How We Got Here
All five Smart Communities convened residents and organization leaders in 2009 to develop projects that would improve the quality of life of residents through the use of digital technologies and the Internet. Each community benefited from existing relationships among local partners, many of whom had contributed to earlier quality-of-life plans and the implementation efforts. The City of Chicago and LISC/Chicago provided a framework, planning resources and opportunities for small grants to bring project ideas to life.
For the Southwest Partners—Auburn Gresham, Chicago Lawn and Englewood—a steering committee with representatives from each of the three lead agencies met to identify community partners, plan a series of public meetings and create a district vision statement. The committee held three public meetings with more than 130 participants from the three Southwest Side neighborhoods. Southwest staff also reached out to local businesses, schools, libraries and other stakeholders.
In Pilsen planning was based on the framework of the Pilsen Planning Committee and included outreach meetings that brought together nearly 40 community members and agency representatives. Lead agency staff made special efforts to engage Spanish-speakers and members of the business community.
Humboldt Park's Digital Excellence Plan was based on goals and projects identified by the Humboldt Park New Communities Program Task Force, which completed a new quality-of-life plan in 2008. Since the plan was so recently undertaken, it was agreed that the Digital Excellence plan would focus on implementing the projects and activities of the new plan, rather than starting from scratch.
A Smart Communities in Chicago Master Plan was created from the input from the three parallel planning processes. With the framework from this plan, the City of Chicago and LISC/Chicago applied to the federal Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), funded by the Recovery Act. With a $7 million grant awarded in 2010, the Smart Communties program is acheiving great things.