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collective and enduring initiatives: making the work more accessible

ECF helps to provide tools that break down barriers. Our partnership with the Clear Language Lab at Literacy Works makes our communications more accessible, as well as 

Many nonprofit organizations and government agencies offer great resources, but all too often, the language used to provide information is a barrier that prevents people from accessing those resources.

ECF has been working with the Clear Language Lab at Literacy Works for the last two years to help take those barriers down.

The Clear Language Lab provides training and consultation to non-profits, government agencies, and other entities to serve their communities more effectively and equitably by using plain language.

In 2021, ECF partnered with the Clear Language Lab to provide training and coaching for nonprofit organizations to use clear and concise language, making their communications more accessible to community members.

Many organizations were able to use these services, including providers of early childhood care and education, agencies serving youth, and ECF.

For example, the Clear Language Lab at Literacy Works offered critical help in the development of language for new grantmaking processes at ECF.

This collective and enduring initiative grant also gave nonprofit organizations free access to attend Clear Language Lab deep listening trainings, where they developed skills to evaluate and revise their communications.

This work is having a profound impact on our community.


“Access to information is fundamental for a fair and just society and necessary for individuals, families, and communities to thrive. We help people access the information they need by making clear, understandable, human-centered communication the norm in mission-driven work.”
—Melanie Sampson
Clear Language Lab Program Director, Literacy Works


Christine Kenny


Christine-Kenny.jpg“Literacy Works has been around for over 25 years now. We were originally founded to provide tutor training and professional development opportunities to volunteer-based adult literacy programs on the north side of Chicago. Today we work with over 50 adult literacy programs across Illinois.

For years, we were getting requests from organizations across many different sectors to help make their communications easier to understand. As adult educators, we recognized this to be such an important need that in 2018 we decided to create the Clear Language Lab at Literacy Works.

It is fantastic to see ECF step up as a real leader in prioritizing clear and accessible communication. I am thrilled to have the Foundation’s support and partnership as we work together to change societal systems and make easy-to-understand messaging the norm.

It is my hope that ECF will serve as a model for other foundations. We’d like to showcase the important progress being made here in Evanston to other funders and say, ‘Look at the remarkable work being done in Evanston! Let the Clear Language Lab work with you and your grantees to make sure that the valuable programs being funded are reaching those who need them most.’”

Melanie Sampson


Melanie-Sampson.jpg“Our work at the Clear Language Lab is about making content and information accessible. We noticed the lack of access was a huge, unnecessary barrier for a lot of our students who came through our literacy programs. We created the Clear Language Lab in this spirit of accessibility.

ECF has been a wonderful partner—seeing the vision for Clear Language Lab and Literacy Works and recognizing the potential there. I think there’s a lot of talk about equity these days across foundations and nonprofits, but actually doing the work to make those transformations happen takes commitment, and it has been really incredible to see ECF really living that in their actions and programs.

We also worked with the Foundation to look at their own grantmaking process to say, ‘Wait a minute. What are we doing to make sure our processes are accessible for organizations?’ Not every organization has a giant Development department or has the resources to devote to the sometimes overwhelming grantmaking processes; Therefore, how do we make that process easier and more accessible so that the groups that are doing important work aren’t inhibited by that process, and that money can get into the hands of those that need it to do critical work.”