Vital Communities

Investing targeted resources in a small number of place-based initiatives and organizations that provide infrastructure support to neighborhoods
A woman shopping for produce in a grocery store.
A woman shops for groceries as part of the Chicago Community Loan Fund’s Englewood Commercial Corridor.


The Chicago Commitment team invests in people, places, and partnerships to advance racial equity and build a more inclusive Chicago. The Vital Communities focus of the strategy draws on these three elements to support a diverse and resilient metropolitan area.

Chicago is a global city with vibrant, diverse neighborhoods and a strong civic culture. And yet systemic disparities create unequal access to resources and opportunities for Black, Latina/o/x, Indigenous, Asian, LGBTQIA+, and disabled people and communities—especially when these multiple identities intersect.

We believe that a dynamic metropolitan area is dependent upon equitable community development. The Vital Communities focus of the Chicago Commitment’s work stimulates development in historically marginalized neighborhoods by making early investments towards physical development in response to community needs that contribute to economic growth. We support place-based economic development and creative placemaking and placekeeping initiatives to improve the quality of life for individuals in neighborhoods that have experienced disinvestment. We also support organizations whose research and analysis informs socially-beneficial and equitable development.


Our Strategy

Building on a long history of support for neighborhoods, we direct grant resources to a small number of the following efforts.

Place-Based Initiatives

Place-based initiatives, which address the unique characteristics and needs of people within a specific location. We will concentrate resources primarily on pre-development of commercial corridors and industrial clusters in ten communities. These initiatives may include comprehensive planning; land use planning and management; community outreach; or urban design that attracts commercial and industrial real estate investment. In determining where to invest in place-based economic development, our team analyzed an array of different indicators related to Chicago neighborhoods, including levels of community engagement, income and wealth, demographic shifts, public safety, and the history of investment and/or disinvestment, among others. This process led us to focus our economic development grantmaking in these neighborhoods:

  • Austin
  • Belmont Cragin
  • Gage Park
  • Garfield Park (East Garfield Park and West Garfield Park)
  • Greater Englewood (West Englewood and Englewood)
  • Greater Roseland (Roseland and West Pullman)
  • Humboldt Park
  • North Lawndale
  • South Lawndale/Little Village
  • South Shore


Chicago map with neighborhoods shaded in orange and purple

Place-Based Cultural Projects

Place-based cultural projects that utilize creative placemaking and placekeeping techniques to engage community members in initiating physical development, elevate cultural awareness, and spur economic growth in historically marginalized neighborhoods, in communities that have experienced disinvestment, and in low- or middle-income places where the current population is at risk of displacement.

Infrastructure Support Organizations

Infrastructure support organizations, which conduct planning, management and technical assistance, policy research, evaluation, data analysis, or other assistance offered to groups working at the community, citywide, or regional level.

We support community-based organizations engaged in economic development and community development financial institutions that aid those organizations with loans and other forms of support for socially beneficial development. We also support seasoned and effective community development organizations poised to work at greater scale or to take on new challenges. We believe that seeding early investment in commercial corridors and industrial clusters and providing support to creative placemaking and placekeeping initiatives, particularly when responsive to community needs, can help to spur comprehensive community and economic development.

While we are utilizing geographic areas for our place-based economic development work, we recognize that there are communities that we seek to serve that do not fit neatly into Chicago’s neighborhood boundaries. For example, while Chicago’s Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) population is the area’s fastest growing, the region’s AAPI residents live throughout the city and the suburbs. Similarly, a place-based approach at the neighborhood level is imperfect for meeting the needs of other populations, such as disabled, Indigenous, LGBTQIA+, and Arab Americans, who are also dispersed. Wherever possible, we will support these populations through our grantmaking strategy but will also seek opportunities that align with our broader goal of advancing racial equity and building a more inclusive Chicago.

View Vital Communities Grant Guidelines Right Arrow

Evaluation for Learning

The goal of Vital Communities is to support place-based community and spatial economic development efforts, ultimately contributing to broader neighborhood economic vibrancy. These activities serve the broader Chicago Commitment goal of achieving a more equitable Chicago by expanding access to civic, cultural, and economic opportunities and resources. The Chicago Commitment will engage 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.

Findings and analysis from evaluation activities will be published as they become available.