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News & Press: ICA News

SLN: Witnessing a Thriving Culture of Sustainability

Thursday, April 24, 2014   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Caitlin Sarro
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The Chicago Sustainability Leaders Network (SLN) was launched in October 2013 by ICA as part of the accelerate77 project. SLN has become a key strategy to bring community leaders together to work collaboratively on a wide variety of sustainability and justice issues. Network members are currently working towards defining the details of how to accomplish their goals to strengthen and expand community-based sustainability efforts and increase collective impact.

Having an inclusive definition for sustainability is an important value for members of the SLN. Members come from a variety of professional backgrounds and include individuals who are independently employed as well as participants representing non-profit organizations and for-profit businesses in the community. SLN members also work on a diversity of issues, ranging from urban agriculture, healthy eating, energy production and conservation, climate change education, and sustainable landscaping to cultural diversity, youth leadership development, participatory facilitation, cooperatives, veterans’ rights, after-school programming, job training, and much more.

During the very first SLN gathering, one participant, Vito Greco, remarked on the power of a holistic approach: “When you get people together who do a lot of different things, but share values – you can do a lot more.” Working in a multidisciplinary and collaborative way helps to prevent siloed action. Working in silos can constrict not only the individuals involved, but also the knowledge and methods available to comprehensively address problems.

The SLN has been meeting regularly and working on building relationships, sharing knowledge, setting goals for 2014, working to clarify it’s aims, and give shape to it’s future. Currently, network members are exploring several different collaborative interest areas:

  • a “hub” model to provide space for collaborative network activities
  • conceptualizing a city-wide sustainability calendar
  • exploring a regular publication highlighting sustainability efforts in Chicago
  • developing a way to share assets and skill among members and communities
  • capturing the shared values, mission and vision of network into a statement to share with others.

There is tangible excitement as members begin to reap the benefits of the network - in the words of active member Benjamin Handy, “We are creating a new culture; It’s like yeast, spreading out.” Being a member of the SLN gives participants an opportunity to be change agents in their own spheres of influence.

The SLN is still at the beginning stages of formation and is eager to welcome new participants interested in collaborating on community sustainability issues. Current members act as a springboard for further participation. As another member of the network, Ron Kartholl, put it: “We all have a certain amount of isolation, but we can all then be able to take this conversation back to our communities and be able to hook up the broader community.”

If you’re interested in learning more about the SLN or participating, please contact ICA Fellow Jenny Hirsch at