were not. We heard from faith leaders, community residents, grassroots organizations, and young people, some barely old enough to vote. They shared their vision for the city they love and offered thoughts on how MacArthur could help them achieve that vision. In each community and in each conversation, residents asked that we respond to local initiatives and show respect for residents’ approaches to community development.

From 2003 to 2013, the MacArthur-supported New Communities Program (NCP) incentivized 16 communities to try an approach to community and economic development that would comprehensively address local issues. MacArthur provided $60 million in funding, in addition to technical resources, to help improve residents’ quality of life with regard to employment, health, housing, and violence.

We support established community initiatives with shared objectives that local residents, business owners, and neighbors have co-developed.

It is our hope that by investing in these community-led efforts, we can help position neighborhoods to build a broader policy and organizing agenda for Chicago. We know that positive social change is most effective when community voices are represented in policy dialogues before change takes place.

Read the full article about community-driven solutions by Tawa Mitchell at MacArthur Foundation