A Story of Collaboration

Urban Initiatives (UI) was founded in 2003

by two teachers who saw a need for after school programs in the neighborhoods of Chicago. They started as “Work to Play” with twelve students in an after school soccer program and since then they’ve grown to serve over 15,000 students in 50 schools.  As time progressed, UI added more sports and programs for the continuing students such as “Take the Lead” which allows students to take on leadership roles within the programs. UI is using the power of sport and play to build up school and community culture while taking Chicago’s youth out of the violence that is burdening our city. 50 schools and 35 communities are impacted by the powerful work of Urban Initiatives by creating strong leaders in the community and by teaching the youth to access situations and look for positive outlooks in life. UI brings people out of their small neighborhoods and lets them collaborate with the greater city of Chicago for better learning opportunities. UI is not only saving our youth, they’re saving our city.

Longtime friends of D4D, Blutter Shiff Design (Janet Blutter Shiff, ASID, Principal & Lynn Boutross, ASID, Senior Design Partner), was assisting UI with their office expansion. They reached out to the design community for help with furniture procurement, and D4D was able to jump on board.

Janet and Lynn were originally put in contact with Jim Dower, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Urban Initiatives, at a Meet and Match event hosted by WomenOnCall, A Margot Pritzker Organization. WomenOnCall provides professional women with the opportunity to volunteer their skills and expertise in high impact ways for the non-profit community. UI has been benefitting from these connections since the very first Meet and Match in 2006.

Designs for Dignity was able to assist this project through multiple furniture donations including a conference table from Holly Hunt, a desk benching system from ThreeH, lounge pieces from NELSON’s office space, as well as various pieces donated by Assurance who D4D was connected with through HED. Although a smaller scope of work for D4D, the gesture made a big difference. UI was able to arrange the donated furniture in such a way that creates spaces with a flexible and professional atmosphere for the many faces of Urban Initiatives. UI now feels that they have an efficient space to accommodate the different sides of their organization. The new expanded side of the office now houses the operations team and offers everyone in the organization both an open space for collaboration and quiet spaces for focused activities.

This story of amazing non profits working together for the benefit of each other is a sensational example of collaboration for the greater good. Everyone in this story has been able to impact so many individuals in the Chicagoland area and it is a perfect example of everything that these organizations stand for. We are all in need of collaboration on foundation, individual, and corporate levels and this is a true success story of partnership for the benefit of so many.

“We’ve grown because of need; the needs of our communities, the needs [of our] kids and the needs of our city.” – Jim Dower, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Urban Initiatives

Jennifer Sobecki