UChicago selects four mid-South Side nonprofits for first year of Community Programs Accelerator

The Community Programs Accelerator at the University of Chicago has selected four South Side nonprofits to participate in the first round of its incubation program, which aims to strengthen organizations near the University’s campus. Due to high demand, the University also expanded the Accelerator initiative to assist seven additional organizations with specific projects.

The inaugural group of Accelerator organizations are CoderSpace, which teaches South Side youth how to write website code; the Dovetail Project, which teaches parenting, life and job skills to young African American fathers; Polished Pebbles, a mentoring program for teen girls; and the Hyde Park Jazz Festival, which spotlights South Side musicians through its annual festival of performances.

The first three organizations will receive up to $50,000 in funding support from UChicago, and all will receive professional assessments to determine their areas of need, workspace on campus for either one, two or three years, and technical assistance from the University and its partners to enhance their work in mid-South Side communities. The University sponsors the Hyde Park Jazz Festival, so it will not receive additional funding through the Accelerator.

“These four nonprofits are spearheading promising programs that are making a difference in the communities around our campus,” said Derek Douglas, Vice President for Civic Engagement. “The Community Programs Accelerator will provide access to a comprehensive set of resources, including UChicago students and campus and professional partners, that will help strengthen their organizations and expand their impact for the long-term.”

UChicago launched the Community Programs Accelerator in May 2014 with plans to provide support to three or four organizations at a time to help them become self-sustaining. After more than 50 area nonprofits applied to the Accelerator, the Office of Civic Engagement, which is leading the effort, decided to add an Associates level to the program that will support a select group of additional organizations with project-specific needs.

The seven organizations selected as 2014-15 Associates are Artifice, Chicago Hyde Park Village, Featherfist, KLEO, Quad Communities Development Corporation, WECAN, and the Woodlawn Broadband Expansion Project. Support for associates will include needs assessments, planning and assistance from student interns working under the direction of Accelerator staff.

“The high level of interest in the Accelerator underscored the need community-based organizations have for expanded capacity and resources,” said Shaz Rasul, Director of Community Programs. “The Associates program helps meet that need while also providing valuable field experience for UChicago students interested in community work.” The University is currently seeking student interns and volunteers. Students can apply online at communityprograms.uchicago.edu.

Along with one-on-one assistance for the 11 selected organizations, the Community Programs Accelerator will offer a series of educational workshops open to any community-based nonprofit. The first workshop, “Doing Good, Writing Well,” will focus on grant writing and be held on Saturday, Nov. 15. Organizations can register through Nov. 14 to attend the workshop.

Programming for the Community Programs Accelerator will be provided through collaboration with various partners across campus, including Alumni Relations and Development, the Chicago Booth School of Business’s Social Enterprise Initiative, the Chicago Innovation Exchange, the Civic Knowledge Project, Crime Lab, the Law School’s Arthur Kane Center for Clinical Legal Education, the School of Social Service Administration, UChicago Career Advancement, the University Community Service Center, and the Urban Education Lab. External partners include the DLA Piper Law Firm, the Law Project of the Chicago Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights, and A Better Chicago, a venture philanthropy fund.

The Community Programs Accelerator is one of several ways the University and its Office of Civic Engagement work with and engage nonprofit organizations and residents on critical quality of life issues. The Accelerator will begin accepting applicants for the 2015-2016 program year in summer 2015.