Vital Communities

Investing targeted resources in a small number of place-based initiatives and organizations that provide infrastructure support to neighborhoods


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 diverse neighborhoods and a strong civic culture. And yet the city and metropolitan region suffer from structural racism that produces unequal access to resources and opportunities for communities of color. Systemic conditions that prevent equitable access to opportunities and resources have led to racial and economic segregation and unequal rates of economic mobility. These factors ultimately affect the overall vitality of the Chicago region; they are especially pervasive in neighborhoods with majority Black and Latinx populations.

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 in response to community needs that contribute to economic growth. We support place-based economic development, 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 Approach

Building on a long history of support for neighborhoods, we direct grant resources to a small number of: 

  • 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 outside of Chicago’s downtown areas. These initiatives may include comprehensive planning; land use planning and management; community outreach; or urban design that attracts commercial and industrial real estate investment.
  • Creative placemaking and placekeeping projects, which use art and cultural activities to engage community members in initiating physical, cultural, and economic changes in their environments.
  • 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.

Vital Communities grant guidelines ›


Measurement & Evaluation

The goal of Vital Communities is to support place-based community and 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 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.  

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


Additional Areas of Work

Advancing Leadership ›
Civic Partnerships ›
Culture, Equity, and the Arts  ›

Chicago Commitment strategy ›


Updated January 2021

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