Friday, September 30th

Last updateFri, 01 May 2015 4pm

 About the Project

The Mission: Accelerating Sustainable Initiatives in Chicago’s 77 Community Areas 

Community-based sustainability initiatives are taking place across the metropolitan area of Chicago. These, however, are often relatively isolated activities with limited interaction between them. Though many organizations, foundations, companies, and government agencies have programs and resources to assist local sustainability efforts, many communities are unaware of these opportunities or unfamiliar with ways to access them.

The Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA) is the organizing sponsor of “accelerate77” and created the program in order to increase the role and positive impact of local community actions. Our underlying strategy is to IDENTIFY current sustainability initiatives in all of Chicago’s 77 community areas; CONNECT them with one another to inspire new ideas, practices, self-consciousness and motivation through peer interchange; and COLLABORATE with residents in systematic learning, planning, and collective action.

It is anticipated that the project will thereby ACCELERATE  sustainability in a bottom-up fashion driven by practical action, expanded imagination, and greater organizational capacities among local groups. A key part of the accelerate portion of the mission is the emerging Chicago Sustainability Leaders Network (CSLN) which is a diverse, intergenerational group working on a wide vareity of issues in communities across Chicago who are passionate about learning from one another and working across communities for widespread, lasting change.   

Having your profile submitted is a requirement to participating in the city roundtable discussion!


RSVP today for the September 28th CSLN Gathering


Wednesday Sept 28

4:30PM - 6:30PM

 Austin Library

5615 West Race Avenue, Chicago, IL 60644


Transit Suggestion:

Library is located next to the CENTRAL Green Line Stop

The Chicago Sustainability Leaders Network (CSLN) will be gathering for our bi-monthly meeting in late September. Meetings are open to everyone. Come join an existing project or bring your own initiative!

Agenda topics for this meeting include:

      • Next Steps for CSLN Recycling Initiative 
      • Nationwide October Climate Change Conversations
      • Your Initiatives & Announcements
      • and More!

Everyone is encouraged to join the Slow Roll Ride through Austin after the gathering. The ride is organized in partnership with Build Chicago and so will start and end at their building at 5100 W Harrison St, Chicago, IL 60644. The ride is starting early at 5:30, so CSLN meeting attendees can join up with the group at the halfway point.

INSS Conference a Success!


The ICA hosted the Midwest site of the Integrated Network for Social Sustainability (INSS) Conference from June 8-10th at ICA GreenRise. As a multi-site conference, INSS encompassed seven different regions across the US and UK. The intent of the conference was to convene academics and practitioners working across the broadly defined arena of social sustainability. Over 65 people participated at the Chicago site, and 150+ were engaged across all the sites.

The conference sessions included on-site presenters as well as cross-site virtual presentations. The format for the on-site sessions was informed by the Permaculture flower design. Each session highlighted unique perspectives from academics, policymakers, and community practitioners on one of the 7 domains, or petals, of the flower. By giving a platform to diverse perspectives, participants were able to create a holistic and nuanced view of social sustainability in 7 different arenas to more fully understand the breadth of a particular area.

The cross-site sessions explored national and international conversations on sustainability, including the Biophilic Cities movement and Invisible Disasters, referring to natural disasters that have detrimental consequences that are often unaddressed. During the cross-site sessions, each site had the opportunity to stream a session to the other sites. ICA hosted a CSLN member panel, featuring Alvyn Walker, Jamie Ponce, Tim Heppner, Melanie Eckner, and Joseph Taylor. The panel, facilitated by Caitlin Sarro, emphasized the value of the network, ranging from new relationships formed to collaborative events and ongoing projects.

Across the diverse approaches of the three days, the group noticed several themes unifying the discussion. Conversations frequently referred back to sustainability as a fluid concept that should be expanded upon and redefined. Conference attendees noted that sustainability is about people and resiliency to threats, both from the climate and from damaging cultural and political norms.

Attendees discussed that a cultural paradigm shift and commitment to prioritize equity is necessary for long-term resilience. After each session, attendees wrote down something new they would do or look into as a result of the session to post on a collective sticky wall. The final results range from intentions to learn more, meet new people, spread the information they learned, and more. See the write up for the full list of actions.

CSLN panelists

Finance & Economics session

World cafe table talk



July CSLN Network Meeting

On July 21st, CSLN members gathered for the summer bi-monthly meeting at Alliance for the Great Lakes. The space was beautiful and overlooked Millennium Park - many thanks to our gracious hosts! 36 people attended the meeting, 13 of whom were new to the CSLN. The meeting began with a light Mingle Bingo game to help members learn new things about one another.

Reviewing membership structure

The group briefly split in two so that new members could get better acquainted with the CSLN and returning members could discuss various options for membership structure. Returning members reviewed the CSLN values around membership, results of the recent membership survey, and proposed membership structures created by the CSLN Shared Leadership team. The intent of a membership structure is to allow for more ways for people and organizations to engage with the CSLN. The group came to the consensus that a semi-formal membership structure with clearly delineated membership types and corresponding expectations for benefits and investments would best achieve that goal. After incorporating the group feedback, the CSLN Shared Leadership team will share the next steps of formalizing membership with the network.

Enjoying Millennium Park

The second half of the meeting focused on an ongoing conversation on how CSLN can help inform city policy, programs and partnerships. This specific discussion was about an opportunity to work with the city around education and awareness strategies to reduce recycling contamination throughout Chicago. If this project moves forward, it will be the first tangible step in fostering the 'in-between space' between policy makers and grassroots community organizations that the CSLN has been seeking. The proposal was  finalized and submitted to the city after input from the meeting was incorporated. 

The night ended with some members celebrating summer in a fun night out at the Millennium Park - listening to Heritage Blues Orchestra and Toshi Reagon,  while talking all things sustainability!


Get Involved in the CSLN Policy Group 

CSLN Policy Group is currently working on the following tasks for the first quarter of 2016:

  • Creating a document with sustainability contacts/point persons throughout city departments  (water, transit, water reclamation, etc) 
  • Creating a document that helps members have conversations with their alderman and local officials around sustainability planning and how it links to violence prevention, job creation, and health
  • Assessment of where we as a network see different City sustainability policies. Whats working well/what areas are not getting the required attention. We want to work on this before we begin to think about what policy's we may be able to help draft. 

If you're interested in working on any of these items or learning more about the policy group, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.