Vital Communities

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


Chicago is a global city with vibrant, diverse neighborhoods and a strong civic culture. And yet Chicago’s legacy and continued practice of racism unequal access to resources and opportunities for communities of color.

We have supported neighborhood revitalization in the Chicago metropolitan area since our founding. We have learned important lessons from four decades of investing in constructive community change—for example, the importance of investments in individual programs and projects and in investments that strengthen neighborhoods.

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 and creative placemaking initiatives in order to improve market conditions and the quality of life for individuals in neighborhoods that have experienced disinvestment. In light of Chicago’s history, our place-based funding is likely be concentrated in African-American and Latinx neighborhoods on the South and West Sides; however, other historically marginalized communities and those affected by segregation and other forms of systemic racism will not be excluded from eligibility.


Our Approach

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

  • Place-based initiatives: Established collaborations that engage a cross section of individuals, organizations, and institutions in the pre-development of commercial corridors and industrial clusters that revitalize historically marginalized neighborhoods and catalyze investment in the Chicago metropolitan area;
  • Creative placemaking: Projects that use art and cultural activities to engage community members in initiating physical, cultural, and economic changes in their environments; and
  • Infrastructure support organizations: Entities that 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 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 June 2020

Representative Grants
Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation
Chicago, Illinois 2017
$ 200,000 in support of the implementation of its community "quality of life" plan.
Brighton Park Neighborhood Council
Chicago, Illinois 2018
$ 1,000,000 in support of the implementation of community-based public safety and economic stability activities.
Austin Coming Together
Chicago, Illinois 2018
$ 1,000,000 to support implementation of a community-based "quality of life" improvement plan.
Thrive Chicago
Chicago, Illinois 2018
$ 500,000 in support of technical assistance for neighborhood collective impact initiatives.
United Way of Metropolitan Chicago
Chicago, Illinois 2018
$ 500,000 in support of the Neighborhood Network initiative.
Metropolitan Planning Council
Chicago, Illinois 2018
$ 510,000 in support of field support work.
View Grant Guidelines
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