Evanston Cradle to Career, a partnership of public agencies and nonprofit organizations designed to improve fairness and equity in the city, held its quarterly partners meeting Thursday morning over Zoom. Representatives from dozens of local community groups gathered to discuss updates to EC2C’s goals and possible revisions to the partnership agreement that establishes working expectations for all organizations involved. 

The meeting came on the heels of a City Council discussion last month where Council members expressed some hesitation about renewing the city’s annual $50,000 contribution to EC2C. During that conversation, multiple Council members said they need more information about the organization’s goals, accomplishments and mission before continuing to blindly offer thousands of dollars every year.

“We continue to give funding, and we don’t have an idea – aside from the one night they come for the money – what they do,” Cicely Fleming, who represents the 9th Ward, said at the Council meeting in October.

During Thursday’s EC2C meeting, the organization reaffirmed its purpose of pooling together community resources from local nonprofits to provide extra support for young people in Evanston. Multiple representatives at the gathering noted that the power of EC2C lies in its ability to connect people from different sectors and help them collaborate on projects together. 

For example, Lindsay Percival, the Executive Director of Learning Bridge Early Education Center, has partnered with the Open Studio Project to provide a therapeutic art program for the kids enrolled at the center. 

“I could see more and more collaborations like that, which can only benefit [kids]. I’d like to see more businesses become involved with Cradle to Career,” Percival said. “I’d like to see faith-based organizations come into the fold because I think the more people that are working toward helping young people in Evanston, the better.” 

Although Percival and others said the partnership agreement updates will not change the nature of their day-to-day work with EC2C, the updated document does establish commitments to regular communication among partners and making a “collective impact” based on a “shared vision.” 

At the end of the meeting, Kristin Meyer, the Community Health Specialist for the city’s Health and Human Services Department, presented information on the public health division’s data collection partnership with EC2C as part of the Evanston Project for the Local Assessment of Needs. The city completes its local assessment every five years, and Meyer laid out goals for a robust partnership where all city organizations and nonprofits can work toward improving access to healthcare and addressing health inequities.

The RoundTable attended the opening of Thursday morning’s partners meeting, but EC2C Executive Director Maricar Ramos said the meeting was closed to the public and off the record despite no formal announcement or note establishing the meeting as closed. A few minutes later, EC2C Communications Manager Amarin Young told the RoundTable to leave the meeting because it was a “closed executive session.” 

In the past, the RoundTable was regularly invited and permitted to attend EC2C’s partners’ meetings. One of the partners previously stated that the RoundTable should be permitted to attend the meetings and that the meetings should be open to the public because School Districts 65 and 202 and the City of Evanston, all public bodies, contributed substantial amounts of money to EC2C, and the public was therefore entitled to know what EC2C was doing. The RoundTable is in communication with the Public Access Counselor of the Attorneys General’s Office to determine if EC2C is subject to the Open Meetings Act.

The next quarterly partners meeting will take place in February. 

Duncan Agnew

Duncan Agnew covers Evanston public schools, affordable housing, City Hall and more for the RoundTable. He also writes long-form investigations, features and the morning email newsletter three times a...