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Chicago Plans 2015 Ends…Chicago Plans 2016 Begins


When a community organization led by Dennis Deer and two of his North Lawndale neighbors won their bid for a new neighborhood plan from the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) late last year, he was thrilled at the prospect of taking part in such an important project. He was also a little nervous.

Despite having a fair amount of experience facilitating meetings, Deer was a rookie to the world of community planning.

Eager to prepare for the process, he and his colleagues applied to participate in Chicago Plans – a LISC-led effort, funded by the Chicago Community Trust, to empower community leaders with the skills they need to devise, execute and participate in planning initiatives in neighborhoods across the city.

“We thought we might as well pursue whatever tools could help us, but we never thought coming into Chicago Plans that it would include so much that’s relevant to what we’re doing in North Lawndale,” said Deer.

As a member of the first class of Chicago Plans participants, Deer said the series left him feeling confident as he prepares to kick off a comprehensive planning process in North Lawndale.

Held over the course of four, full-day workshops last Fall, Chicago Plans incorporated the Technology of Participation facilitation model championed by the Institute of Cultural Affairs in the U.S.A. Commonly known as ToP, the theory emphasizes the contributions of everyone in a room and finding the best available consensus, equipping participants with the practical and emotional skills necessary to lead inclusive, productive processes.


“The workshops gave us the opportunity to build a strong team,” said Thomas Applegate, above right, executive director of the North River Commission. “That was something we had hoped would happen, and we’ll make good use of it moving forward.”

Photos by Gordon Walek


Chicago Plans comprised 10 teams, each including three members, representing neighborhoods across the city. Notably, each team drew members from varying institutions within their respective communities, allowing participants to develop the kinds of cross-organizational relationships necessary for community planning.

Team Albany Park, for example, consisted of representatives from two community nonprofits and a staffer from the local alderman’s office.

“The workshops gave us the opportunity to build a strong team,” said Thomas Applegate, executive director of the North River Commission. “That was something we had hoped would happen, and we’ll make good use of it moving forward.”

Like Deer in North Lawndale, Applegate’s team was recently selected to partner in a planning process for their neighborhood with the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) and the City of Chicago. Albany Park borders several neighborhoods with booming real estate markets, and Applegate said he wanted to participate in Chicago Plans to ensure residents are eventually provided with a meaningful say in the redevelopment of their community.

“Development is marching in our direction and just about everybody thinks it’s already tipped over into Albany Park or is about to do so,” he said. “Whatever we can do to encourage the community to play a role in that development is a positive thing.”

True to his hopes, Applegate said Chicago Plans provided his team with multiple opportunities to practice facilitation techniques that will allow it to work through complex issues and draft a plan that is embraced by the community.


The Chicago Plans sessions are designed to give community leaders the skills they need to devise, execute and participate in planning initiatives in neighborhoods across the city.


For his part, Deer said Chicago Plans exceeded his expectations thanks largely to its emphasis on examining leadership styles and conflict resolution techniques in addition to the nuts and bolts of community planning.

“If Chicago Plans was to be summed up quickly, I’d say there’s so much more to it than you might expect,” he said. “If you’re looking to do a comprehensive plan or quality-of-life study or anything along those lines, this series will give you so many of the tools you need.”

Team applications for the Spring 2016 series of Chicago Plans are now available, and are due on Monday, February 29. Workshops will take place in April and May.

Click here to learn more and apply for Chicago Plans.

For more information, contact Jake Ament at (312) 422-9573 or jament@lisc.org.

Posted in New Communities Network, Albany Park, North Lawndale

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Local Initiatives Support Corporation Chicago connects neighborhoods to the resources they need to become stronger and healthier.

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