Purpose of Grant
For organizing and advocacy by primarily African-American, low-income families in Chicago, and in collaboration with other organizations and networks addressing concerns of low-income families.
Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO) has been an instrument for grassroots democracy in the North Kenwood and Oakland communities for nearly forty years. Founded by religious and community leaders in the 1960’s, KOCO facilitated organizing campaigns that increased the resources and services available to families and residents. Today, KOCO continues its work as a vehicle and voice of low-income and working families.
KOCO is one of the only organizations in North Kenwood and Oakland where organizing efforts are dedicated to the preservation of affordable rental units. KOCO organizes tenants in six multi-unit buildings (representing over 500 units of affordable housing) that were financed with tax credits or Section 8-based HUD mortgages to preserve their buildings’ affordability; utilizing the Illinois preservation law, and to advance affordable housing policies at the municipal, state, and federal levels.
KOCO is a member of Grow Your Own Teacher (GYO). Grow Your Own Teacher is an innovative partnership of community organizations, higher education institutions, and school districts that support parents, community members, and paraprofessionals in low-income communities to become highly qualified teachers. One thousand teachers will be prepared by 2016 through this program.
KOCO is also a member of the Voices of Chicago Youth in Education (VOYCE) Coalition. VOYCE is a multi-ethnic coalition of youth leaders who are working with their peers to reduce the high school drop-out rate, and increase college enrollment through curriculum and college preparatory reforms. VOYCE has been recognized by the Chicago Community Trust; recognizing its prestigious Collaboration Award.
KOCO created the Mid South Education Association (MSEA) with the help of local school council members, parents, educators, and youth in order to ensure equitable educational opportunities for children in the Mid South area of Chicago. The MSEA facilitates community involvement in schools by providing trainings for local school councils and parent advisory councils, and addresses critical education issues, such as school closings and devolution of community input in the school environment.
KOCO’s youth organizers have created campaigns to increase the employment, social, and academic resources available to youth in the Mid South area of Chicago. KOCO youth are engaged in a campaign to increase the resources available to employ teenagers during the Summer throughout the State of Illinois. House Bill 4553 (Youth Investment Act) successfully passed the House and the Senate. However, was prohibited from moving to the Appropriations process due to a budget crisis in the state legislature.
KOCO is actively engaged in the United Congress of Community and Religious Organizations (UCCRO). The United Congress is a multi-ethnic and multi-issue alliance of community and religious organizations who are working to establish a common human rights agenda, and move past barriers that keep our communities divided.
There is a strong emphasis on building trust between partners from diverse communities. UCCRO was formed in late 2005 with a commitment to first engage in a deliberate, measured process of dialogue and relationship-building; these relationships are the long-term foundation from which UCCRO identifies issues of common concern and builds the power to affect them.
In summary, Kenwood Oakland Community Organization engages low-income families and develops multigenerational leadership to affect decision-making processes and public policies and to improve the quality of life in North Kenwood, Oakland, and other Chicago communities.