Civic Partnerships

Leading or participating in partnerships to address critical or timely challenges with the goal of advancing racial equity and building a more inclusive Chicago


Chicago’s civic landscape is notable for its broad network of philanthropic, corporate, government, and nonprofit organizations, and its rich history of collaboration between these entities to achieve shared goals. Civic partnerships build upon the collective assets of these leaders and organizations for greater impact. To meet the moment we face collectively, these partnerships must address the history of racist policy and practice that created or contributed to today’s challenges, whether the stark racial disparities in COVID-19 impacts, the effects of gun violence, or the barriers erected to prevent a full count in the decennial census.

Our Approach

MacArthur is a leader among local foundations, government agencies, research institutions, nonprofit community organizations, and private sector actors that mobilize collective assets to address pressing challenges or pursue timely opportunities. We work in close collaboration with our partners to identify the problems and support the solutions that community members want to address.


COVID-19 and Racial Justice

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, MacArthur partnered with an array of other entities to provide relief and support recovery for affected populations and communities. As of April 2022, Black and Latinx residents represented 72 percent of COVID-19 deaths in Chicago, laying bare the racial disparities in health that pre-existed the pandemic. The Chicago Commitment response to COVID-19 included support for a statewide relief fund in Illinois, a city-wide relief fund for the Chicago metropolitan area, and a special fund for individual artists and arts organizations. In addition, we awarded funds to the Chicago Racial Justice Pooled Fund, the Together We Rise Fund, and the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights for the Just Democracy Illinois collaborative. In addition, we provided resources to organizations responding to the impact of COVID-19 in their communities, including Native American and Asian American populations, and increased funding for violence prevention organizations in Chicago.

With civil unrest stemming from the unrelenting violence against and murder of Black Americans, all too often at the hands of police officers, the Foundation committed to a heightened focus on structural and systemic racism. Within the Chicago Commitment, we pledge to bring the same focus to our work in Civic Partnerships, including support for economic recovery and targeted investments in racial justice movements.


Gun Violence and Police Legitimacy

In response to the dual, mutually reinforcing crises of debilitating gun violence and eroding police legitimacy, and in reaction to the sharp spike in shootings in 2016, the Foundation and its peers created a cooperative effort called the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities. With more than 50 philanthropic organizations, the Partnership members align their funding around strategies to help reduce gun violence in Chicago in collaboration with community, public, and private sector leaders. The Partnership strives to elevate the voices of the individuals and organizations committed to street outreach and violence prevention, and it supports grassroots activists calling for civilian oversight of the Chicago Police Department. 

The Partnership supports three broad strategies—direct engagement services and alternatives for those most affected by violence in targeted neighborhoods, police legitimacy and reform, and gun policy—to help create the conditions for violence prevention and reduction. Since 2016, the Partnership has committed more than $110 million for these efforts, of which the MacArthur Foundation’s contribution is approximately $20 million.


Other Opportunities

From time to time, we may address a timely or unique opportunity, such as ensuring an accurate count throughout Illinois in the decennial census; the establishment of a Chicago Public Library Branch at the Obama Presidential Center; or the acquisition of the historic Ebony and Jet photographic archives.

Initiatives and organizations that wish to be considered for support may "self-nominate" by submitting a brief description of their work through our grants portal. In addition, we are eager to learn about initiatives and organizations that have not previously received support, as well as gather new ideas from prior grant recipients.


Measurement & Evaluation

The goal of Civic Partnerships is to address urgent and timely issues affecting Chicago and its communities through civic partnerships to achieve long-term, sustained change. The Chicago Commitment has engaged an evaluation and learning partner to measure and evaluate the progress of the strategy, test assumptions underpinning it, and collect information about the context in which the strategy operates. The focus of these activities is on learning. We aim to understand how the strategy contributes to advancing racial equity and building a more inclusive Chicago.


Additional Areas of Work

Advancing Leadership ›
Culture, Equity, and the Arts ›
Influential Leaders ›
Vital Communities ›

Chicago Commitment strategy ›


Updated January 2021

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