We Will Chicago: December 2021 Update - Metropolitan Planning Council

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We Will Chicago: December 2021 Update

Blue Daring; City of Chicago

Soul Veg City restaurant in Chatham, Chicago

We Will Chicago, the first Chicago citywide plan in more than 50 years, is underway! We Will Chicago has a lot of moving parts, and 2021 has been filled with research, events, surveys, and more. The Metropolitan Planning Council is here to break down what’s been going on in 2021 so that when the draft framework is complete in Summer 2022, you will be more prepared to participate in widespread community engagement through next Fall. 

As a reminder, in 2020 the City of Chicago engaged in pre-planning for We Will Chicago. The City held focus groups to hear from stakeholders about which topics a citywide plan should focus on. In addition, MPC held workshops for Chicago stakeholders to learn and exchange ideas with leaders from other major cities to inform the We Will Chicago process. The workshops resulted in recommendations about the most important values and themes to include in the citywide planning process. 

Many of the themes discussed in the 2020 workshops and focus groups are reflected in the final principles, themes, and pillars of We Will Chicago, which were finalized in early 2021: 

Chicago DPD

2 Principles, 5 Themes, and 7 Pillars of We Will Chicago

  • 2 Principles: Equity & Resiliency
  • 5 Themes: Historical reckoning & trust building; Evaluation of equity impacts; Community engagement; Accountability; Interagency & Cross collaboration. 
  • 7 Pillars: Housing & neighborhoods; Economic development; Transportation & infrastructure; Environment, climate & energy, Arts & culture; Public health & safety; Lifelong learning. 

This year, We Will Chicago activities have strongly focused on pillar research and stakeholder engagement.

Pillar Research Teams

Each pillar area has a research team that is working to create policy objectives and recommendations to be incorporated into We Will Chicago. Each team is made up of individual volunteers (people with lived and professional experience with the topic area) and three community partner organizations. Individual and organizational volunteers were chosen via an open application process in early 2021. Each research team is co-chaired by an individual volunteer and a representative from a relevant city agency (for example, the Housing & Neighborhoods team is co-chaired by a staff member from the Department of Housing). The City’s consultant team facilitates each team. 

The Research Teams began meeting in July 2021, and each had seven meetings in 2021. Documenters attend each meeting, and summaries can be found on the We Will Chicago site shortly after each meeting. 

Chicago DPD

We Will Chicago Pillar Research Team Structure

So far, the Research Teams have been working on creating a shared understanding of their topic area and the relationships between their topic and equity and health. Each team has developed guiding questions and objectives related to their topic area. For example, one guiding question that the Arts & Culture team created is: How can we foster a resilient creative sector that embraces and supports a diverse and varied creative workforce, recognizing that past support has not always been equitable?

The Metropolitan Planning Council is involved in the Research Teams in two ways: 1) MPC Manager of Health Equity and Planning Chloe Gurin-Sands is a volunteer on the Public Health & Safety team. 2) MPC is part of a team of public health professionals—alongside the Illinois Public Health Institute and Chicago Department of Public Health—who have been providing information to the research teams about the relationship between the pillar areas and community health outcomes, to help strategize how the policies created through We WIll Chicago can promote health equity. 

Advisory Committee

MPC Director of Land Use and Planning Christina Harris co-chairs the We Will Chicago Advisory Committee, which reviews information shared from the Research Teams and helps guide the We Will Chicago process. The Advisory Committee has met four times in 2021, receiving updates and giving input on the community engagement efforts, baseline data about health and racial equity in the City, and research team guiding questions and objectives. 

Meeting in a Box and other Community Engagement

Community engagement is one of the five themes of We Will Chicago, and there are many routes through which the City is reaching out to hear from Chicagoans. Anyone is welcome to visit the We Will website and share ideas about Chicago’s future. In Fall 2021, the Research Teams sent out public surveys to gather input on their guiding questions and priorities. Over 400 people have engaged through online questionnaires so far. 

Each Pillar Research Team has an artist and organizer team hosting events to connect with people in creative and engaging ways. Over 76 events have been held so far. In addition, the community partner organizations for each pillar area have hosted 14 events. Upcoming events are kept up-to-date on the We Will events calendar

Another avenue for stakeholder engagement is the Meeting-in-a-Box, a tool designed by MPC in partnership with the City. The toolkit has information and activities to help community members host a meeting about We Will Chicago, and provide their ideas back to the City and Research Teams. MPC hosted a facilitator training in November, where more than 100 people attended. This winter, community partners and other stakeholders will be hosting meetings using the toolkit and providing feedback so the team can do a broader launch of the tool. In 2022, the toolkit will be available in Spanish and Simplified Chinese, among other languages.

A qualitative data analysis working group has been formed to ensure that the information people are sharing through the Research Teams, artist-organizer events, and Meeting-in-a-Box gatherings are properly reviewed and incorporated into the plan. 

What’s Next?

In 2022, the Research Teams will continue to meet to develop and refine their policy recommendations. MPC, Illinois Public Health Institute, and Chicago Department of Public Health will assist the teams with integrating health equity into their recommendations, and conduct a health and racial equity impact review of the policy recommendations to strengthen We Will Chicago’s alignment with health equity. The We Will team will also be looking to incorporate the 2022 Chicago Climate Action Plan goals and other resiliency measures into the We WIll Chicago recommendations. In addition, MPC, the City, and partners will deeply explore the theme of Historical Reckoning, learning more about what historical acknowledgment and action could look like in Chicago.

Stay tuned. The Draft Framework for We Will Chicago will be published in Summer 2022, alongside more opportunities for widespread community and stakeholder engagement.

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