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From left to right, Nyeja Coleman, AriannaTello-Perez Sanchez, and Paris Tree Brown

Communities United Awarded $10 Million Grant, Turning Pain into Power

Supported by consulting from Thinkinc., Communities United has secured a $10 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to fund the Healing Through Justice program. This survivor-led and intergenerational program is a unique community-led effort, conducted in collaboration with Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital, to improve mental health and foster youth leadership.

Thinkinc.’s strategic communications work began with the application process, as CU went from being awarded a $1 million grant finalist to being one of only five national recipients:

  • Partnership Building: Core to the application process was the relationship between CU and Lurie. The public voice, especially, needed to reflect this relationship.
  • Strategic Positioning: Thinkinc. worked with the partners on maintaining a laser focus on having youth voices at the forefront of the narrative. The central strategy was to amplify the voices of the youth and demonstrate how a medical institution was refining their actual services based on the needs of the youth they served.
  • Engaged Strategic Partner: Thinkinc. developed comprehensive communications helping CU and Lurie create key messaging and communications plans, then drafting and editing news releases, social media content and other communications materials, as well as pitching and placing news stories. 
  • Media Coverage: Thinkinc. helped secure coverage in the Chicago Tribune, Fox-32 Chicago and WBBM Newsradio when Communities United was first awarded a $1 million grant and later in the Chicago Tribune, ChalkBeat, Chicago Business and other outlets when they were awarded the final $10 million grant.

A successful example of this work came when Thinkinc. brainstormed strategy with CU. It led to a hybrid, virtual/in-person high-level event, convened by the two partners, on the release of a report on the barriers young men of color face in seeking mental-health services. The notion was to invite policymakers and mental health professionals to highlight the power and influence of these young men of color while releasing it to the media. This both helped to strengthen the relationship between CU and Lurie, influence other organizations in the health, political and non-profit arenas and raise the profile of CU and Lurie as partners to a broad set of audiences.

Throughout both phases of the grant process, Thinkinc. helped to get the youth voice at the forefront of the narrative. The communications and engagement strategy was effective in raising awareness and building support for the Healing Through Justice campaign.