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Investing in the Future of the Great Lakes Region: An Update


Dear Friends,

Last year we announced a new focus: to advance racial equity and economic mobility for the next generation in the Great Lakes region. We hope this will help create a more equitable and prosperous future for the Great Lakes region. Six weeks ago, we made our first grants in support of these goals.

Joyce has long addressed issues of equity – including race, income, and education – that are at the core of our historical mission of promoting quality of life, safe and healthy communities, and a just society. The strategic priorities adopted by the Joyce Board of Directors in 2017 represent a new, more intentional commitment to policy solutions that challenge the systemic inequities that can block economic and social progress for young people of color.

Here are a few examples of our progress to date:

  • The Education & Economic Mobility Program supports equitable access to high-quality education and jobs for the next generation. The April grants included awards to boost teacher and principal quality in urban public schools, and help prepare low-income and minority students to succeed in college. The board also approved grants to help reverse race and income-based gaps at public universities.
  • The Environment Program supports science-based policy to address two critical long-term issues affecting the next generation in the Great Lakes: accelerating the transition to clean energy and ensuring access to clean water from lake to tap. Among grants approved in April: investment in implementation of major state clean energy legislation, and support for policies to prevent lead exposure in drinking water, especially in low income communities.
  • The Gun Violence Prevention & Justice Reform Program promotes greater trust between policy and community through stronger policies to reduce gun violence and over-incarceration of young offenders. April grants included support for advocacy to reduce easy access to firearms, building the research case for policies and strategies to reduce gun violence, and the development of systems for the Chicago Police Department to identify officers who need support to help improve community relations.
  • The Democracy Program promotes an informed, engaged and representative democracy with its work on voting rights, redistricting reform and support for public interest media. April grants included support for organizations working on successful implementation of Illinois’ new automatic voter registration law, and to engage communities of color and young people in government and politics.
  • The Culture Program fosters a more inclusive Chicago arts sector by supporting projects that create diverse pipelines to careers in the arts and increase access for young people to some of Chicago’s most respected arts venues. One of the April awards will support establishment of a pilot microgrant program to provide a new source of funding for individual Chicago artists.

In additional to our grant making, we are also using our platform – our bully pulpit – to bring new and diverse voices into policy conversations, especially those from communities most directly affected by policy decisions.

I plan to update you periodically on our progress – and hope that you will share your thoughts with us as well. You can reach us at

Thank you for being a partner in this important work. 

Ellen Alberding 
The Joyce Foundation

"We will now have a laser focus on how we can advance racial and economic mobility in the next generation."

"The gun violence problem in Chicago is unique and acute."

"Our democracy does not run on auto-pilot; We cannot take it for granted."