When SWOP first brought together Chicago Southwest leaders in late 2015 to evaluate their old Quality-of-Life plan and start work on a new one, there was a lot of energy in the room. Leaders who had been involved in the planning more than a decade ago were excited that they had accomplished almost every single thing they had set out to do in the old plan. Newer leaders who were just beginning their first broad community planning process were excited to see how their current work can fit into and be enhanced through a larger community plan.
In spite of the success of the earlier plan, everyone knew that this didn’t mean their work was done; far from it. They knew they had a strong base to build on, strong relationships, and a record of success, but they still had much to do in many different areas.
The new Quality-of-Life plan is a blueprint for action for the Chicago Southwest community. The plan breaks the work down into seven major areas for investment of time, people, and money. These areas of work are: housing, economic and retail development, jobs, anti-violence, education, immigration and health. The plan’s title says it all in terms of how these issues will be addressed; Chicago Southwest: Organized, Connected and Collaborative.
Over 250 leaders representing almost 60 institutions worked for months to develop the plan; coming together on multiple occasions to identify priorities for the community. Leaders worked in large and small groups and met all over the neighborhood. They gathered data on current conditions in the community and met with residents to get their views on what needed to be done. They drafted goals and outcomes and actions plans. They worked to ensure that the plan reflected both the desires and the concerns of community residents and stakeholders.
This plan builds on the work of the original Chicago Southwest: Making Connections Quality-of-Life plan completed a decade ago. The work of both plans were supported by the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) Chicago as part of their New Communities Network. SWOP acted as the lead agency for both plans; convening and leading meetings and working to produce the final product.
Now that the plan is complete, the real work starts to bring all the visions to fruition. Already, lots of “early action” activities are underway. SWOP is leading efforts on the Southwest Corridor Collaborative (SWCC) to bring jobs and retail development to the community. Protected by Faith pulled together hundreds in support of immigrant rights. The Reclaim Southwest Chicago Campaign and the Micro Market Recovery Program (MMRP) are quadrupling their target areas to redevelop even more vacant houses. The Parent Mentor Program has already expanded to four new schools.
A plan is just a plan until people come together to act on it. For more information on the plan and how to get involved in implementation activities, please contact David McDowell at firstname.lastname@example.org.