The Endeleo (Endeleo is Swahili for progress, growth and development) Institute is a nonprofit 501c3, a member organization of Trinity United Church of Christ, one of the largest African-American churches in the City of Chicago. Endeleo provides services through the lens of health, education and community development, all of which overlap and contribute to the overall quality of life. As a community-based organization, our work is undergirded by community-engaged research (CEnR), a collaborative process that produces and disseminates knowledge and creative expression with the goal of contributing to the research discipline while strengthening the well-being of the community. That work has led to seemingly countless collaborative projects with health and academic institutions that give credence to our core mission to revitalize the Far South Side Washington Heights community and create a health-conscious commercial corridor.
Community-campus partnerships play a linchpin role in our work at Endeleo. They undergird the three areas of our organization’s concentration., It is inconceivable to imagine accomplishing what we have without the benefit of these partnerships which bring with them, an institutional cache that allows us to access and occupy spaces we would otherwise not be privy.
Endeleo is a member organization of a faith-based institution rooted in social justice and racial equity for nearly six decades. To that end, the mission of CCPH aligns with Endeleo in that through academic partnerships, we as a community-based organization can push forth that platform to help contextualize the work.
My commitment to CCPH was inspired largely by the preference given to community. I graduated from a very prestigious Jesuit high school in Chicago, and graduated from Northwestern University and have seen privilege firsthand. So it is comforting for me to see academia become more cognizant of the implicit racial bias that exist on campuses and the realization that those institutions have a hand in perpetuating it. As such, having this platform allows me to bring multiple perspectives which are welcomed. I appreciate that.
The number one goal for me is fitting what I do into the CCPH fabric. I have not quite figured it out but my work is really angling toward CCPH on a daily basis, in large part because community health and health equity are becoming much more top of mind. However, the communities Endeleo represents don’t necessarily understand “equity,” per se. I rarely use the word when speaking to our constituents because jargon can be intimidating and I do not profess to know everything just because I am in this position and reflect the community served. So one goal might be to help ensure we stay focused on speaking “English” when we engage our respective communities so we build that all-important rapport. It takes a long time to build trust and an even shorter time to lose it.
To me, the greatest opportunity for this organization is being the go-to community-campus partnership. When for instance, you consider the complicit nature of the recent scandals involving parents and their influence with school administrators and decision-makers in the college admissions process, you really get a better sense of the systemic nature of privilege and how equity in education is likened to an insect on the windshield of a fast moving vehicle. We must have a much stronger voice in slowing this inequitable system down to a halt.
The most obvious benefit to board membership to me is reach. This assembled group has amazing depth with the potential to help change policy, economics and social standing for people of color around the world. I have a healthy new respect for policy and board membership and the opportunities to advocate and impact communities in a broader, collaborative new way. That’s exciting!
Melvin Thompson, MBA
Executive Director, Endeleo Institute
Steering Committee Member, Alliance for Research in Chicagoland Communities (ARCC)
Board Member, Community Renewal Society
Board Member, Community-Campus Partnerships for Health