One Cause At a Time – Archive

An Archive of Chicago Now One Cause at a Time Posts

Archive for June 2019

Meet Your Neighbor: Gery Chico & LISC Chicago

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There are many ways to impact Chicago’s neighborhoods: strategic community development initiatives, hands-on volunteer involvement, and political engagement. This month, LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation) Chicago is proud to announce that former mayoral candidate Gery Chico is stepping forward to serve as Board Chair for the organization.

Partnering with other community organizations, LISC Chicago’s mission and vision focus on creating socially and economically vibrant neighborhoods with living-wage jobs, thriving local businesses, quality housing options, and reliable transportation. With its values of stewardship, relationship building, commitment, and coordinated action, LISC Chicago shares the same spirit of collaboration and community building as many of the other Chicago-based organizations featured in the past. With its focus on comprehensive community development, investing and economic development through engaging local organizations and neighborhood residentchrome_2019-06-23_11-34-22s, LISC Chicago’s impact has allowed many Chicago-area communities to be uplifted…

And Gery Chico intends to further that work as LISC Chicago’s new Board Chair.

Before running for mayor in 2019, Gery Chico served in a variety of civic roles, including

  • Chair of the Illinois State Board of Education
  • Board Chairman for City Colleges of Chicago
  • Board President of the Chicago Park District
  • President of the Chicago Board of Education
  • Chief of Staff to Mayor Richard M. Daley

Although currently working as an attorney and current partner at Chico & Nunes, P.C., Gery Chico has also lived in nine different Chicago neighborhoods and has a unique perspective on uplifting our neighborhoods.

The most exciting aspect of this news is that Gery Chico is “doubling down” on community engagement in light of the recent mayoral election. At a time when many candidates stand for office but seem to fade after the election, Gery Chico seems to have gained further enthusiasm and passion for uplifting Chicago neighborhoods. It demonstrates not only a strong commitment to his stated values as a candidate but also serves a potent reminder that fostering strong Chicago neighborhoods – and building communities – is within the grasp of any Chicago resident. As he stated upon the announcement of his Board Chairmanship:

“I understand what neighborhoods need—especially when they’re being invested in. I’m excited about what we can do at LISC to bring an even greater amount of investment to them.”

Sunset 61st and PulaskiAs LISC Chicago Board Chair, Gery Chico plans to focus on community business development, assisting communities in developing Quality-of-Life Plans (QLPs) and developing and supporting violence prevention programs focused on youth recreation. For Gery Chico, these neighborhood-based Quality-of-Life Plans are not just great co initiatives, but also serve as a key method to foster further neighborhood growth:

When I was running for mayor, I would literally wave around the Quality-of-Life Plans that LISC had done in different neighborhoods…If you look at these plans and what they call for, like public thoroughfares, what public transportation improvements should be made, what business improvements should be made—these Quality-of-Life Plans serve as a blueprint for how to bring back neighborhoods and they come direct from people that live and work in the community.”

Fostering community and economic development in Chicago’s neighborhoods is an ongoing task which cannot be performed by one solitary individual. Collaboration, communication, and commitment are required in order to handle many of the challenges our city faces. Although Gery Chico was denied one opportunity, his new role as LISC Chicago Board Chair serves as a different opportunity to make a positive impact on Chicago’s neighborhoods and foster the very values he discussed as a candidate.

Seeing a former candidate live up to their promises is very heartening; learning about an organization that fosters growth through collaboration doubly so. That quality makes both Gery Chico and LISC Chicago neighbors worth knowing.

Have a great Chicago-based neighborhood or community organization you wish to spotlight? Please comment below, let us know via our Facebook page, or email directly via this contact form. (You can learn more about me via my LinkedIn profile.
And as always, thanks for reading!



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Like many startups, nonprofits, and social enterprises, many businesses are adopting a mission-driven philosophy of driving social good. For many organizations and highly prominent individuals, doing good should be “baked into” their corporate mission. As Anand Giriharadas argues in Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World, this attitude can inadvertently perpetuate the very systems they are looking to change, and his arguments make Winners Take All a must-read for any socially-minded mission-driven organization or individual.

Despite the book’s subtitle, Winners Take All takes a well-mannered, thoughtful approach to its arguments. As Giriharadas explains throughout the book, many organizations and individuals taking a “business” approach to driving social good often rely on tactics and thinking that not only lack awareness of deeper systemic issues, but avoid engaging the greater community and can exacerbate certain problems. Many of the “social elite” (consisting of higher level businesses and individuals) focus more on superficial changes than handling deeper, systemic issues, and this approach “treats symptoms, not root causes; it does not change the fundamentals of what ails us” . Adopting problem-solving strategies that provide business-friendly results, those organizations and individuals looking to drive social change avoid acknowledging or addressing greater systemic issues…or even worse, remaining silent about acknowledging their own complicity and/or responsibility for addressing those issues

Winners Take All supports its criticism with some exceptional examples and well-reasoned arguments. Discussing a variety of issues ranging from philanthropy to new business models, Giriharadas provides sharp insights without ever descending into derision. With its matter-of-fact prose and succinct, descriptive manner, Winners Take All manages to highlight concerns without condemning those involved. One great example is how Giriharadas discusses the Sackler family’s involvement with philanthropy as they fostered the opioid crisis, as recently featured on Last Week With John Oliver:


Moving from the microcosm of TED Talks to the larger view of globalism, Winners Take All advocates a strong case against the prevailing belief that “what’s good for business is good for greater society.” In a business landscape that is becoming more focused on greater social benefit, there is also a greater need for introspection and honest self-exploration about their own potential complicity in fostering systemic issues. Such introspection and self-inventory, Girharadas argues in Winners Take All, is a critical step that needs to happen to ensure success…and that many organizations seem unwilling to take.

Many nonprofits, social enteprises, and mission-driven businesses – both within and outside of Chicago – should consider reading Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World as part of their strategic planning processs. Many individuals looking to drive social change should also read Anand Giriharadas’ book as well. Fostering social change is not an easy process, and Winners Take All provides an exceptional argument for self-inventory, introspection, and awareness. Highly recommended.

Further thoughts? Insights? Please feel free to leave your comments below or join the conversation via our Facebook page. Please feel free to join our Patreon community, or email me directly via this contact form.

As always, thanks for reading!

An Open Letter to

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We need to have a serious talk.

Many people, professional organizations, nonprofits, and other social endeavors rely on your service for a basic community-building tool that provides event planning, RSVP, member contact, and other services for a small price. (I should know – I use meetup to organize groups around caregiving, coworking, and Doctor Who). You’re recovering from a recent service outage on your site, and although your acquisition by WeWork has led to further growth…you’ve also had some hiccups. (Like, in retrospect, adopting “Resist” groups as part of your philosophy.) But in short… has way too many faults and issues, making it very hard on organizers to use your service. And worse, you rarely listen to Meetup organizers when they provide feedback, choosing to charge ahead rather than allow Meetup to become a truly effective community-building tool.

For example, customer service – when I received an e-mail from “Katie at Meetup” about a billing problem, I e-mailed her back with some information as well as my follow-up. Suffice it to say, I received an autoresponse that suggested articles that might “help” me solve my problem. After reaching out via Twitter, I was fortunate to get another employee to respond – an actual flesh and blood person. (Although I have to say that although your Twitter outreach is excellent, you might want to rethink how Meetup engages on Facebook. Too few posts and too many complaints about site functionality.

An example of Meetup's customer engagement

An example of Meetup’s customer engagement

And speaking of site functionality and user experience – several years ago, you asked a few Meetup organizers (including myself) to beta test a new format for the site. We did, and we gave you honest feedback: we hated it. But you went ahead and implemented it, and the site is a mix of high-end “kewl” graphics that make it difficult for us to promote our events…and back end graphic interfaces that were out of date in the late 1990s. Even now, Meetup’s web site seems built more for people to find “last minute” events (which make planning difficult) rather than build and engage a community. (Speaking from experience, two-thirds of my two largest Meetup groups have not attended a Meetup in the last two years, and purging them is a long, arduous process).

Although Meetup has some basic social media functionality (such as posting to Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin), the ability to generate a Facebook Event page from a Meetup event would be especially beneficial in driving traffic and membership to our Meetup site. After all, Eventbrite allows that, and they’re free (with limitations). Sure, I could create an Eventbrite page for a Meetup event and then generate a Facebook Event…but if I’m attempting to drive traffic to a Meetup group, wouldn’t it make more sense to streamline the process? And Meetup will sometimes send e-mails about upcoming events to members while organizers send similar e-mails; wouldn’t it be wiser to give organizers a reason to further invest in Meetup? (People can join and use Meetup for free, and with your pricing system based on the number of members…well, we can’t easily purge absent members, and so we’re stuck paying for members who do not engage our community yet are unable or unwilling to leave).


That’s part of the problem that many organizers (including myself) see with – you ask organizers (who pay to use the service) for feedback, and then ignore our feedback. As paying users of Meetup, that behavior demonstrates poor customer service as well as a short-sighted approach to online and offline community building. Especially given the fact that Meetup “owns” a group’s data – after all, trying to funnel an entire community through one platform should mean a greater willingness to empower organizers and users to engage more effectively.

I can see the counter-argument from some who are reading this open letter: “But Gordon, if Meetup is so ineffective and you’re not reaching all of your members, why not switch?”. Ironically, Meetup’s philosophy of aggressively recruiting new members without any further incentive results in a passive audience who believes themselves to be reliant on the service. (I have asked my Meetup members about options; few are willing to switch over entirely). Besides, the point of investing in Meetup for many organizations is that the site alleviates and streamlines the work of online and offline community building…and with the service focusing more on entrepreneurship and community building as a business rather than a social function, Meetup is slowly becoming a relic. Soon, Meetup will be joining services like Friendster, MySpace, Prodigy and Compuserve as electronic communities that quickly became outdated and obsolete without acknowledging the needs of modern users.

I don’t expect you to do anything, Meetup, and that’s the sad thing…there’s no vision, no discernable leadership, no other mission other than growth. For organizers like myself, the possibility of switching to another service is difficult but possible. But for those individuals who are seeking support, small organizations looking to build advocates, and nonprofit organizations looking to mobilize…your apathy and nonresponsiveness are particularly telling. And once you leave, they will be stuck.

Thanks for listening,
Gordon Dymowski
Chicago Now’s One Cause At a Time

Written by gordondym

June 5, 2019 at 8:46 am