Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Accelerating Sustainability in Chicago's 77 Communities

What will it look like to "accelerate" sustainability in Chicago's 77 communities?

That is the goal of The Institute of Cultural Affairs' "Accelerate 77" program. During the first part of this program two years ago, over 200 interns scoured Chicago neighborhoods identifying sustainability initiatives of all sorts happening all over the city. The second part of the program was the "Share Fair," held on September 15 of this year at Truman College, which brought representatives from many of those initiatives together to share their work and learn about resources available to enhance it. 

I joined ICA as a Fellow in August, after leaving The Field Museum, and now I'm working with them to build on the Toolkit approach for the next phase of their "Accelerate 77" program.

Here's the project concept. What do you think? We are looking for input, so please share your thoughts!

P.S. ICA is a very unique example of sustainable, intergenerational living and working. They own and operate out of the oldest social service center in the Midwest, and the 7th and 8th floors are an intentional learning community. They are now in their 50th year--"Midway in a Century of Care" is their slogan for the year. ICA'ers have run community development projects all around the world. At any given time, there are many of them wandering the halls at ICA, volunteering their time and always ready and eager to share their knowledge and give advice and new ideas. It's an amazing environment to work in. They decided that sustainability is the community question of our century--which is why they started the A77 project.

Learn more on their website.
Also see a great video about their intentional living community.

It's a wonderful home and I feel so honored to be welcomed there.

Project Concept for Accelerate 77:  Phase III

Goal:  Build on previous project phases of Accelerate 77, ICA’s expertise in participatory facilitation and leadership development, and the assets of the Greenrise building to design a framework that will allow for maximum impact on community sustainability and resiliency in Chicago neighborhoods.

Objective: Encourage and support grassroots initiatives that, in a bottom-up fashion, will assist in realizing regional sustainability and climate action plans, e.g., “Sustainable Chicago 2015.”

1.  Collaborate in the implementation of Community-Led Sustainability Roadmaps in three community clusters. With an emphasis on action, ICA will engage residents in identifying best practices and effective solutions to accomplish pilot projects of sustainability. This process, which can be replicated in other Chicago communities, will occur through an ongoing mix of participatory planning, coordinated action, and collective reflection to garner lessons learned.

2.  Create a Chicago Sustainability Leaders Network that provides training through workshops on facilitation and sustainable practices; develops a collective voice around key sustainability issues in Chicago; and, engages leaders in peer sharing and cross-community mentoring.

3.  Produce a Sustainability Resources Database organized by geography and topic and made available on the A77 website.  Asset maps from community workshops would be incorporated into the database.

4.  Demonstrate a model of creative sustainable culture for living and working at the ICA building -- the “Greenrise Uptown Learning Laboratory. This vintage 8-story landmark building is the largest non-profit service center in the Midwest and is home to diverse tenants that include many social service agencies and a residential community of voluntary simplicity. Because a dynamic “green culture” and energy efficient eco-system are being established here, it is an engaging venue for hosting community organizations and training community leaders in community resiliency.  

5.  Facilitate Intergenerational Intern Learning and Engagement in addressing environmental, economic, and social justice challenges in local communities.  From high school and university students through retirees, interns will learn and work together on community engagement, training and communication as described in the project components above.


  1. We are very pleased, Jenny, that you are apart of the Accelerate 77 team. Terry

  2. Just catching up since the URL change. ICA has been a leader in demonstrating leading-edge technologies and processes for 50 years. A77 represents a significant shift in approach, with even more trust in local people and grassroots initiatives. Your experience and participation lend impetus to this new turn to the local.

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