The Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation released a report, “Community Voices,” on July 26 that captures the results of several community conversations held with residents from Oak Park, River Forest, Berwyn, Chicago, Cicero and Proviso townships.

Last year, the Community Foundation hired The Nova Collective, the Black-owned, woman-owned DEI consulting agency founded in Oak Park, to facilitate the conversations, “with the goal of building trusting relationships and determining priorities where the Foundation could” be most impactful.

“Two years in the making, this report reveals the most pressing needs in our area, what the data tells us, and how the power of our community will guide our future to a racially just society.” said Foundation President and CEO Tony Martinez Jr.

“We believe the Community Voices Report will be of great value, not just for the Foundation and nonprofit sector, but for local government, schools and the community at large,” he added.

The report’s five strategies to achieve racial equity, gleaned from an article in the Stanford Innovation Review, are valuable insights.

  • Ground work in data and context while targeting solutions
  • Focus on systems change, as well as programs and services
  • Shift power in the collaboration
  • Listen to and act with community
  • Build equity leadership and accountability

The report contains reams of helpful data and a slew of illuminating maps that highlight the inequities in the west suburbs and Chicago’s West Side. But the document and the inequities it’s designed to address really come alive when the conversation participants start speaking for themselves.

“When a glass breaks, you don’t repair it — you replace it,” one participant says. “We need to stop trying to repair broken systems and reimagine new ones designed within equity and justice.”

Three Community Voices events will be held online or in person in August and September.

  • Wednesday, Aug. 3, 6 p.m. Virtual.
  • Saturday, Sept. 17, 9 a.m., at Proviso East High School, 807 S. 1st Ave. in Maywood
  • Saturday, Sept. 24, 10 a.m., at the Oak Park Public Library – Main Branch, 834 Lake St. in Oak Park
  • Tuesday, Sept. 27, 6 p.m. Virtual.

At each of these events, The Nova Collective will share highlights from focus group conversations with 100 neighbors, partners and stakeholders describing the priority areas identified in the community needs assessment. Foundation staff will present compelling data that underscores how racial inequality is the root cause of challenges in the west Cook County region.

There will also be a panel discussion with focus group participants to gain perspective and discuss next steps, and the audience will get involved through a Q&A and other activities to build understanding and solidarity.

You can read the Community Voices Report at: