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News & Press: ICA News

Chicago Sustainability Leaders Network Cross-Community Collaborating for Action

Wednesday, November 11, 2015   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Caitlin Sarro
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In the past few months Chicago Sustainability Leaders Network (CSLN) activities have exemplified the network’s strength in collaborating across disciplines to effect change. Notable collaborations have been the continuation of three initiatives:
        • Is It Just Space? Series 
        • Policy Working Group  
        • Smart Grid Energy Education

Is It Just Space? 
This series consisted of collaboratively designed, multidisciplinary events that aimed to explore the intersection of justice and space. Since the series launched in April with the Urban Ecology Classroom: A Tale of Two Monarchs, CSLN members & their communities have gathered for eight events across the city. 

Highlights from the events include:
Do You Feel Welcome Here?: Reflecting on the Chicago Families exhibit at the Swedish American Museum to dive deep into the question of what makes a space welcoming and brainstorm ways to cultivate more inclusive spaces;
From Transit to Trails: Engaging with land, water, and city at Montrose beach in a way that connected historical and natural contexts to the current state of Uptown;
Sustainable September Ride Series: 
Exploring the nuances of 5 communities with Slow Roll Chicago while promoting an equitable bike culture--each community area shared something unique, from a welcoming front-porch culture in Greater Lawndale to Growing Power’s urban farm in Back of the Yards; and
Re-envisioning Underutilized Community Spaces: Working in a reclaimed lot in Englewood with students from Urban Prep Academy. The food producing garden will add a hands-on activity to their regular curriculum.

All the events encouraged community members to explore new perspectives, either through learning something entirely new or looking at a familiar topic in a different way. With 25 partners across all events, this series made apparent the network’s value as a multidisciplinary entity. Organizers and participants alike look forward to continuing to build on their insights from the series.

Policy Working Group
The CSLN ‘policy’ group moved forward with the round table forums with Chief Sustainability Officer of the City of Chicago, Karen Weigert. On July 17th, 21 CSLN members gathered in Clarendon Park Community Center, to discuss ways that community organizations and the city could better collaborate. 

The meeting ended with the idea that a tangible next step for collaboration might be for CSLN members to offer their input on the next Sustainability Plan the city is creating (the current plan ends in 2015).

To follow up, CSLN members came together on October 14th to form consensus as a network on how City programs, policies, and partnerships could be implemented to promote CSLN values, such as equity and meaningful community engagement, in the City’s next sustainability plan. ICA staff are now compiling the data to share it with the larger network; the final CSLN input will be delivered to City officials.  

Smart Grid Energy Education 
Last fall, five CSLN members collaboratively applied for and received an Illinois Science and Energy Innovation Foundation (ISEIF) grant to create and implement culturally appropriate Smart Grid energy education in their own communities in 2015. 

Grant partners include Chinese American Service League, Centers for New Horizons, Sacred Keepers Sustainability Lab, ICA and University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC).

On June 14th, the partners joined at ICA GreenRise for a Cross-Community Energy Exchange that brought together over 60 community members from Bronzeville, Chinatown, UIC, and Uptown. The aim of the event was to create a space where partners and community members could meet, learn about the interactive Smart Grid education approaches each partner had developed, and creatively adapt their own Smart Grid messaging. In November another cross community event, The Past & Future of Energy, geared at youth from each of the sites, will be held at IIT and allow the participants to tour the microgrid and learn from youth working in energy innovation.