Reaching At-Risk Men and Inspiring Hope in Chicago

December 2016 2016

The city of Chicago is experiencing staggering levels of gun violence that threatens communities daily. In 2016, Emerson Collective’s Chicago-based team of organizers—led by Managing Partner Arne Duncan—formed Chicago CRED (Creating Real Economic Destiny), which is committed to lifting up young, at-risk men by preparing them to enter the workforce and matching them with real job opportunities.

CRED launched a pilot program in the historic Pullman neighborhood on the city’s South Side: 28 young men, ages 17 to 24, completed a job readiness program, co-created with a job training provider teaching workplace skills like time management, professionalism, and teamwork. After completion of their training, the men were placed in transitional jobs performing restoration projects in their neighborhood.

The promise of a steady paycheck could be the key to getting young men off the streets right now, but the Chicago CRED team knows that enacting long-term change in Chicago will require something deeper. That’s why another focus of their programming lies in providing counseling and life coaching. Counselors help participants work through past trauma and life coaches assist participants in defining their personal and professional goals.

“The guys I'm talking to in Pullman, there are zero college graduates,” Arne told the Chicago Tribune in October. “A lot of guys are second, third generation into gangs. I get how intractable that is. But where's the counter, where's the other thing? I tell them, I'm so sorry we weren't there earlier. We're here now.”

This video was produced by Free Spirit PRO, a social enterprise of Free Spirit Media, which trains youth and young adults to use media tools for creative expression and professional advancement.