We recognize that opportunities occur outside of our general operating support grantmaking that require an urgent response and a more long-term and strategic investment in addressing our service region’s health needs. Since 2018, we have funded strategic health initiatives by invitation to explore new collaborative opportunities that advance health equity in our region’s communities.
This past year has undoubtedly solidified our community-centered grantmaking approach as the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified the trauma and structural barriers to health that communities in our region face every day. We remain committed to funding both short-term and multi-year opportunities that amplify a bold response to the COVID-19 pandemic and recovery for our region.
One year after our strategic plan was put into action, we began to shape how we would respond to investment opportunities that served our region’s needs beyond our general operating support grantmaking. We learned a lot during this year and carried that forward to the following year.
We continued to develop our strategic initiatives grantmaking strategy due in part to the tumultuous political environment that created fear and uncertainty among our region’s residents, particularly the immigrant community and the nonprofit sector.
We awarded strategic initiative grants for work that mitigated the economic impact of COVID-19 on immigrant and undocumented communities and increased systemic health access for the uninsured and underinsured community.
This year, we considered the impact of each investment opportunity, ensuring that it reflected community insight and was aligned to our mission, vision, and values. We met with community and grantee partners in January 2021 and learned about investment opportunities that are in progress, ready to launch and/or need capacity and resources to scale.
The opportunities listed under 2021 below are initiatives that have a racial/ethnic equity focus and are a critical part to our bold response to strengthen COVID-19 long-term recovery efforts in our region. These are made possible through existing extensive partnerships or collaboratives in which we play a leadership role. We also are engaging with community to co-create some of these efforts and continue exploring opportunities that address health and wellness for residents and organizations.
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The CHW pilot, launched in 2019, is a three-year initiative funded in partnership with Community Memorial Foundation (CMF). It seeks to address the ongoing local need to increase awareness of health and human service resources and connect people to needed services. Both we and CMF are committed to investing in community health workers engaging residents within suburban Cook County. Pilot organizations include Aging Care Connections, Alivio Medical Center, BEDS Plus, Healthcare Alternative Systems, and Mujeres Latinas en Acción. The pilot is coordinated by Health and Medicine Policy Research Group and evaluated by Sinai Urban Health Institute.
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The Health Advocates Academy is a pilot focused on developing, expanding, and centralizing health advocacy and access trainings and resources to build the capacity and knowledge of immigrant-serving community-based organizations, advocates, and institutions. The pilot will include developing a cohort of community-based organizations to co-create a training curriculum, pilot training, and share knowledge regarding shifting healthcare policies related to immigration status that impact health outcomes.
Catalyzed by a response to the twin pandemics of COVID-19 and racism, the Health First Collaborative (HFC) was launched in 2020 by a group of local foundations. HFC invests in community-led, innovative solutions to address the root causes of racial health inequities and improve the physical, mental and social well-being of all individuals and families in Chicagoland. HFC aims to support demonstration pilots that can be replicated and/or scaled. The first cohort of demonstration pilots focuses on community health centers as hubs of health transformation that create deep cross-sector collaborations with community-based organizations and public health departments.
Aligned with statewide outreach and advocacy efforts, The IL Count Me In 2020 Funders Collaborative launched a competitive grant process for 501c3 organizations to conduct educational and direct community outreach to complete a fair and accurate count of all communities.
The outreach had a particular focus on “hard-to-count” communities, historically undercounted populations, and other groups with low self-response rates. Our service region included communities with the lowest 2010 response rates. As one of the few foundations that concentrate resources in Suburban Cook County, we were uniquely positioned to contribute funds into a shared pool of resources to ensure suburban communities were represented in the census count.
With a regional population that is nearly one-third immigrants and mixed-status families, we invest in the Illinois Immigrant Funders Collaborative (IIFC). The IIFC focuses on strengthening the services and infrastructure of community and civic organizations that benefit and seek to expand justice for low-income immigrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers in Illinois. IIFC raises funds from more than 20 local foundations to be used for re-granting to Illinois nonprofits.
In 2018-2019, IIFC focused on the legal and community response to the Public Charge policy.
In 2020, as a direct response to the pandemic, IIFC provided direct cash assistance to families in our region. With a new federal administration, there is a policy window for federal, state, and local immigration legislation focused on creating pathways to citizenship and a focus on detention and deportation policies.
Illinois Partners for Human Service facilitated a comprehensive report that assessed state capacity and identified operational opportunities related to efficient and high-quality human service provision in Illinois and suburban communities in particular. The report informed stakeholders and decision-makers to identify opportunities to expedite and optimize administrative practices while also informing advocacy efforts related to holding state leaders accountable for adequate, proficient, and effective delivery of high-quality services to all Illinois residents.
Composed of more than 120 representatives that include 70 Latinx elected and appointed officials, various health systems, federally qualified health centers, community-based organizations, and community residents, Illinois Unidos has become the voice and entity for addressing the COVID-19 crisis in the Latinx community. Our funding supports COVID-19-related activities, including vaccine equity and outreach that is coordinated with wide-scale public health campaign efforts of the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH), Cook County Department of Public Health (CCDPH), Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). These activities are aligned to evaluation efforts by Partners in Health (PIH)
Philanthropy for a Racially Equitable Greater Chicago (PREGC) is a collective of Chicagoland-based philanthropy affinity groups and foundations that work collectively to engage the philanthropic community in local racial equity and racial justice efforts. PREGC focuses on supporting effective movement-building, aligning investments in emerging strategies, and developing BILPOC professionals within the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors through building individual and organizational capacity.
The Public Charge rule change drastically expanded the list of programs (i.e., Medicaid and SNAP) used in public charge determination. This directly increased fear, anxiety, and confusion in immigrant communities in accessing critical food, medical, and housing assistance out of fear of being targeted or impacting their chances for seeking citizenship in the future. We supported the efforts of Protecting Immigrant Families-Illinois (PIF-IL), a coalition of organizations in Illinois created to address the issue. The coalition worked to disseminate accurate information about the rule change and engage in a legal strategy to challenge the rule that went to United States Supreme Court.
2021 INITIATIVES IN DESIGN PHASE
These strategic initiatives are co-created efforts in progress with community.
Conversations with grantee partners, nonprofit and community leaders revealed how deeply fatigued and stressed nonprofit employees have been. Partners have also been trying to identify flexibility in their HR policies and budgets to support their staff as they face the vicarious trauma of working with and within communities deeply impacted by COVID-19 and navigating their own health and mental health needs and those of their families. We take cues from our peers nationally leading healing justice-informed philanthropy to fund the holistic sustainability and wellness of grantee partners so they can continue to have the capacity to innovate and continuously respond to multiple crises. Our support will allow our grantee partners to provide increased mental health services and programming internally to staff members.
Long-time institutional failures of policing and justice ignited the racial tensions during the summer of 2020 between Chicago communities. Yet, the successful effort to de-escalate the violence in Little Village, a predominantly Mexican community, and North Lawndale, a predominantly Black community, resulted from the deep relationship and trust between organizations and community leaders. Over several years, Black and Latinx community organizations, residents, and leaders have created ad-hoc intentional spaces to realize a vision that addresses the long-standing racial tensions.
In conversations with grantee partners of both communities, they expressed the need for formal investment in these efforts so that intersectional racial justice and solidarity work could shift from crisis response to a deeper partnership between communities and across the region. Support of this effort will expand cross-neighborhood collaboration beyond crisis and violence prevention, deepen capacity to address the structural issues the coalition has identified, and develop a model for community-based intersectional racial justice leadership in our region.
Community institutions recognize the opportunity to leverage their relationships, trust, and physical space to innovate and improve health equity in a comprehensive, holistic, and intersectional lens. We are currently exploring opportunities to reimagine space and health access that focus on hyper-local food access strategies and co-locating mental health, preventive healthcare , and homeless prevention services to be a “one-stop-shop”.
The following are opportunities we are currently exploring as part of our bold response to COVID-19 and towards an equitable recovery in our region.