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Cross-Cutting Strategies – Place-Based Initiatives


Cross-Cutting Strategies and Examples

Creating sustainable changes that address persistent systemic barriers to achieving economic mobility requires

comprehensive and integrated approaches across impact areas. Place-based strategies are examples where United Ways have worked in partnership with local and national leaders to introduce cross-cutting strategies that address structural barriers that contribute to economic gaps in local communities.


View the Chicago Neighborhood Networks Initiative
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Engagement and mobilization are essential aspects of the value United Way brings to communities. The ability to assemble community residents from diverse backgrounds and perspectives differentiates United Way from other organizations. Equity based community engagement helps create effective impact solutions centered around education, economic mobility, and health. United Way’s role as a convener helps to build credibility by surfacing underline causes of community issues and implementing solutions that reflect the lived experiences of community residents.

The vision of creating stronger neighborhoods motivated United Way of Metro Chicago to implement their Chicago Neighborhood Networks Initiative. Each neighborhood initiative was informed by the residents, based on a shared understanding of their community’s history. United Way of Metro Chicago took intentional steps to move stakeholders from a programmatic mindset to a collective approach. Neighborhood residents were encouraged to identify and create investment strategies based on their own understanding. Once United Way focused on priorities identified by community residents instead of issue-oriented approaches, the work accelerated. The history of a community and the residents who call the area home presented an opportunity for United Way of Metro Chicago to start a conversation. Their role in the Neighborhood Networks Initiative shifted from a conversation on issues to a collaborative effort centered on pursuing common goals. Targeted universalism and place-based strategies made it easier to identify shared goals, disaggregate data (identify how groups are situated relative to goals), and identify the structures, policies, and practices supporting or impeding progress.

View the Auburn Gresham Neighborhood Network
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The Auburn Gresham Neighborhood Network launched in 2016 after United Way of Metro Chicago coordinated efforts between The Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation and 10 supplemental social service agencies. This collective identified a common agenda in ensuring early literacy training for children Pre-K to 3rd grade. Families were given comprehensive access to social supports including healthcare, affordable housing resources, and growing a green economy. The GOLD Initiative was one key strategy in providing professional development and literacy support to five schools. This initiative also expanded health services, workforce development training, and job placement assistance to parents. The initiative produced social and emotional support to over 1000, students, workforce development training to 120 parents, and job placement to 12 individuals.

View the Austin Neighborhood Network
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The Austin Neighborhood Network, in 2016, released Thrive 2025, a strategy which sets bold impact goals to help Austin improve early childhood education outcomes, community revitalization efforts, and access to living wage employment opportunities for residents. This strategy has led to the vision of developing a $10 million community hub that includes a state-of-the-art early learning, health and recreation center, and a job development incubator. Currently, the network currently has a network of more than 60 non-profit, faith-based, public, and private members.

View The Brighton Park Neighborhood Network
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The Brighton Park Neighborhood Network was established in 2012 in partnership with the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council with the vision of advancing outcomes for families through the delivery of comprehensive social services based in community schools. The network has seen parents and residents take an active role in their neighborhood through convening and community engagement. Education supports and access to physical and mental health care are key components of the approach. Currently, the coalition has 40 partners that include schools, hospitals, social service providers, city departments, elected officials, and small businesses.

View the Cicero Neighborhood Network
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The Cicero Neighborhood Network is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation 2018 Culture of Health Winner. The network’s vision is to cultivate homegrown leaders to improve lives through trauma-informed community health and safety. The network engages parents, schools and the local police department in their efforts to create a safer community. Student academic success is fostered through parent recruitment and involvement in the school system at all grade levels. The network has conducted an extensive trauma training with 136 Cicero Police Department officers and 72 high school staff members.


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