The Southwest Organizing Project’s (SWOP) mission is to build a broad-based organization of Christian, Muslim and Jewish faith institutions, local schools and other institutions in Southwest Chicago, which will enable families to exercise common values, determine their own future and connect with each other to improve life in their neighborhoods. To this end, leaders of SWOP have dedicated themselves to building relationships across racial, ethnic, generational and faith differences and to bringing the common concerns of their institutions into the public life of the community as they develop the capacity to act collectively and “stand for the whole.”
As a broad-based organization committed to leadership development and collective action for the common good, SWOP members act to build deeper public relationships within and among the churches, mosques, schools, and other institutions in the neighborhoods they serve. Through this process, SWOP staff and primary leaders continually strive to identify and strengthen new leadership for public life.
SWOP works with the constituents of its member institutions and with
other stakeholders of Southwest Chicago. The 45 institutions that make
up the membership of SWOP include Catholic parishes and a Lutheran
church, an historic African American synagogue and a Muslim service
organization, local elementary and high schools, CDCs, a community
hospital and a school-based health center, and social service agencies.
SWOP's member institutions are located in the Southwest Chicago
community areas of Chicago Lawn, Gage Park, West Lawn, West Elsdon, and
Ashburn and serve a population that is 73% Latinx (SWOP estimates that a
large percentage of this population are immigrants), 18% African
American, and 9% white, Arab-American, or other (all data as of 2018,
from DePaul’s Institute for Housing Studies). The communities are low-
and moderate-income with 18.6% of families living below the poverty line
and 73.8% of households have an income below $50,000 (the Chicago Area
Median Income for a family of four is $93,200).
SWOP’s member institutions represent 40,000 people living in the community. SWOP’s work benefits all members of these institutions. SWOP's leaders are drawn from everyone who lives and/or works in the community: congregants and leaders at local religious institutions; parents and educators at local schools; students engaged in after-school programs and youth leadership development activities; families seeking affordable housing opportunities; undocumented people living and working in the community; and, young people involved in street organizations. It is these leaders who act as SWOP’s board members and issue team decision-makers and ensure that SWOP’s work has impact across the entire community.