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Showing posts from 2019

Our Chicago. Our Opportunity to Build a Brighter Future for Everyone

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Will You Help?Every person who lives here deserves a chance to reach for their dreams, but many people in our region experience more than their fair share of challenges. Every day, the local news is full of stories of gun violence, struggling schools, and a lack of good jobs. These challenges are real, and they disproportionately affect some communities more than others. But together, we can write a different story.When you donate to the McCormick Foundation Communities Program, you help expand opportunities for every Chicagoan, regardless of ZIP code, race, or income. 100% of your donation goes directly to local nonprofits that are working to make a difference in their own communities — from Little Village to Englewood, and beyond. Over the last year, thanks to your contributions, the Communities Program has continued to expand its support in communities where there is both great need, and great potential. We’re working together with local organizations, community leaders, and donors…

Our Chicago. Our Opportunity to Pursue Career Dreams

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Will You Help?Chicagoland will be a great place for us to live when it is a great place for all of us. Unfortunately, many people in our region face barriers that hold them back from a bright future. Your support can help kids like Xavier overcome these challenges. Not long ago, Xavier struggled with reading. At his Little Village elementary school, 95% of students come from low-income households and test scores fall far below national averages. Xavier got the extra support he needed when he started attending a literacy program at Erie House, a nonprofit community center in his neighborhood. There, Xavier works one-on-one with volunteer reading tutors. Now, he's reading at his appropriate grade level and exploring new opportunities for his future. He dreams of becoming an animator and creating stories about heroes like those in his favorite books.Xavier’s story is just one example of the many opportunities you can help unlock with a donation to the McCormick Foundation. When you gi…

Chicago's Digital News Needs

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by Andres Torres, Program Officer, DemocracyIn Chicago, we have the benefit of dozens of outlets at our fingertips. According to a recent analysis by News Revenue Hub and Impact Architects, there are almost 100 digital news outlets in the Chicago region. This estimate doesn’t include the many broadcast and print-first publications that continue to serve the region. In an era of precipitous decline in the number of newsrooms across the country, confirming the continued presence of so many outlets in this 2019 “news census” is significant.Continuing ChallengesThough well-populated, our news landscape is not a healthy one. A survey of several of the digital outlets reveals how endangered this ecosystem is. Helpfully, the survey pin-points some primary obstacles that, if addressed, could improve sustainability and help fill some of the growing information gaps in our region. Below are two of the challenges and related opportunities to support reader revenue and infrastructure modernizatio…

Democracy Program Grant Opportunity

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The essentials 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 grantVisit 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…

Invigorate Chicagoland's Public Institutions

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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.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.…

Illinois General Assembly Advances #CivicsInTheMiddle with Bipartisan Supermajorities

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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 …

Krewasky Salter leads First Division at Cantigny Park

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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,” sai…

New Restorative Justice Court in North Lawndale

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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…

Early Education Takes the Red Carpet

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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-…

USO Launches New Veterans Program

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Guest blog by Justin Miller, Pathfinder's Program ManagerTransitioning 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 hav…

Careers for South Side Residents

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Guest blog by Becky Raymond, Career Pathways' Executive DirectorThe 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 provid…

Supporting Youth Civic Development

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This article is written by Program Officer, Sonia Mathew, and introduces the Democracy Program’s work in youth civic learning. In my three years at the Foundation, I have had the privilege of working with the Democracy Schools Initiative, which has strengthened schoolwide civic learning and engagement throughout Illinois. Illinois Democracy Schools are high schools recognized for consciously promoting civic engagement by all students, focusing intentionally on fostering participatory citizenship and placing an emphasis on helping students understand how the fundamental ideals and principles of our democratic society relate to important current problems, opportunities and controversies. Since 2006, 74 high schools have been recognized throughout the state.Our work to “Engage Youth Civically” builds upon the important foundation that Democracy Schools have created to ensure that our young people are informed, actively participate in their communities, and have healthy civic dispositions.…

Repelling Attacks on Press Freedom

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This article is the fifth in a series, written by program officer Andres Torres, introducing the Democracy Program’s work in journalism. Read our prior posts to learn about our goal to create an information-rich region and our three other strategies to support this goal: telling the untold stories, enhancing collaboration, engagement, and entrepreneurship, and investing in human capital.The McCormick Foundation’s commitment to defending press freedom originates with our establishment. As Robert R. McCormick wrote in his will, he hoped his charitable trust would use his bequest “to assist in repelling any attacks upon the right of freedom of speech and freedom of the press.” He recognized that informing the public, the central responsibility of the press, carries risk. In the U.S., the First Amendment to our Constitution sought to mitigate this risk and provide the American press a protection from censorship to which the English press was vulnerable. Over two centuries since the First …

Investing in Human Capital

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This article is the fourth in a series, written by program officer Andres Torres, introducing the Democracy Program’s work in journalism. Read our prior posts to learn about our goal to create an information-rich region and two of our strategies to support this goal: telling the untold stories and enhancing collaboration, engagement, and entrepreneurship.Much has been written about the challenges of being a journalist in today’s media environment. Resources are scarce, advancement opportunities limited, the public’s perception sour, and the outlook bleak. For the sake of our democracy, however, we need people to thrive in this industry. Therefore, we are investigating how to support those who persist in their service, especially women and people of color, whose voices need to be elevated if journalism is going to reflect and resonate with the residents it must serve. When I started at the McCormick Foundation in 2017, I embarked on a listening tour to learn from reporters at various s…

Enhancing Collaboration, Engagement, and Entrepreneurship

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This article is the third in a series, written by program officer Andres Torres, introducing the Democracy Program’s work in journalism. Read our prior posts to learn about our goal to create an information-rich region and our first strategy to support this goal: telling the untold stories.In my conversations with people in local media, I have heard many compelling ideas for how to improve the process of developing and telling our region’s stories. Some of these ideas have been tested, others have yet to be attempted. In the Democracy Program, we hope to support innovative activities with the promise to set the practice of local reporting on a more sustainable path. Specifically, we are interested in work that invites partnership, engages the region’s residents, and experiments with new solutions. CollaborationTo optimize limited resources. To leverage complementary skills. To extend reach. To augment impact. Our partners in media cite numerous reasons for informally and formally coll…

Telling the Untold Stories

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This article is the second in a series, written by program officer Andres Torres, introducing the Democracy Program’s work in journalism. Read our prior post to learn about our goal to create an information-rich region. In 2015, 15 locomotives operating in five Chicago railyards were upgraded. There are likely hundreds of locomotives operating at any given time in our region, so are 15 new ones significant? To some, including residents living near those railyards, they might have been. The government invested almost $20 million to upgrade the old engines because they were releasing over 7.5 tons of particulate matter and almost 200 tons of nitrogen oxide annually. The overhauls cut emissions by about 75%, comparable to taking about 10,000 cars off the road.In 2014, concerned citizens noticed healthy trees being cut down in their neighborhoods. There are often worthwhile reasons for taking down live trees, but these residents were unsure. They brought their concerns to a local environme…

Creating an Information-Rich Region

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This article is the first in a series, written by program officer Andres Torres, introducing the Democracy Program’s work in journalism.” Every election, about a night or two before voting, my family gathers to caucus. Over a meal and a drink, we share research on candidates, try to decode any ballot initiatives, and discuss the merits of our options. We were fortunate during Chicago’s recent election to have a range of sources to draw from and inform our debate. New initiatives like Chi.Vote collected articles from local outlets so we could see, for example, education coverage from Chalkbeat Chicago alongside campaign finance data from Reform for Illinois and an article from The Daily Line offering context on the donors fueling the campaign. New outlets and new ventures augmented coverage available from long-standing sources, such as the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Reader, WBEZ, and local TV stations. As we moved down the ballot, however, we had to dig harder to find i…

No Small Matter

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No Small Matter is the first feature documentary to explore the most overlooked, underestimated, and powerful force for good in America today: early childhood education. Through poignant stories and surprising humor, the film lays out the overwhelming evidence for the importance of the first five years, and reveals how our failure to act on that evidence has resulted in an everyday crisis for American families. No Small Matter will be debuting in Illinois this summer as part of larger campaign to raise awareness about the challenges and opportunities faced in early childhood.

A Statewide Legal Aid Hotline Established to Serve Illinois Veterans

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In 2013, an amendment to the Access to Justice Act created the Illinois Access to Civil Justice Council, with the mandate to create a pilot statewide legal assistance hotline and coordinated network of legal support services for military personnel, veterans, and their families. This effort is funded by a $2 filing fee on all civil filings until 2020. The Illinois Equal Justice Foundation (IEJF) was charged with the implementation of this network now called the Illinois Armed Forces Legal Aid Network (IL-AFLAN). Why is this important for the veteran community? Civil legal problems destabilize families and can be barriers to benefits, housing, and employment. The top civil legal needs fall into the broad categories of housing, family, and consumer law issues. In addition, veterans often need assistance with VA benefits and appeals and discharge upgrades.IL-AFLAN provides free legal aid services across Illinois utilizing a network of 10 legal aid organizations and law school clinics. In …

Illinois General Assembly Debates #CivicsInTheMiddle Grades

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Fresh off successful implementation of a high school civics course requirement, the Illinois General Assembly is considering driving high quality civic learning down to the middle grades. House Bill (HB) 2265 would require a semester of civics within grades 6, 7, or 8, including instruction on government institutions, discussion of current and societal issues, service learning, and simulations of democratic processes. The dilemma: Middle school students are ill-prepared for informed and effective civic engagement in our democracy.According to the 2014 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in Civics, only 23% of 8th graders demonstrate proficiency in civic knowledge and skills, with a stark civic achievement gap along racial and ethnic lines.44% of school districts have reduced time for social studies since the enactment of No Child Left Behind in 2001.The solution: High-quality civic learning opportunities in Illinois middle schools for ALL students can help reverse this…