When Terry Bergdall returned to ICA-USA to serve as CEO, the organization was in the midst of a missional shift to meet the emerging climate crisis. The City of Chicago was also attempting to respond to climate change, but the City’s approach was to convene expert consultants who drew up environmental programs, then tried to sell them to Chicagoans. Terry believed that this top-down approach to policy-making perpetuated the mentality of treating people as consumers, and helped ICA launch the accelerate77 project to instead show people as producers.
A decade later, Terry is continuing to reflect on that paradigm through his work as a faculty member at the Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) Institute, based at DePaul University in Chicago. ABCD Institute, which has a history of partnership with ICA, has been convening a monthly community of practice since last October. Each meeting is a chance for practitioners to explore a program that uses an asset-based approach through presentation and reflection. On the evening of May 30th, 2019, the community of practice met at ICA GreenRise to learn about the accelerate77 project and its current iteration as the Chicago Sustainability Leaders Network.
“We started with the assumption that that community-led initiatives were happening everywhere, in each of Chicago’s 77 community areas” said Terry of accelerate77. The project, therefore, aimed to demonstrate the truth of that assumption by sending students to interview residents and identify assets in each of those communities. After cataloging nearly 1,000 neighborhood-led sustainability projects, ICA organized a Sharing Approaches that Work Conference to bring them all together. Howard Rosing, of the Steans Center at DePaul, recalled that conference for the community of practice: “I met a lot of folks who I ended up partnering with”.
The desire for continued partnership in the wake of accelerate77 led to the creation of Chicago Sustainability Leaders Network (CSLN), a coalition of grassroots leaders and activists from across the city. ICA staff member Caitlin Sarro explained how the the bi-monthly group meetings move around the city, each one an opportunity to showcase a local asset.
This post was written for ICAI’s monthly bulletin the Global Buzz, May 2019.