deepening the Leadership Evanston experience

Project teams each focus on a major community challenge, then define, analyze and execute it a meaningful way.

Central to the Leadership Evanston signature experience are small group projects. These projects benefit Evanston while building leadership skills, experience in group process, and in-depth community knowledge. Working together in teams of 5 or 6, project teams focus on and address a major community challenge.

sampling of recent group projects

#DearEvanston is a current public Facebook Page. #DearEvanston archives interviews, testimonials and community conversations. What began as a multi-platform social media campaign to explore safety and violence in Evanston has grown and expanded reaching across constituencies to tell the story of violence in our community in proximate terms. The goal was to raise awareness about violence in Evanston by putting a personal face on it, and to ultimately encourage Evanstonians to take action against violence.

The Text a Tip project team focused on adolescent mental health. After conversations with an array of mental health professionals, the team concluded that while Evanston has a wealth of mental health resources adolescents aren’t always taking advantage of those resources.

The team organized a stakeholder meeting that was attended by representatives from District 65, District 202, City of Evanston, Evanston Police Department, Northshore University Health Systems, NAMI Cook County North Suburban, PEER Services, the Moran Center and the Evanston Community Foundation. At this Adolescent Mental Health Summit, Andy Duran, the director of LEAD (Linking Efforts Against Drugs) presented an overview of Text-a-Tip, a 24/7 anonymous text line staffed by licensed counselors. The program allows teens to seek help in a way that is comfortable to them and entirely confidential. The conversation established the benefits and the barriers to a program like this and the conversation continues.

The project team's interest in the Tiny Homes movement was sparked by Evanston's lack of affordable housing. The city's population of over 75,000 people includes 2% who are homeless and 8% at risk of homelessness. Evanston may be a fitting location for a Tiny Home community. The conversations with clergy, city leaders, social service organizations, residents, developers and funders revealed a lot of support and interest in a tiny home community.  The team presented to the City Council during summer, 2016 and the interest in the idea is moving forward.

The project team C.A.P.E. (The Career Awareness and Pathway Exposure Program for Evanston Middle Schoolers) studied research that shows early exposure to career pathways leads to:
• Increased sense of school relevance (which in turn lowers high school dropout rates, increases high school academic achievement)
• Increased rate of employment and decreased rate of “disconnection” among youth
• Increased likelihood of pursuing any form of postsecondary education
Middle school students would benefit from the opportunity for life or career planning. The team's proposal is to provide an opportunity for D65 middle school students to begin exploring career options before entering high school.

team process — build a team, identify a challenge, and implement change

Project topics reflect the priority issues for each year’s Leadership Evanston cohort. After a careful process for identifying and prioritizing the issues, Leadership Evanston (LE) project teams are formed in November. Each team of six individuals narrows the assigned topic and begins to identify the assets, barriers and key individuals needed to move forward. The LE teams meet regularly outside of the established monthly sessions until May when the projects are presented to the public. Final products can be in a variety of formats, such as but not limited to:
•    A community event or conversation
•    A report highlighting research and support for best practices
•    A proposed change to public policy
•    A social media campaign to increase awareness
•    A proposed collaboration with an established organization

Finally, the learning happens through the process, not necessarily the product.