Halfway Point for Englewood Quality-of-Life Planning - Ready to Act
Community members and members of the Englewood QLP task forces vote on strategic next steps.
Dozens of people gathered in the community room at St. Bernard Hospital in late July to discuss the Englewood Quality-of-Life Plan – so many that there weren’t enough chairs.
“There are so many people here,” said Perry Gunn, Teamwork Englewood’s executive director who kicked off the meeting. “This is a good thing.”
The attendees, who stood, sat, and perched against walls, were enthusiastic and energetic. Some were members of the neighborhood organization, Resident Association of Greater Englewood (RAGE), some were part of Teamwork Englewood and some were committed community advocates. All were ready for action.
The meeting marked the halfway point of the second round of Englewood’s Quality-of-Life planning. Englewood completed its first Quality-of-Life Plan in 2005 as a part of LISC’s New Communities Program and has spent the last 11 years implementing the strategies set in that plan. Much has changed in Englewood over the last decade and the time was right to plan again in 2016.
“We don’t want to just plan, we want to do,” said Gunn. “There are more community residents at the table, in leadership roles. The city and community are all interested in Englewood.”
The current plan is being guided by five task forces focusing on the following areas:
- Health and Wellness
- Jobs and Economic Development
- Public Safety and Security
- Youth and Education
Rosalind Moore of Teamwork Englewood announces the launch of the Englewood Quality-of-Life Business Plan Competition.
At the midway celebration, Rosalind Moore of Teamwork Englewood took the opportunity to make an announcement: In the spirit of “doing while planning”, the Jobs and Economic Development task force is launching an early action project. The task force was charged with identifying and envisioning economic development opportunities such as businesses that could help create a viable and sustainable local economy in the heart of Englewood.
The task force members developed “The Englewood Quality-of-Life Business Plan Competition” and will award local business owners and entrepreneurs who create new or expand small business enterprises and create opportunities for employment within the bounds of the Greater Englewood community area. Each plan is eligible to win up to $40,000 in seed funding. Funding from the competition is coming from Whole Foods, which is opening a new store soon at 63rd Street and Halsted.
The competition is a step forward to introducing new businesses to the once-thriving area.
“One of our strategies was to revitalize the business corridor,” said Moore. “We used to be the second largest shopping district in the City of Chicago. Why can’t we be that again?” Her words were met with thunderous applause.
Another early action project currently underway is the African Drumming Circles – Cultural Lessons in Community Peace, which is part of the Public Safety and Security task force. The drum circles are scheduled throughout the community in public areas. Residents are invited to participate in free lessons and open discussions about culture, community, pride, preservation and activism.
An early action project coming out of Englewood's Quality-of-LIfe planning is the African Drumming Circles – Cultural Lessons in Community Peace, which is part of the Public Safety and Security task force. The drum circles are scheduled throughout the community in public areas.
“We’re exploring, what people want in terms of a healthy community in the face of a lot of the violence,” said MJ Johnson, a consultant for Teamwork Englewood and member of the Public Safety and Security task force. His task force is one that cannot operate in a silo as it affects, and is affected by, the rest. And measuring success can be tricky. “It’s ambiguous, it’s huge, it’s complex and the only thing to do is to chip away at it slowly. It’s not a simple answer.”
The second phase of Quality-of-Life Planning is focused on the delicate balance of planning and action. According to Johnson, there is a need to be flexible, but not at the cost of losing momentum.
Gunn echoes this sentiment. “When people can see ideas that they had sitting around a table actually happen, it gives them an emotional lift, and it sparks more community engagement in the process,” he said. “The key for Englewood is for people to see some activity happening.”
The community advocates in the room are examples of this excitement.
Task force members celebrate the midway point of the Quality-of-Life Planning.
“Everywhere this group goes, I’ll be there,” said Cora Butler, a member of the Youth and Education task force.
For Gunn, the next six months will be focused on building resources and capacity while ensuring there is community consensus around common goals.
“I can’t believe how many people are looking towards the next task force meeting,” Gunn said. “People are excited to have a process where they can contribute their ideas and be heard. They see hope and they want to see this hope turn into action.”
The midway point is only the beginning.
Posted in Englewood