Gather For Safe and Peaceful Communities

The Conant Family Foundation and the Goldin Institute are partnering in an effort to bring Gather, a tablet-based training platform, to the neighborhood leaders participating in the Chicago Fund for Safe & Peaceful Communities.

Since 2002, the Chicago-based Goldin Institute has inspired, equipped and connected grassroots leaders in over 40 countries to lead community-driven social change.

Goldin Institute built Gather as an online learning hub to support a community of practice for grassroots leaders because none of the existing “learning management” software solutions worked well for collaborative learning, especially for grassroots activists. Accessed through tablets provided at no cost, the technology creates a flexible platform for training and communication that takes place when and where participants are available.

The Chicago Fund for Safe & Peaceful Communities is uniquely effective at surfacing emerging and motivated problem-solvers and community-builders. Through Gather, a cohort of grant recipients will have the opportunity to reflect on their summer programs, identify what worked and what didn’t, and improve their abilities by sharing strengths and learning new skills.

The Conant Family Foundation values authentic community leadership. By connecting Chicago leaders through Gather, we hope to reinforce and strengthen their capacity to nurture safer and more peaceful communities. The Conant Family Foundation is excited to support this pilot; it will be the first domestic application of the online Gather platform.

With Gather, the classroom is virtual but the learning and leadership development is grounded in a structured curriculum utilizing an asset-based methodology. It is both flexible and rigorous. The Gather curriculum recognizes that the participants themselves are key sources of knowledge and wisdom and that their interaction is the primary material for shared learning.

Participants collaborate online using a range of communications tools built into the platform. In addition to traditional discussion boards to host conversations around key questions, the platform also has peer-to-peer text and video chat built in. Each week the Gather participants are invited to a live online group video conference call to share and discuss their work in real time. Depending on the interests of the participants, the training could also include in-person sessions on topics of their choosing.

The Conant Family Foundation and Goldin Institute are eager to see how an application of this technology could jump-start cross-community learning and coordination right here in Chicago.

A proposed Implementation Timeline follows the video below.


Based on the Goldin Institute’s experience and approach to community driven social change, the starting point in a collaborative design includes input from past Fund grantees, foundation partners, and community residents.


Phase 1 | Seeing the System | April – June 2018

Convene and Engage a range of participants in the Chicago Fund to fully understand the goals, challenges and aspirations of people involved and impacted by the work, including:

  • Philanthropic Sponsors: several engaged donors in the Chicago Fund to learn what was achieved to date, opportunities for improvement, the plans for the future.
  • Project Leaders: a sampling of past grant recipients who have led Chicago Fund projects to learn what worked, what was challenging, and how to best support them moving forward.
  • Targeted Beneficiaries: an informal group of community residents, especially people who have been impacted by violence.
  • Issue and Organizing Experts: violence prevention experts, peace-builders, organizers and key civic partners that have informed the Chicago Partnership.


Phase 2 | Learn From Experience | May – September 2018

Document representative projects that are launched through the 2018 Chicago Fund to learn what tools and resources would be helpful to fund recipients in the future. Develop real world, Chicago-centric case studies to be used in the curriculum.


Phase 3 | Curriculum Design & Cohort Selection | Oct – December 2018

Design the Curriculum so that the materials and pedagogical approaches are tailored to the unique challenges and aspirations of the Chicago Fund, key partners and beneficiaries. Concurrently, through a written application process that may also involve interviews, select the cohort of Chicago participants.


Phase 4 | Pilot the Curriculum | January – March 2019

Pilot the Curriculum with a cohort of Chicago Fund 2018 recipients with the goal of improving the capacity of participants to execute projects as a result of the curricula and the community engagement strategies practiced throughout the course.


Phase 5 | Evaluate and Explore | April 2019 – the Future

Evaluate and explore together to determine if the impact, scope or depth of these select projects have improved through participation in the course. If the collaborating partners see progress, promise and an aligned vision for the future, explore opportunities to refine and expand this new model.




The Goldin Institute’s Gather curriculum was designed through conversations and on-the-ground experiences with our network of local partners in over 40 countries around the world.

The core Gather Curriculum is designed to help grassroots leaders deeply and authentically engage their communities to work together to build their own solutions and determine their own futures. This intensive course is taken online and will last for 16 weeks with a minimum of two hours of coursework and community application each week.

All Gather participants receive both a free iPad with cellular connectivity as well as a stipend to be used at their discretion. Some may choose to use these funds to pay for materials, meeting spaces or equipment while others may use the stipend to replace income lost from dedicating the 2 – 4 hours per week necessary to successfully complete the course. By tracking the spending through a simple budgeting app, new leaders can establish the track record they need to be considered trustworthy for additional funding as their projects grow.

Gather participants will learn together an in interactive online environment exploring the themes outlined in this graphic course map:




Designing the course was what led us to create the Gather Platform as a tool to meaningful deliver the curriculum and support the real work of grassroots leaders and community builders around the world.

Gather was built based on conversations and collaboration with global networks of grassroots partners who collectively asked: How can we leverage technology to better support a global network of activists?

Elements of the Gather Platform have been redesigned based on participant feedback in 2017, and the updated version of Gather will be piloted with its inaugural class in early 2018.

The platform was built with several design considerations in mind:

  • Design for the Margins: The platform will make the content and navigation as user-friendly as possible so we reach the people the course aspires to support. All participants are provided with a free iPad with cell connectivity to overcome the device and bandwidth divide as well as a stipend to support salary and local costs that too often stifles emerging leaders with great ideas.
  • Community Oriented Platform: Gather was designed to be user-friendly for grassroots activists around the world, many of whom are new to technology and have limited access to workshops, conferences, trainings and ongoing education. Content will include readings, interactive assignments, video and audio stories, illustrations, and conversations to support a wide range of learning styles and preferences.
  • Real Time Collaboration: Based on insights from direct community leadership experience, we know that “being there” and building trust are critical components of any social change initiative. By providing real-time chat, visual user interface elements that keep your peers visible online, and a mix of real-time and asynchronous activities, participants can learn together, but at their own pace.
  • Relevant Grassroots Tools: Gather offers tools that leverage the capabilities of the tablet device to be more than just a content delivery system. In addition to using the camera and microphone to document activities in the field, Gather contains a “just in time” toolbox to help grassroots leaders use core concepts and facilitation tools as well as templates for some common organizing activities.
  • Community of Practice: The platform is a persistent hub that connects participants with each other and the Goldin Institute’s team of instructors and advisors. The course offers opportunities to learn by doing that involves the local community as your peer learning partners. Participants are encouraged to add to the shared Resource Library around core themes and practices.



The Goldin Institute builds grassroots partnerships for global change that are rooted in the power of communities working together to build their own solutions and determine their own future.

We achieve our mission by promoting innovative, community-driven partnerships between a wide range of stakeholders and sectors of civil society, ensuring that often excluded voices have a seat at the table of any social change movement. By linking grassroots efforts from around the world in our global network, we provide opportunities to build innovative multi-sector relationships and solutions that both adapt to particular local contexts and draw from creative solutions and approaches from around the world.


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