Civic Partnerships

Participating in local partnerships with civic leaders and organizations to work on critical or timely challenges facing the city


Chicago’s civic landscape is notable for its broad network of philanthropic, corporate, government, and nonprofit organizations. Civic partnerships build upon the collective assets of these leaders and organizations for greater impact.

Our Approach

MacArthur is part of a local network of foundations, government agencies, research institutions, nonprofit community organizations, and private sector actors that mobilize collective assets to develop and strengthen Chicago’s ability to address pressing challenges or pursue timely opportunities.

In response to the dual, mutually-reinforcing crisis of debilitating gun violence and eroding police legitimacy, and in reaction to the sharp spike in shootings in 2016, the Foundation joined peer funders to create a cooperative effort called the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities. The Partnership is a coalition of more than 50 philanthropic organizations that align their funding around strategies to help reduce gun violence in Chicago in collaboration with community, public, and private sector leaders. 

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. Between 2016 and 2020, the Partnership committed more than $75 million for these efforts.

In addition, members of the Partnership fund the Chicago Fund for Safe and Peaceful Communities support smaller organizations that work at the neighborhood and block level to build community cohesion, crowd out violence, and promote safety and peace during what are often violent summer months.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, MacArthur partners with other entities—including government, nonprofit, philanthropic, and corporate organizations—to provide relief to affected populations and communities. The Chicago Commitment’s response includes 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 provided support for 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.

From time to time, the MacArthur Foundation 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.

While the majority of applications for support under Civic Partnerships are invited, in coordination with other funders, organizations that wish to be considered for support from MacArthur may submit a brief description of their work through our grants portal.


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 ›
Influential Leaders ›
Vital Communities ›

Chicago Commitment strategy ›


Updated June 2020

Representative Grants
Chicago Community Foundation
Chicago, Illinois 2016
$ 75,000 forr the MLK Memorial Fund, which is facilitating the establishment of Chicago's first permanent memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Civic Consulting Alliance
Chicago, Illinois 2018
$ 620,000 in support of the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities and initiatives with the Chicago Police Department.
Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Chicago
Chicago, Illinois 2018
$ 200,000 to provide support to leadership programs and to support general operations.
Chicago Public Library Foundation
Chicago, Illinois 2018
$ 150,000 in support of the project, "Imagining the Library of the Future."
Chicago Community Foundation
Chicago, Illinois 2019
$ 155,000 to support the Chicago Fund for Safe and Peaceful Communities and for communications efforts for the larger Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities initiative.
Chicago Community Foundation
Chicago, Illinois 2019
$ 2,600,000 in renewed support of the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities.
View Grant Guidelines
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