On April 16, the Pritzker Traubert Foundation announced a new grant competition designed to pour money into areas on the city’s neglected West and/or South Sides. 

The competition, called the Chicago Prize, will award one $10 million grant “to a highly collaborative initiative that uses physical development to spur economic activity, strengthen civic infrastructure, and improve the safety, well-being, and economic mobility of residents,” foundation officials said.

They added that the grant “emphasizes the relationship between a community’s physical environment and civic infrastructure—the environment that shapes and sustains a community.” 

The Chicago Prize will be awarded next spring. Any organization “whose experience aligns with these guidelines are encouraged to visit ChicagoPrize.org to complete an assessment,” foundation officials stated. The assessment, they said, is the first step in the submission process. All organizations seeking to apply for the award should register on the website by 5 p.m. (Central time) on Tuesday, July 16, 2019.  

Cindy Moelis, the foundation’s president, said that the organization wants to address the complex challenges of systemic poverty and inequality. 

“We are excited and ready to partner with community leaders and put our resources—passion, experience, and capital—to work toward helping more individuals and communities in Chicago thrive,” Moelis said. “We are seeking community plans that feature bold ideas about how changing a place can change residents’ lives. When teams apply, they will define their places, tell us how they plan to improve those places, and tell us what the impact will be on the community at-large.”

Penny Pritzker, the former U.S. commerce secretary, and the Pritzker Traubert Foundation’s director and co-founder, said that the organization is committed to leveraging “patient capital” in hard-hit areas. 

“We believe good ideas need patient capital in order to be successful,” she said. “Yet often, the funding that comes from the public and nonprofit sectors is not enough to fuel the innovative, bold ideas that we know are out there. The mission of the Chicago Prize is to deliver the flexible private capital needed to achieve the vision these communities have for themselves so they can help more families thrive.”

Applicants who register by the July 16 deadline will have until 5 p.m. on Aug. 3 to submit their full proposals, which will be evaluated by a panel and scored against four criteria: community-led collaboration, impact, feasibility and leverage, foundation officials explained. 

“Members of the evaluation panel are introduced on the website and include potential investors as well as finance, community development and social service professionals from both Chicago-based and national organizations,” they added. 

The prize finalists will be announced by late October, with each finalist receiving a $100,000 grant to help develop their proposals. Those finalists will also be asked to make public presentations of their plans next spring. 

“Places and people are tremendous assets in every community, but in some of our South and West Sides areas, we haven’t made enough investments in either to offset the inequities that we all know exist,” said Bryan Traubert, the former president of the Chicago Park District Board of Commissioners, and the foundation’s co-founder and chairman.

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