This article was written by Tia Carol Jones and was published in the Citizen Weekly on September 7, 2022.
Dr. Maurice Swinney was recently named Chief Innovation Officer for Chicago Beyond. Swinney, who was in education for 21 years, was the first Chief Equity Officer for Chicago
Chicago Beyond was founded by Liz Dozier , former principal of Fenger High School, in 2016. The goal of the or ganization is to think about how young people can be better served. Chicago Beyond invests in organizations and community leaders who work to change the lives of young people in the city of Chicago.
Swinney believes the work Chicago Beyond does is important because it is about young people. Swinney remembers being a young person. He also remembers his students, what they wanted and their dreams.
“Everybody has a dream. How do we move from the dream deferred to actualizing things. With Chicago Beyond, it’s really about how do we do that for real and how do we do that with young people, and the community that’s around them,” Swinney said.
Swinney also believes that by centering those who are impacted by structural racism and investing in organizations doing work to create opportunities for those people is what makes Chicago Beyond great. The organization is taking the hustle out of finding funding, which oftentimes is as hard a job as the work the organization is doing to help people in the community.
“You can search for a lot of funding, you can write a lot of grants, you can do a lot of things and you can be exhausted by that process. Then, when it’s time to do the work you love, it feels taxing,” Swinney said.
Chicago Beyond has invested at least $40 million in Black organizations, without making it a tough process. Swinney described it as something called, trustbased philanthropy. It involves trusting that people know what to do, without making them jump through hoops to do it.
Being the Chief Equity Officer at CPS, Swinney had the experience of building an equity framework for driving change in the system. It gave him insight into all the systems that impact young people – transportation, housing, access to healthy food. Swinney
wants to listen, learn and continue to build with communities, understanding people’s experiences and bringing all of those voices and perspectives together to create things that support young people thriving.
“I’m really excited to do what I did at CPS, get out, talk to people, listen and say, ‘OK, how can we do this together ’ in real time. I hold space for so many young people, all of their ideas and all of those I’ve lost. I have never seen young people be bad, what I have seen is young people be under resourced and have barriers to their success,” Swinney said.
In his role as Chief Innovation Officer, he wants to continue to disrupt the systems that lead to young people not having sufficient resources.
Chicago Beyond is recentering how philanthropy can work, which means getting out of the way. One initiative is the Rapid Response Fund, another is the Abundance Campaign, which asks wealthy philanthropic organizations to make a commitment to fund Black
organizations in community.
Swinney wants people in the city to think about how they see young people in this city, to change their mindsets and biases. He believes what young people need the most is care in action, to be heard and not spoken to. “Smiling at young people, telling them to have a good day at school, telling them to do their best, is free,” Swinney said.