Arne Duncan is co-chair of new nonprofit related to Obama Center

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Former Obama Education Secretary Arne Duncan is a co-chair of a new nonprofit created to leverage the benefits of the Obama Presidential Center in the Woodlawn, Washington Park and South Shore communities and on the South Side “more broadly,” the new group said on Tuesday.

Though the names of the members of the new nonprofit were released on Tuesday, the members have already met for the first time last week.

The organization is being created as some South Side groups are demanding community benefit agreements from the Obama Foundation to guarantee benefits from the Obama Center help the surrounding neighborhoods.

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Since leaving the White House, Duncan, a former Chicago Public Schools chief, has become a managing partner at the Emerson Collective — working on projects to keep at-risk young men off the streets — and in March became a distinguished senior fellow at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy.

The members of the organization were selected through a process organized by The Chicago Community Trust and include representatives of the Network of Woodlawn, Washington Park Consortium, Barack Obama Foundation, The Chicago Community Trust and the University of Chicago:

Arne Duncan (co-chair)
Sherman Wright (co-chair)
Brant Ahrens
Torrey Barrett
Byron Brazier
Naomi Davis
Liz Gardner
Stephanie Green
Jacky Grimshaw
Joel Hamernick
Calvin Holmes
Jesse Knox III
Phaedra Leslie
Terry Mazany
Donald McGruder
Raul Raymundo
Tim Schwertfeger
Susan Sher
Michael Strautmanis
Hubert Thompson
Richard Tolliver
Charise Williams
Charles Young
David Reifman (ex-officio)
Andrea Zopp (ex-officio)

“The construction of the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park presents a unique opportunity to showcase all that is great about Chicago’s South Side on a national and international level and attract investment around it,” Duncan said in a news release.

“I’m honored to be part of this organization that will build and coordinate work already underway with the Center and beyond to maximize this opportunity, support and supplement where needed, and help implement strategies that benefit the residents in neighborhoods surrounding the Center.”


“The planning team commissioned the consulting firm Next Street to research the mission and programmatic offerings of existing organizations serving the three neighborhoods and best practices from across the country. Those findings were then shared earlier this year during 16 focus groups and large community meetings that reached more than 1,500 people in Woodlawn, Washington Park and South Shore.

“The Board development process was supported by Forefront, the nation’s only statewide membership association for nonprofits, grant makers, public agencies, advisors and allies. Forefront brought extensive expertise in non-profit development and provides a range of support in board development, non-profit capacity building and fundraising to the selection process.

“The Board will lead the transition to become an independent organization. It will advance fundraising, the creation of a business plan and operating model for the organization, the hiring of full-time staff, and ongoing community engagement and outreach activities.”

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