Tuesday, October 15, 2019
Tuesday, September 3, 2019
Through 12pm CT on Tuesday, October 1, 2019 the Democracy Program is accepting Letters of Inquiry (LOI) to support programs and organizations working in our three Focus Areas: Strengthen Local Journalism, Engage Youth Civically, and Invigorate Public Institutions. On our website, you can find a brief summary of each Focus Area. You can also read more details about each Focus Area on the Foundation’s blog (see a full list of articles below). Grant requests may be for work in any Focus Area and should be over $50,000.
How to apply for a grant
Visit the Democracy Program’s “Apply for a Grant” page where you will find our funding criteria (e.g. you must be a 501(c)(3)nonprofit), a timeline for our review process, and a link to the online portal through which you must submit your LOI.
What's an LOI?
The LOI is the first stage in our two-stage application process for evaluating grant requests. The first stage of the process serves as an introduction for the Democracy Program staff to your organization and the work you propose to undertake during the grant period. The LOI provides helpful information on your:
- Organization: your mission, history, core activities, and financial health
- Outcomes: the change you want to achieve during the grant period and why it's needed
- Equity Impact: how your approach to your work will integrate community voice and help reduce racial/ethnic disparities in the region
- Strategy: the activities you will undertake to achieve your outcomes
- Rationale: what evidence you have that these activities are the right approach
For applicants seeking a program grant, we also ask about your:
We collect this information through an online portal. Via this portal, you’ll fill out some questions about the administrative aspects of the grant (e.g. the grant amount and term, organizational tax status, application contact person). The core of the application is the Stage 1 Narrative, a short-answer questionnaire that addresses most of the questions listed above. You will need to download this form, enter your responses, and upload the completed form to the portal. Finally, we ask you to upload a copy of your organization’s annual budget, and if you’re requesting program support, a copy of your program budget.
What do we look for?
As we read LOIs, we try to answer a couple questions of our own:
- Strategic Fit: How might the proposed partnership and work advance the Democracy Program’s mission and strategy? To what extent does this work address the inequities we see in journalism, youth civic engagement, and public institutions?
- Evidence: What evidence do we have that the proposed work can succeed? What data support this approach and does the organization have the experience, capacity, network, and committed partners to achieve the desired outcomes.
- What can we learn? Given our limited resources, we are forced to pick among many worthy projects. Successful LOI applicants enter a months-long review process, generally because they have a strong strategic fit, offer compelling evidence, and hold the strongest promise to help the fields in which we are working advance.
There are many aspects of a successful application that can prompt curiosity and we encourage applicants to consider how their organization’s perspective, approach, network, and other features distinguish it, but also position it as an additive piece of the constellation of partners we support in our three focus areas.
If the Democracy Program reviews your application and determines that there is a compelling rationale for a prospective or continued partnership, you will receive an invitation to submit additional application materials. An invitation to the second stage of the application process is not a commitment to fund the proposed organization and/or work. Instead, it’s a commitment to learn more about your work so that the staff can determine if there is sufficient evidence to bring a final recommendation to fund to McCormick’s Board of Directors. Ultimately, the Board votes to decide on all funding decisions.
To learn more about the Democracy Program’s strategy and how you might be able to support its advancement, visit our website and read our recent articles about our strategy:
Strengthen Local Journalism
Strategy 1: Telling the untold stories
Strategy 3: Investing in human capital
Strategy 4: Defending press freedom
Thursday, July 18, 2019
The third and final pillar of the Democracy Program’s strategy centers on invigorating public institutions with an emphasis on inclusiveness, transparency, and accountability to Chicagoland residents (see previous posts on youth civic engagement and local journalism).
By inclusive we mean representative and considering the needs and interests of Chicagoland’s diverse communities. Transparency entails a presumption of and deep commitment to full public access to information pertinent to public policy and governance. Accountability relates to institutions’ prioritizing public trust and responsibly using information from the media, watchdog groups, and the public at large to improve performance.
|Chicago City Hall|
We believe that local institutions will produce policies, governance, and constituent services shaped by, and responsive to the region’s diverse communities by developing high-capacity civic leaders. Also critical to this end is improving the transparency and accountability of public institutions. Finally, we must deepen Chicagoland residents’ participation and representation in democratic processes and ensure inclusion of underrepresented communities through both policy and practice.
We seek to develop civic leaders representative of the communities they serve, who cultivate constituent participation in elections and public policy, and advocate for and implement inclusive policies. Currently, the Democracy Program is evaluating the extent to which existing civic leadership programs meet these goals. Ideally, public institutions will develop leaders internally, prioritizing public accessibility, responsiveness to constituents, and construction of inclusive policies.
In our efforts to ensure accountability, transparency, and effectiveness of public institutions, we partner with organizations that possess deep knowledge of government practice, paired with authentic forms of community engagement, to empower civic action.
Turning to efforts to deepen participation and inclusion in public institutions, we currently have investments in three priority areas: expanding Chicagoland residents’ participation and representation in elections and Census 2020, improving the accessibility of public institutions through inclusive policymaking processes, and providing pathways to citizenship and protected status for local immigrant communities.
We are committed to modernizing and ensuring the integrity of election processes to ensure more representative participation and ballot security. Census 2020 is only nine months away, and we are part of the Illinois 2020 Count Me In Coalition led by Forefront to ensure a complete and accurate count for Illinois. Our grant to Forefront supported sub-grants to nonprofits statewide for outreach to hard-to-count constituencies (HTCs). The Coalition’s efforts were critical to the state’s recent $29 million appropriation for Census outreach.
We opposed inclusion of a citizenship question on the Census form for fear that it would inhibit participation among HTCs. Although it appears that the question will not be placed on Census forms, the damage has already been done in eliciting fear within immigrant communities. Therefore, we endorse expanded engagement with these constituencies to achieve a complete count.
Participation in government beyond elections is critical to a healthy democracy, and several current partners specialize in engaging residents in the policy making process. For example, Participatory Budgeting (PB) Chicago leads residents in city wards and schools through a process where they identify and vote upon infrastructural needs. Already present in nine wards and a growing number of CPS schools, PB Chicago anticipates continued expansion in the aftermath of this spring’s municipal elections. Beyond PB, the Democracy Program is exploring other emerging innovative methods that public institutions can use to better engage Chicagoland residents and underrepresented communities.
The Democracy Program strives to ensure that Chicagoland’s immigrant communities are mobilized to take full advantage of existing opportunities to secure citizenship and protected status. More broadly, we seek partnerships to further engage our state’s immigrant and refugee populations in the democratic process. In the long term, we are supportive of federal comprehensive immigration reform, believing that it is beneficial for both immigrant communities and society at large.
By developing high-capacity civic leaders, ensuring institutional accountability, transparency, and effectiveness, and deepening participation and inclusion in our local democracy, we will ensure that Chicagoland public institutions are inclusive, transparent, and accountable to the communities they serve.
Tuesday, June 25, 2019
Here is an update from the last Insights Newsletter highlighting the recent premiere of the documentary “No Small Matter”.
Years in the making, the documentary No Small Matter premiered in Chicago June 20 to a sold out crowd of statewide early childhood leaders and educators at the Gene Siskel Film Center. No Small Matter aims to engage broader audiences in the effort to strengthen both access to and quality within our early childhood system in order to better prepare young children for school success.
The McCormick Foundation, along with other foundations locally and nationally, have supported the development, completion, dissemination and engagement strategy in the wake of the film’s release. The feature-length documentary features humorous cameos by Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster, agonizing scenes of parents struggling to find quality care for their infant that they could afford, and the heart-wrenching decision of a beloved preschool teacher to leave the classroom for a more self-sustaining job as a bartender.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker kicked off the premier with remarks that reaffirmed his own commitment to bolstering Illinois’ early childhood system in the coming years. “I believe to my core that every child should get quality child care and quality education, no matter the color of their skin, no matter the income level of their parents, no matter what zip code they live in,” said Gov. J.B. Pritzker. “I want Illinois to lead the nation in early childhood education and childcare and I won't stop until we get there.”
Cornelia Grumman, Director of the Foundation’s Education Program, moderated a panel discussion following the film with Deputy Governor for Education Jesse Ruiz, Co-Director Greg Jacobs and former Preschool Teacher Rachel Gianni, featured in the film but now working at the Chicago Children’s Museum.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot issued a proclamation declaring June 20 “No Small Matter Day” in Chicago.
Film producers created accompanying tools to help make parenting easier, action steps to use the film to champion early learning, and encouragements that providers, houses of worship, community centers, agencies, advocates, educators and others host their own screenings.
No Small Matter was co-produced by Kindling Group and Siskel/Jacobs Productions.
Guest blog by Becky Raymond, Career Pathways' Executive Director
The Chicago Citywide Literacy Coalition (CCLC) has had strong roots on the South Side of Chicago. Many founding coalition members were South Side providers. In 2010, when CCLC did a landscape scan of literacy providers in Chicago, there were 12 providers on the South Side.
Since the 2010 scan, there has been a steady decline of adult education programming available on Chicago’s South Side. Particularly during the State Budget Impasse of 2016 and 2017, there was a steep decrease in programming and services among our base members south and west of the city. Although the need is still high — roughly 250,000 individuals that would benefit from adult education — the lack of services continues to decrease.
To address this decline in services and serve the persistent need, CCLC has launched the South Side Career Pathways Collaborative. They have identified assets, engaged community voices (both program participants and providers), built a common agenda and connected programs to each other to create a coordinated career pathway system for South Side residents. Based on this extensive community input, in the fall of 2019, CCLC will staff a Career Pathways Navigator on the South Side to help residents connect to social services and find programs. This Navigator will also connect programs to each other, with a goal of helping providers build their capacity. The overarching goal of the South Side Career Pathways Collaborative is to expand the work of the providers and increase the number of individuals receiving services on the South Side.
Guest blog by Justin Miller, Pathfinder's Program Manager
Transitioning from military to civilian life is a distinct challenge faced by our nation’s service members and their families. While there are many impressive organizations that provide services for transitioning military, two-thirds of service members are not effectively connecting with these resources. In 2017, USO launched the USO Pathfinder Program nationally to help service members and their families navigate the challenges of transitioning over a 24-month period.
The hallmark of the USO Pathfinder Program is a comprehensive support network that includes access to a Pathfinder Scout, a trained case manager who works directly with the transitioning families and connects them to the services and support they need. The USO Pathfinder Program focuses on connecting them to eight key areas of service, including employment, education, financial readiness, housing and family strength and wellness. In addition, participants have access to the USO Mobile App, which provides resources and access to a Scout in real time. The App allows program participants to view their customized selection of services and resources 24/7 and create their own transition roadmap all on their smart phone.
In Illinois, the USO Pathfinder Program is unique due to the large population of National Guard and Reserve service members and their spouses who are in a constant state of transition. More than 70% of military deployed since 9/11 are National Guard and Reserve, and USO of Illinois is working to ensure Guard, Reserve and their families have access to the Pathfinder Program throughout the state. This month will mark the largest deployment from Illinois in a decade with more than 350 Guard members called up to be deployed.
“The USO is a trusted presence for our military, supporting them from boot camp to deployment to separation for nearly 80 years,” said Justin Miller, USO Transition Program Manager. “USO Pathfinder works to reduce the friction of transitioning and help streamline the process of reintegrating into civilian life.”
Service members and their families can learn about the USO Pathfinder Program online, at any USO Center or Program throughout Illinois. Service members and their spouses can also access services by calling 312-777-3333 or going to www.uso.org/pathfinder.
Opened in August 2017 in the North Lawndale community, the first ever Restorative Justice Community Court (RJCC) is an innovative collaboration between community-based service providers and the Circuit Court of Cook County. It aims to address the vicious cycle of mutually reinforcing problems: mass incarceration, crime and community violence, mistrust between the community and the criminal justice system, and the mismatch between the adult justice system and the developmental capacities and needs of emerging adults. Research has shown that this population is less future oriented, more susceptible to peer influence and risk-taking and more volatile in emotionally charged settings especially if they suffered childhood trauma. The Court takes this distinct stage of life into account by applying restorative practices to address root causes of behavior while also focusing on accountability for wrong doing through open dialogue between the victim, perpetrator and the community through peace circles and harm repair agreements. The RJCC relies heavily on its community-based partners to provide the necessary wrap around services to carry out the model effectively. The Court’s intention is to offer participants an off ramp out of the system that ultimately influences their life trajectory away from further criminal justice involvement.
Eligible participants are between the ages of 18-26, who reside in the North Lawndale community, and have plead guilty to nonviolent felonies charges. At their bond hearing, the defendant must be recommended by the presiding judge, prosecutor and the defense attorney for diversion to the RJCC instead of the traditional justice system. In its first year, the court saw 73 individuals, 45 of whom currently have active cases. Twelve participants have completed the court and 16 were either rearrested, transferred back for noncompliance or transferred for administrative reasons. The McCormick Foundation is in its second year of supporting the evaluation of the RJCC being conducted by Adler University. This is critical to understanding if the court is having an impact on stopping the cycle of young adults in and out of the system and if the model can be replicated in other neighborhoods in Chicago and across the country. As is the case with any pilot, there have been many challenges and lessons learned in the first year of operations, most notably those arising from the difficult but necessary trust building that is taking place between the community of North Lawndale and the criminal justice system to create a functional court that meets the expectations of each.
The Robert R. McCormick Foundation and Cantigny Park recently named Krewasky A. Salter, Ph.D., executive director of the First Division Museum in Wheaton.
Salter, a U.S. Army Colonel (retired), brings more than 34 years of experience to the museum, with 25 years gained in active military duty. He served as a senior staff officer at the Pentagon before retiring from the military in 2010.
Most recently, Salter was a guest curator at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). He curated the museum’s inaugural exhibition, Double Victory: The African American Military Experience. The exhibit opened in late 2016. He is also serving as curator of an upcoming exhibition, We Return Fighting: The African American Experience in World War I, scheduled to open in December 2019 at the NMAAHC.
“Krewasky’s experience as an Army officer, teacher and scholar of military history and museum curator, made him an ideal choice for this leadership role,” said David Hiller, McCormick Foundation president and CEO. “We’re delighted to have him on our team at Cantigny.”
Salter succeeds Paul Herbert, who retired in December. His appointment comes less than two years after the First Division Museum completed a comprehensive renovation. The update, part of the park’s ongoing Project New Leaf, enables visitors to experience the proud history of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division — the “Big Red One” — in exciting new ways through cutting-edge exhibits and storytelling technology.
A Florida native, Salter earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Florida where he was a Distinguished Military Graduate, and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Florida State University. He also holds a Master of Strategic Studies from the Air War University. He taught Military History at the United States Military Academy, West Point; Military Strategy at the Command and General Staff College, Leavenworth; Military Leadership at Howard University, Washington, D.C.; and African American History at several other institutions as an adjunct professor.
Salter was a contributing author and advisor to three publications of the National Museum of African American History and Culture: Dream A World Anew: The African American Experience and the Shaping of America, Volume #5 Double Exposure: Fighting for Freedom and Many Lenses: The Buffalo Robe. He also wrote The Story of Black Military Officers, 1861–1948, and served as associate producer and senior historian for the Army-sponsored PBS documentary, Unsung Heroes: The Story of America’s Female Patriots. Salter has appeared on “CBS This Morning” and is featured in the Netflix documentary, Medal of Honor. He serves on the Army Historical Foundation Executive Board of Directors.
This spring, legislation to require a semester of civics within grades 6, 7, or 8 (House Bill 2265), passed the Illinois General Assembly with bipartisan supermajorities in both chambers. It moves next to Governor J.B. Pritzker’s desk for final approval.
Four years earlier, lawmakers required a semester of civics in high school for the graduating class of 2020 and beyond. House Bill (HB) 2265 drives the same high-quality civic learning practices down to the middle grades, with parallel language infusing instruction on government institutions, discussion of current and societal issues, service learning, and simulations of democratic processes into the new course beginning with the 2020-2021 school year.
Keys to the successful “CivicsInTheMiddle" legislative campaign included:
- Our statewide network of educators and their students making their voices heard in the General Assembly, filing nearly 900 electronic witness slips for the bill in committee and reaching out directly to their Representatives and Senators as it moved to the floors of the respective chambers.
- Strong organizational support for HB 2265 from the private, nonprofit, and civic sectors, rallied by McCormick Foundation President and CEO David Hiller.
- Favorable media coverage, including strategically-placed letters to the editor and timely endorsements from The Rock Island Dispatch Argus and the Rockford Register Star.
- A proven track record of implementing the high school requirement, with more than 1,100 hours of professional development provided to 8,200-plus teachers since October 2015.
- A promise to make middle school civics a funded mandate through a three-year, privately-funded $3 million plan ($1 million annually) to support middle school teachers, schools, and districts to incorporate a civics course in grades 6, 7, or 8.
As HB 2265 moves to Governor Pritzker’s desk by June 22, you can voice your support for the legislation by contacting him via both e/mail and phone. Upon arrival, the Governor has sixty days to sign or veto HB 2265, so please act today.
Office of the Governor
207 State House
Springfield, IL 62706
Phone: 217-782-6830 or 217-782-6831
Turning to presumptive implementation of middle school civics, we currently have a survey in the field to assess the needs of Illinois middle school social studies teachers and administrators. The results, combined with our high school experience and evaluation results, will further shape our initial plans.
Current highlights include:
- Ongoing teacher professional development opportunities, both in person and online, will be offered in partnership with civic education nonprofits and institutional partners, including universities and regional offices of education.
- We are especially excited about a new partnership with the Lou Frey Institute at the University of Central Florida to develop high-production learning modules for teachers centered on proven civic learning practices. Participating teachers will earn microcredentials in each practice. We anticipate the first module, focused on discussion of current and controversial issues, to launch this fall.
- Illinois Civics Teacher Mentors have been central to our high school course implementation efforts, and we intend to continue the program with modifications to account for lessons learned and the unique needs of middle schools.
- As was true of our high school efforts, we will partner with the Center for Information Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) to evaluate the impact of our teacher professional development offerings and, reciprocally, the fidelity of middle school course implementation. At the end of the implementation period, we will also assess the impact the course has on students’ civic development, measuring growth in knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors.