Skip to main content

The Chicago Community Trust Outstanding Community Plan Award

Enlace Chicago for the Little Village Quality-of-Life Plan

Eric Young Smith

“Our vision is a community that is educated, peaceful, united, clean, and prosperous.”

It’s one thing to have a vision. It’s another to develop a vision with hard data, with inclusive grassroots input, with achievable goals and strategies, and most of all, with a diverse coalition of partners committed to making it a reality.

In 2013, Enlace Chicago, with funding from the McCormick Foundation, brought together over 650 residents and 80 partner organizations in a six-month, comprehensive community planning process that produced the Little Village Quality-of-Life Plan.

The effort drew upon and expanded techniques used to produce Enlace’s 2005 quality-of-life plan as part of LISC’s New Communities Program. Included were data collection and analysis, public meetings with electronic voting, working groups, one-on-ones and focus groups - all guided by a Steering Committee of 40 community leaders representing 22 community institutions. Eight priority areas were identified: Arts & Culture, Economic Development, Education, Green Space & Recreation, Health, Housing, Immigration and Safety.

Twenty seven strategies were outlined, each assigned to a lead organization or collaboration, each with a timeline and a specific measurable objective. Included are increasing living-wage jobs, expanding early childhood slots, developing new recreational spaces, reducing chronic illness in the community and deepening investment in at-risk youth to combat violence and victimization.

Positive change flowed almost immediately, spurred by a community refocused and reengaged by the process. Roots to Wellness Collaborative has issued a Little Village Health Needs Assessment; Youth Safety Network released a Youth Safety Report; the Education Collaborative is advancing a community schools model that enhances parent involvement and early childhood services. Brick-and- mortar plans also are advancing with the St. Anthony Hospital/Focal Point Development; expansion of a Unilever plant; partnering with Mercy Housing; and conversion of Paderewski School to a center for young adults and their children.

The Plan’s biggest achievement, however, is not on any list. “The document is great,” sums up Enlace Executive Director Katya Nuques, “but more important is the way it lives in people’s minds...and in their hearts.”