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Vol. 10 No. 2

Organizing Partnerships for Sustainable Community Economic Development: Lessons Learned from the University of Illinois–Chicago Neighborhoods Initiative

November 10, 2010


Urban universities are often characterized as economic
engines—directly and indirectly serving the needs of the communities
within which they are situated. However, the relationship
between urban universities and their neighbors is often
strained. Reflecting on the University of Illinois at Chicago’s
Neighborhoods Initiative (UICNI) and its historical work in
Chicago’s Pilsen and West Side communities, this article outlines
how UICNI works with neighborhood groups by incorporating
established principles of community organizing and
building trust through innovative partnerships and projects that
are mutually beneficial. The design of individual projects as
well as the development of different techniques to encourage
community involvement in planning is central to UICNI’s success.
It is proposed that UICNI partnerships are beneficial to
the university community (faculty, scholars, and research assistants)
as well as for the external community.