The Cleveland Model in Chicago

Like most major cities, Chicago is plagued with many interconnected problems that affect both the overall health of the city and the health of individual Chicagoans. Disinvestment in areas on the south and west sides has led to a lack of opportunities for these residents, especially affecting the youth. In a report by the Great Cities Institute, the authors highlight this major problem and demonstrate that unemployment disproportionately affects youth of color (Cordova & Wilson, 2017). This trend also can wreak havoc on health. In a report by Woolf et al. (2015), the authors highlight the various ways income and wealth can negatively impact an individual’s health. They conclude that “better economic conditions for American families mean longer lives and better health, and better health means lower health care costs (Woolf et al. 2015, p. 12). This disinvestment also damages a community’s reputation, making the problem cyclical. Corporations do not want to risk moving into these areas, which is ironic because they created the problem in the first place by leaving.

So what can be done to fix this enormous problem? I believe these communities should adopt what has become to be known as the Cleveland Model.

As the video explains, the model is to create community owned green cooperatives and sell their products to anchor institutions, the economic anchors of the city. I believe that this could easily be adapted in Chicago; however, there are some limitations that must be first considered.

First, it might be difficult to raise the initial capital needed to construct the facilities and infrastructure needed. Communities alone cannot do this on their own, especially those already struggling.  Second, there needs to be consideration of the political obstacles in the way. There may be issues with project zoning. Support from political leaders would be needed in order for a model like this to be implemented. It involves a lot of support and coordination to be impactful. Finally, the anchor institutions must be on board which may be difficult, especially if they have contractual agreements with other suppliers. The cooperatives will struggle to sell to their products and produce.

Nonetheless, I believe the Cleveland Model will be beneficial for the health of the entire city. It will provide the much needed jobs and opportunities for the dis-invested neighborhoods. It will create not only service jobs to maintain the greenhouses but also it would include managerial and professional opportunities. It will increase access to healthy foods in existing food deserts while eliminating the need for large corporations to establish chain grocery stores in the area.

By adopting the Cleveland Model, Chicago would be more sustainable. It would bring much needed investment in neighborhoods blighted with crime, joblessness, and sickness. It also would improve the overall health of the city, given these cooperatives would use green practices. Most importantly, the Cleveland Model will help individuals to lead healthy and fulfilling lives.


Córdova, T.L. & Wilson, M.D. (2017, January). Abandoned in their Neighborhoods: Youth Joblessness amidst the Flight of Industry and Opportunity. Retrieved from University of Illinois at Chicago, Great Cities Institute website:

Democracy Collaborative. (2014, September 23). The Cleveland Model: How the Evergreen Cooperatives Build Community Wealth. [Video File]. Retrieved from:

Woolf, S.H., Aron, L., Dubay, L., Simon, S.M., Zimmerman, E., & Lux, K.M. (2015, April) How Are Income And Wealth Linked to Health And Longevity?. Retrieved from:


One thought on “The Cleveland Model in Chicago

  1. Economic stability is a a crucial factor for sustainable cities, so the Cleveland model is reasonable solution to improve the standard of life in impoverished areas. What kind of coordination would be needed to implement this model to a community, and would it need to be organized from beyond the community? Also, would it be effective if there were incentives for institutions when partnering with a co-op?


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