Civic Collaboratory @ The Commons

On April 3, 2019,  members of the Chicago Civic Collaboratory gathered at The Commons for their Spring convening dinner. More than 40 representatives of nonprofits, community-based organizations, and civic institutions across Chicago had an opportunity to network, learn about Sweet Water Foundation, and share the first farm-to-table meal of the season in SWF’s Lightbox Theater + Gallery.  Read on to learn more about the evening.


Led in partnership by The Chicago Community Trust and the national civic organization, Citizen University, the Chicago Civic Collaboratory is based on a new framework of civic leadership—hybrid of a mutual aid society and project incubator. The Trust launched the Chicago Civic Collaboratory as a pilot last summer with an invitation-only group of regional civic innovators and leaders. The Collaboratory engages in quarterly meetings that are a two-day process, with an introductory dinner the first day and a subsequent meeting the second day. In April, SWF hosted the dinner - bringing this citywide network to the heart of Chicago’s South side.

After introductions, participants had the opportunity to tour The Commons, network with each other, and participate in hands-on activities before dinner. Michelle Nordmeyer, SWF Human-In-Residence, and Devontae Phillips, SWF Peer Mentor, led participants in a printmaking activity. Collaboratory members learned how to create a natural stamp using a log found at The Commons by rolling ink onto the wood and transferring the print onto paper. The focus of the evening then shifted to dinner in the Lightbox Theater + Gallery Space. SWF Resident Chef, Mama Betty, prepared greens, mac & cheese, and cornbread served alongside a selection of food from Rajun Cajun, a local Indian and soul food restaurant to which SWF supplies produce. As the sun began to set and the evening came to a close, the Lightbox Theater + Gallery lit up with solar lights, installed by the SWF team.

The Commons, a Regenerative Neighborhood Development campus, was the perfect space to host the Civic Collaboratory dinner and highlighted key similarities in the ideologies of SWF and Civic Collaboratory participants. SWF is grateful to the Civic Collaboratory for gathering at The Commons and looks forward to welcoming back each participant in the near future.

Courtney Hug