June 1, 2017

Urban Juncture Foundation's Safe Space at Bronzeville Community Garden

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Urban Juncture Foundation's Safe Space at Bronzeville Community Garden

Enterprise’s Collaborative Action Grants provide organizations with $5,000 to build community agency, engage local voices and connect to long-term community goals. Round two of the 2017 Collaborative Actions grant cycle is open now. Apply by June 9, 2017.

In this blog post, Urban Juncture Foundation in Chicago, one of 15 recipients of an Enterprise Collaborative Action Grant in 2016, talks about the Safe Space Collaborative Action project and Bronzeville SOUP event.

How did this Collaborative Action capture the spirit of your community?

Our Collaborative Action helped us bring together our community in a Labor Day Block Party and in support of neighborhood entrepreneurs through the Bronzeville SOUP event. The celebration of young and old, long-time residents and recent arrivals, blue-collar and white-collar workers, and everything in between helped us to capture and build the “village” spirit of our 51st Street neighborhood. Bronzeville SOUP captured the spirit of entrepreneurship that has been central to the development of Bronzeville and this “Black Metropolis” for decades.

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How did this contribute to increased capacity for your local community?

Our Collaborative Action helped us build capacity in four ways. First, it increased goodwill within the community by affirming that by working together we could move the community forward. Second, it deepened our network within the community. For example, the Block Party allowed us to connect with a group of young men in the community, many of whom are unemployed and often viewed as troublemakers. They engaged in discussions and, at the end of the day, joined us in cleaning up. This had not happened before.

Third, it allowed us to engage external stakeholders. In particular, Bronzeville SOUP brought us together with a team, including several students, faculty, and staff from Illinois Institute of Technology which is located in Bronzeville, but generally has not engaged with 51st Street neighborhood activities. Fourth, it strengthened our team by raising our visibility and attracting like-minded individuals.

How did this Collaborative Action impact long-term neighborhood goals?

Our action is helping to shape longer term goals for 51st Street and Bronzeville. For example, we have already had a series of conversations with our partner Friends of 51st Street about developing an expanded set of community activities to engage the neighborhood and expand safe space. Likewise, Bronzeville SOUP is helping catalyze discussions with Bronzeville Retail Initiative (BRI) about defining a broader local business formation for Bronzeville.

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What were the challenges and opportunities presented by the collaborative action?

The need for resources to do these kinds of things is huge. We’re happy we did it, but we recognize it’s a drop in the bucket in terms of what we need to do to build social capital. The challenges mainly have to do with engaging the people we want to engage, which is a broad cross section. Many people came out to participate and had informal discussions with young men who are unemployed and often engaged in illegal activities. But it was the first time we’ve worked to build trust in their community in 10 years, the first time that we had a substantive conversation with many of these young men. We’d love to do a lot more of that.

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