August 2, 2022
This report challenges past narratives suggesting Chicago's civic life is precarious and offers a broader analysis of civic life using a racial equity lens. According to the analysis, race and class differences in civic engagement disappear or reverse when including a wide range of less formal activities and forms of collective organizing practiced among Black, Latinx, and working-class people in Chicago.Since the 1960s, traditional measures of civic engagement have shown declining rates of civic health. These accounts of civic decline often focus exclusively on voting and donating one's time, talent, and income to traditional nonprofit organizations. This report provides new ways to assess civic life in Chicago, including participation in social movements like the immigrant rights movement, the growth in the number of nonprofits established, and social cohesion as captured through the hosting of block parties.Through interviews and analysis of nonprofits in Chicago, the report captures the perspective of organizers, academics, and funders who provide their unique perspectives on the state of civic engagement in Chicago. By framing civic engagement through a racial equity lens, the report provides a broader view of civic participation that can be used to catalyze and drive action.