University of Chicago Will Put More Muscle Behind South Side Nonprofits

By Sam Cholke on June 3, 2014 4:55am 

 Shaz Rasul will head up a program to get the University of Chicago to better support local nonprofits.
Shaz Rasul will head up a program to get the University of Chicago to better support local nonprofits.
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University of Chicago/Jason Smith

HYDE PARK — The University of Chicago has created the Community Programs Accelerator to get multiple academic departments behind good ideas to help the South Side.

“A lot of the work was division by division, office by office,” said Shaz Rasul, who is heading up the effort to get economists and financial analysts, lawyers and educators to work together to boost neighborhood nonprofits.

The accelerator will set up workshops and training for nonprofits that say they need more help with skills like data tracking or evaluations, according to Rasul.

Nonprofits that need more attention can apply for one of three spots in an intensive residency where it will get a work-over by university experts, free training and legal advice and an injection of as much as $50,000 to expand its operations.

Rasul said the idea was partially born from the university’s efforts to support the Woodlawn Children’s Promise Zone, which tries to better connect social service agencies and schools.

“That’s one of the few times we’ve seen lots of parts of the university work together with a community partner to reach a goal,” Rasul said. “It’s about linking everything up.”

The university is keeping the benefits local and is only accepting applications from nonprofits that primarily serve the neighborhoods immediately surrounding the campus, including Oakland, Douglas, Grand Boulevard, Washington Park, Hyde Park, Kenwood, South Shore, Woodlawn and Greater Grand Crossing.

The university will pick three nonprofits to enter its first accelerator program in August and is accepting applications through July 5.

Rasul said he hoped the program would expand next year.

“I would like to grow this, but we’re thinking of the first year as our pilot year,” Rasul said.

The university will host an information session for interested nonprofits at 6 p.m. June 5 at the Arts Incubator, 301 E. Garfield Blvd.

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