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Dr.  Martin Luther King, Jr. once said…


At the Institute for Nonviolence Chicago, we aim to be a source of justice in our city.



Following the murder of Laquan McDonald and the civil unrest in Ferguson, MO, Chicagoans started paying attention to violence in our city—to the communities it was impacting the most to the trauma it was causing to individuals.


The funding community, local government and many nonprofits developed large-scale strategies to reduce violence through the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities. Through our participation in Communities Partnering 4 Peace (CP4P), we increased our capacity to serve residents of Austin, Back of the Yards, and West Garfield Park. We also partnered with Heartland Alliance to provide outreach services and employment opportunities to young men through the Rapid Employment and Development Initiative (READI) program. 


COVID-19 took over Chicago in March 2020. We provided safety equipment and resources to residents while continuing to mediate conflict, respond to shootings, provide trauma-informed care to victims, and keep the peace. Our support was crucial to keeping communities safe amid the dual public health crises of COVID-19 and gun violence. In late 2020 we expanded our services out of our Back of the Yards office to residents of Brighton Park.


In 2023, we began to offer staff the opportunity to pursue a bachelor’s degree by partnering with College Unbound, a higher education institution for nontraditional students who have commonly faced barriers to educational achievement. Focusing on the wellness of both staff and participants, we began to train staff in Cognitive Behavioral Interventions, and add CBI to all our program curriculums. And because of our continued focus to scale, we have again increased both direct service and administrative staff and implemented the FLIP program to be year-round. To accommodate our growing needs, we moved our Austin main office to a more modern facility with ample space for our expending services and numbers.


In late 2015, Teny Gross was recruited to move to Chicago to start the Institute for Nonviolence Chicago. He paired what he learned as a street outreach worker in Boston and CEO of a violence reduction organization in Rhode Island with the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to form the backbone of our beliefs and practices.


Austin saw drops in violence between 2016 and 2018. In 2018, partnering with Chicago CRED, we piloted the summer FLIP (Flatlining violence Inspires Peace) program where we provided a stipend to participants in Austin to act as peace ambassadors on blocks most prone to violence. We trained them in nonviolence and conflict mediation. Closely supervised by Nonviolence Chicago outreach workers, these Peacekeepers saw a 52% reduction in homicides; a 40% reduction in non-fatal shootings; and a 41% reduction in the number of shooting incidents from the same time in 2017. This program was so successful it has been expanded for 2019 to include more neighborhoods.


In 2021, we completed a rigorous 5-year strategic planning process. Quickly, the health and wellness of our staff became a top priority, so we began to secure funding to provide wellness services to our teams. Additionally, based on findings from Northwestern University, we learned we needed to scale to reach the many individuals in our service areas who are at extreme risk of perpetrating or becoming a victim of gun violence. And our FLIP program expanded to its largest implementation. With New Life Centers in Brighton Park, we recruited and trained 112 high-risk youth who conducted 105 conflict mediations and established 13 nonaggression agreements between opposing street groups.


In 2016, our first outreach team officially became operational in Austin, Chicago’s neighborhood most impacted by violence.


For the third year in a row, Chicago saw double-digit percentage decreases in shootings and homicides. We, along with the collaborations forged with CP4P, READI, and FLIP, have been key drivers of these reductions. In 2019, we developed our Workforce Development program that incorporates the principles of nonviolence and prepares participants to get and keep a job in the legal economy.


To address the need to scale, we hired more executive staff, promoted several staff to supervisor and manager positions, and hired more frontline workers. To address our commitment to our staff’s health, safety, and wellbeing, we created our new Behavioral Health and Wellness program. We also expanded our Workforce Development program to all three of our locations and introduced "Cultural Mentoring & Identity Trips" designed to expose, educate, and empower participants and staff in building the Beloved Community. Groups travel to new locations participating in wellness activities, acts of service, and learning about their culture.


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