Announcement, News, Press Release

The GreenLight Fund Launches GreenLight Chicago, its 12th Site

Jan 26, 2023


Fund to commit $6 million in Chicago over the next five years to lead a community-driven process, matching unmet needs with proven programs that remove barriers to prosperity

Chicago, IL – January 26, 2023 – The GreenLight Fund, with support from more than 100 local philanthropic investors, today launched Chicago as the 12th GreenLight Fund site. Through its effective, locally-focused model that connects communities with proven social innovations from across the country, GreenLight Chicago will partner with local residents and community leaders to tackle unmet needs, address deep-rooted disparities and create opportunities for children and families to thrive.

“Chicago’s strong philanthropic and nonprofit ecosystem, spirit of embracing innovation to address persistent challenges, and its strong focus on community development and collaboration make the city one where GreenLight’s model is poised to make a significant impact,” said John Simon, co-founder and board chair of the GreenLight Fund and a managing director at Boston-based venture capital firm Sigma Prime Ventures. “GreenLight’s track record in moving the needle on some of society’s most intractable problems using a community-driven approach is a tool that will complement the great work already happening in Chicago.”

“In order to fully meet the needs of our residents and especially those living in historically disinvested communities, we must lean into our partnerships with philanthropic, nonprofit and community leaders,” said Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. “The GreenLight Fund continues to serve as a shining example of this much-needed collaboration, and by choosing Chicago as its next site, it will be able to continue delivering on its mission to address systemic inequity and provide people with the tools they need to thrive. On behalf of a grateful city, I want to thank the GreenLight Fund for its deep commitment to equity here in Chicago and across the country.”

GreenLight Chicago will focus on breaking down barriers to inclusive prosperity that are often rooted in racial inequities and take specific action towards positive change. In partnership with the local community, over the next five years, GreenLight will invest in four evidence-based programs addressing different community-identified needs to scale to Chicago, one each year, to drive improved outcomes. Everything throughout the selection process will be decided and implemented locally, led by the GreenLight Chicago team. By leveraging partnerships, ongoing collaborative support and complementing the work already happening locally, the innovative programs brought to Chicago will quickly take root and deliver measurable social impact, opening opportunities so individuals and families can reach their goals.

“While in Charlotte, I had the opportunity to partner with GreenLight Charlotte and saw first-hand the impact their model can have. I am thrilled to welcome GreenLight to Chicago and look forward to tackling complex issues together and tapping into innovative programs from around the nation in order to drive sustainable positive change and help our region thrive,” said Sean Garrett, President and CEO, United Way of Metro Chicago.

GreenLight Chicago will be led by an executive director with deep roots in Chicago who will work in collaboration with local communities to address disparities and barriers to prosperity. The executive director will form a Selection Advisory Council (SAC) comprised of Chicago leaders and experts from businesses, nonprofits, philanthropic organizations, the community and public sector to advise throughout the annual selection process.

“I look forward to partnering with GreenLight Fund as they engage with the community, including those most impacted by poverty, to identify areas not currently being addressed where a proven model brought to our city will make a real impact towards opening equitable economic mobility opportunities and increasing hope. GreenLight has done this effectively in other cities and I’m excited about the work they’ll do with us here,” said Arne Duncan, Managing Director, Chicago CRED.

Each year, the local team will partner with the community and the SAC to elevate a specific unmet need, find and assess programs with successful track records in meeting that need elsewhere and launch a program with the best local fit. The first selection is expected to be made in 2024.

In other GreenLight cities – Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Detroit, Kansas City, Greater Newark, Philadelphia, the San Francisco Bay Area and the Twin Cities – the GreenLight Model has been used to make progress on a wide variety of societal challenges including early childhood literacy, college access and persistence, food insecurity, teacher effectiveness, community safety, the digital divide, family income and asset-building, and youth aging out of foster care.

“I’ve experienced first-hand the tremendous difference GreenLight Fund can make. We’ve been fortunate to scale up and respond to the calls from Boston and Kansas City to bring Youth Guidance’s Becoming a Man and Working on Womanhood programs through partnership with GreenLight Fund. Their innovative model and commitment to strong, sustainable partnerships is a great fit for Chicago. I look forward to our local community collaborating with GreenLight Chicago for much needed positive change,” said Michelle Adler Morrison, Chief Executive Officer of Youth Guidance.”

A diverse coalition of investors has come together to enable the launch of GreenLight Chicago. The record setting $6M Fund is made possible by these co-founding funders: Allstate, Nicholas Antoine, Bain Capital, Jon Ballis, Bank of America, Larry Barden, Richard and Eve Biller, Dan and Rebecca Blumenthal, Jennifer and Alex Brown, Ethan and Karen Budin, David and Liz Chandler, Ed Chandler, Stephen and Kim Chipman, CME Group Foundation, Cresa, Bryan and Christy Cressey, Daube Family Foundation, Kent and Liz Dauten, Deloitte, Mike and Debbie Dickerson, Andy Dunn/Red Swan Ventures, Michael and Michelle Episcope, Finnegan Family Foundation, Bill and Linda Friend, Brian and Lauren Gallagher, Mike and Alyse Gamson, Garling and Wilson Foundation, Paul Gearen, Mark and Julia Gerstein, John and Eve Goebel, Goldman Sachs Chicago Office, Goldman Sachs Gives, Derek and Becca Goldstein Groothuis, Scott Goodman, Grant Thornton, Jack and Donna Greenberg, Ken Griffin, Brian and Emily Grzelakowski, Erik Hammer/Alumni Ventures, Ambassador Fay Hartog-Levin, JD Heinz, Tanner Holmes, Paul Hsu/Decasonic, Scott and Nichole Humphrey, Israel Idonije, iHeartMedia, Debbie and Pran Jha, Pete Kadens, Kirkland & Ellis, LLP, David and Marcy Kirshenbaum, Knight Family Foundation, Cary Kochman, Harry Kraemer, Jeff Lampe, Nate and Kris Laurell, Mats and Jessica Lederhausen, Eric and Liz Lefkofsky, Ben Levi and Millie Tadewaldt, Michael and Stephanie Macakanja, Mayer Brown LLP, Robert R. McCormick Foundation, Anne and Rob Metzger, Steve Miller/Origin Ventures, Joe and Hannah Musselman, Northern Trust/Waddell Legacy Fund, Obama Foundation, Jim and Julie O’Connor, Amy and Jim O’Donnell, Winnie Park, Shelley and Brett Paschke, Molly and Jim Perry, Danie Petrie/Origami Works Foundation, Steve and Ann Potter, Pritzger Traubert Foundation, Momei Qu and Nathan Tang, Stephen and Deborah Quazzo, John Raitt, Alyssa Rapp and Hal Morris, Dan Ratner and Genevieve Thiers, Paul Reilly, Mark Richey, Brian Richter, Jim and Michelle Ryan Family Foundation, Derek and Elizabeth Sammann, Muneer Satter, Mackenzie Scott, Mike and Joanne Sekulic, Nick and Jenny Semaca, Lee and Valerie Shapiro, Joe Shenton and Marie Tillman, Sidley Austin, John and Susan Simon, Gregory G. Simoncini and Ed Dudley, Jon and Karen Skinner, Jim Streibich, Mark Sullivan, Kurt Summers, Thierer Family Foundation, The Tullman Family, United Way of Metro Chicago, The University of Chicago, University of Illinois System, Mark and Nancy Van Grinsven, The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, Inc., Wilks Communications Group, William Blair, Winforest Partners, Sam and Jessica Droste Yagan, and Mike and Robin Zafirovski.

“As a corporate funder, we’ve learned the importance of being humble – realizing that we don’t have all the answers and have the opportunity to learn how our investments can making the biggest impact in helping people and communities thrive,” explained Francie S. Richards, vice president of social impact at Allstate and The Allstate Foundation. “GreenLight Fund’s community-driven approach shares in this philosophy of listening first and trusting those closest to the issue to find solutions that meet a community’s unique needs.”

“The Finnegan Family Foundation has seen the great work that GreenLight has done in other cities and we wanted to bring that amazing expertise to fill existing gaps and needs here in our great city of Chicago,” said Katherine Finnegan, President, Finnegan Family Foundation. “By bringing innovative programs to the city of Chicago we can ensure our families and children have access to new opportunities and renewed hope.”

“When I learned about the GreenLight Fund, I was blown away by the comprehensive scope, consistent execution model, and most important, transformational results to date. As an immigrant to this country and with deep roots in the Chicago community, our family has invested in GreenLight because we believe they will help make real changes that are desperately needed to help our most underserved children and families,” added Mike Zafirovski, Founder, Chairman & President, The Zaf Group.


Additional Quotes

“I care deeply for the great city of Chicago and am always interested in participating in efforts to help our community continue to thrive. I am excited by and grateful for the opportunities GreenLight will bring to the city and I look forward to seeing the positive impacts throughout our community.” – Nicholas Antoine, Co-CEO and Managing Partner, Red Arts Capital

“With the launch of GreenLight Chicago, I know we can bring innovative nonprofit programs from around the country to impact in a meaningful the lives of children, youth and families in our city and help them deal with the challenges they face on a daily basis.” – Dan Blumenthal, CEO, Blue River PetCare

“I believe that GreenLight Chicago’s community-based approach will build trust and a true understanding of the needs of families and children in the Chicago community that will lead to solving real life problems.” – Steve Chipman, Former CEO, Grant Thornton

“I’m both inspired and impressed by GreenLight. Inspired by their conviction and confidence. Impressed with their ability to galvanize local support to collaborate on solutions that can better our city.” – Brian Grzelakowski, Midwest Region Head, Goldman Sachs

“[GreenLight’s team are] wonderful innovators in bringing data and informed impact to our nation’s communities. I’m excited to see GreenLight’s work alongside our civic and business leaders drive inclusive growth in Chicago.” – Paul Hsu, Founder and CEO, Decasonic

“Chicago is a fantastic, diverse city with its own set of challenges and I’m pleased to be investing to help make our city a place where all can thrive. GreenLight Fund’s model of bringing together the right community leaders, voices and partners to identify challenges most in need of change works. Using a Venture Capital model and demanding that the dollars deployed maximize a financial and societal good ‘return’, I am glad to be involved with an organization that is focused on maximizing the impact of the dollars and brainpower deployed.” – David Kirshenbaum, Founder and Connector-In-Chief at Meadco

“We really like the innovative approach that GreenLight has brought to philanthropy, it’s a different approach. It’s built to be sustainable over time and there’s an opportunity for GreenLight to share that track record of success across cities. We’re so excited to be a part of this and we look forward to the wonderful things it will do for our city of Chicago.” – Elizabeth and Derek Sammann

“GreenLight’s model is a natural and obvious pairing for Chicago. Chicago is one of a small handful of systemically important large cities that is both a rich city and one deeply in need of reaching the underserved in critical ways, particularly Black men between the ages of 18 and 25. GreenLight is highly experienced in corralling resources, convening talent and bringing innovation to reach the people that need it the very most. I’m excited they’re getting started in Chicago and that all these resources have come together to enable it to happen.” – Greg Shell, Founder, Inclusive Growth Fund, Goldman Sachs