Neighborhoods Initiative



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The UIC Neighborhoods Initiative (UICNI) is a flagship program of the Great Cities Institute.

GCI was a pioneer in the national movement to harness the resources of universities in service to communities. UICNI gained early funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Community Outreach Partnership Centers (COPC) grant program. The COPC grant, no longer available, supported colleges and universities to apply their human, intellectual and institutional resources to the challenge of revitalizing distressed communities.

Through the UICNI initiative, GCI and UIC are able to carry out their collective mission of serving the local community through engaged scholarship, research and service at the local community and metropolitan region level.

Organizational Model: Multi-Disciplinary, Campus-Wide Partnership

Since its inception, UICNI has approached its work with communities as an opportunity to build partnerships that are mutually beneficial for the university community (faculty, scholars, and students) as well as the external community.

As a result, UICNI was formed based on a unique organizational model that combines resources from numerous units and colleges and coordinates multi-disciplinary, campus-wide partnerships between community organizations and UIC students and faculty.

The UICNI initiative typically includes technical assistance and training to community-based organizations, institutions, and local government agencies in:

  • Program development
  • Implementation
  • Applied research
  • Formal evaluations of ongoing community programs
  • Participatory planning

A current priority of The Great Cities Institute Neighborhood Initiative is programming focused on Participatory Budgeting in Chicago.

Brief History of UIC Neighborhoods Initiative (UICNI)

The UIC Neighborhoods Initiative (UICNI) promotes and facilitates partnerships between UIC faculty, staff and students, and elected officials, residents, and organizations in neighborhoods throughout the city. Historically, UICNI has pursued grant funding to implement community and economic development programs, primarily in the Pilsen, East and West Garfield Park, Near West Side, North and South Lawndale, West Town, and Humboldt Park neighborhoods. Once funding was secured, UICNI brokered partnerships, administered funds, collaboratively developed and implemented programs, and performed evaluations. Programs have focused on securing more affordable housing, youth development, civic engagement, capacity building, leadership development, improved educational resources, increasing employment, and redevelopment of commercial areas.

Over the past twenty years, UICNI has secured more than $6.5 million dollars, and implemented more than thirty community and economic development programs. UICNI has recruited over 100 students and 65 faculty members to work with over 100 neighborhood groups on community projects. Most importantly, hundreds of thousands of community members have benefited from the programs in their neighborhoods. UICNI has maintained its focus on collaboration with neighborhood groups, elected officials, institutions and residents through its’ current projects including annual implementation of participatory budgeting and community planning projects in multiple communities throughout the city.

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