2022: Year in review

2022 has been packed! All of us at Delta Institute are so grateful for everyone who has been partnering with us and supporting our work to address the environmental, economic, and climate challenges facing our region. With just a few days of the year left, we thought we’d highlight just a few moments from this past year that stood out to us here at Delta in this blog post.

And we have even more big news to share with you in 2023–we hope you continue to join us in our goals to make a more resilient and equitable Midwest for all. And if you want to help ensure that vision, please donate by December 31 and your gift–including all gifts received up to $25,000–will be eligible to be matched by our Board of Directors, doubling the impact of your gift!

Thank you for an impactful 2022! Cheers to 2023!

This year, we launched our refined strategic plan for 2022-2025. Through three overarching programs, we have committed to reaching to the following impact goals over a three-year period:

  • Nature-Based Climate Solutions. Delta assists municipalities by integrating natural climate solutions and Green Infrastructure (GI) to reduce climate change impacts by capturing 100 million stormwater gallons and leveraging $100 million in municipal GI investment. Delta focuses on communities who are disproportionately affected by flooding and climate change to collaboratively improve the environmental indicators, mitigate local impacts of climate change, and strengthen their neighborhoods’ resilience.
  • Resilient Agriculture. Delta supports 1,000 farmers as they transition to sustainable and regenerative practices, thus improving the environment, mitigating the impacts of climate change, and strengthening a farmer’s bottom line. By 2025, Delta will help transition one million Midwestern agricultural acres to conservation-focused farming practices so our region’s primary economic driver can be more environmentally and financially sound.
  • Sustainability and Support Services. Delta prides itself on being responsive to the needs of its partners and responding to what they define as being the most important goal, activity, project, or taking new approach to improving their local environmental and economic outcomes. By 2025, Delta will work with more than 250 partner communities while securing $40 million in external investment and creating 100 practical tools, resources, strategies, and municipal/county-level plans.

Be sure to follow along in 2023 as we share updates on our progress in achieving these goals!

This year, Delta participated in several noteworthy events discussing our nature-based climate solutions program. This summer, we connected with many of our partners at Resilient Infrastructure for Sustainable Communities (RISC) Solutions during a day-long conference. Sharing and learning about what others across the region are doing to improve resilience in their local communities fills us with excitement to think about what is possible! Learn more about RISC Solutions and download resources to advance resiliency against stormwater flooding and other climate challenges on their website. 

And in October, we were pleased to join the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the restored Cheney Run Wetland Preserve at Karwick Nature Park. Over the past few years, Delta has partnered with the Michigan City Sanitary District to restore Cheney Run, a 40-acre site surrounded by wetlands. Through this work, the wetlands are capturing and treating more than 190 million gallons of stormwater annually. Nearly 40,000 pounds of sediment, 900 pounds of nitrogen, and 200 pounds of phosphorus is now reduced annually in the Trail Creek tributary that drains directly into Lake Michigan!

We have several other related projects underway, such as our partnership with Emerald South redeveloping vacant lots into green spaces on Chicago’s South Side, that we look forward to sharing more about in 2023!

Resilient agriculture is synonymous with soil health. And as part of our programs, we are partnering with farmers to standardize soil health testing and increase its use as as a metric for form management. This past year, we launched a new project underway to support soil health and sustainable agriculture across Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, and Michigan; we’ll be sharing more about this work in 2023!

This year, we also released a report detailing expanded findings on our Conservation Hotspot Analysis in Illinois. Using feedback on the report, map, and webinar, Delta investigated some key questions on factors influencing conservation practice adoption. Our new report includes detailed conservation information about counties in Northeast Illinois. Click here to download the report or click here to learn more about our Resilient Agriculture program goals. 

To continue fulfilling Delta’s ongoing commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, we adopted two new policies:

  • Delta’s Organizational Community Engagement Stipend Policy – We believe that redevelopment without community voice is racist, classist, extractive, and perpetuates legacy injustices. As such, Delta is committed to providing equitable compensation in our project work to create a more inclusive environment where community members can share their voices.
  • Delta’s Statements of Inclusive Populations – We believe that inclusive communications are built upon the foundation of respecting and reflecting how people choose to describe themselves and self-identity. Furthermore, we recognize that many communities of color self-identify using different terminology, and we also welcome and celebrate that people identify through a broad spectrum of gender, sexual, and orientation identities. Delta published these statements to share our approach to celebrating inclusivity in our communications.

Click here to learn more about Delta’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

This summer, we were honored to see Crains Chicago Business recognize Bill Schleizer as being named one of Crain’s 2022 Notable Leaders in Sustainability!

Bill has nearly 20 years of experience at Delta Institute, first joining as an associate in 2004 and later being appointed as CEO in 2015. In this blog post, former Board Chair Sam Schiller congratulates Bill Schleizer and celebrates his many accomplishments during his tenure at Delta Institute. This recognition builds on Crain’s previous recognition of Bill in 2019, when he was named one of Chicago’s Notable LGBTQ Executives.

Congratulations, Bill!

This fall, we presented our 11th annual BOOST event showcasing four emerging start-ups with ideas that promote sustainability. At the event, supporters vote for their favorite pitches, and we awarded two grants to the winners:

  • EcoShip, founded by Aleksandra Plewa, is a 501c3 nonprofit in Chicago that collects gently used shipping materials to reduce the overall carbon footprint of at-home deliveries. 
  • Rewilding Acres, founded by Rozina Kanchwala, is an ecosystem restoration project that is transitioning commercial farmland into an organic, regenerative, and on-field educational site. 

We also heard presentations from two other finalists: Sana Jafri and Qudsia Khan of babygami co, whose mission is to get diverse families outside by providing easily transportable and space-saving baby products, and Malika Hill and Walter Byrd of Centreville Citizens for Change, a community group focused on stormwater and sewage solutions for a BIPOC-majority town enduring legacy wastewater issues.

Thank you to the many donors and sponsors who supported this year’s event! We would like to especially thank this year’s presenting sponsors, the American Family Insurance Institute for Corporate and Social Impact and United Airlines, as well as this year’s diamond sponsor, William Blair. Lastly, we want to share a special thank you to the Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship for hosting this year’s hybrid event on their campus!

For the third year in a row, Candid (formerly known as GuideStar) recognized Delta Institute with a Platinum Seal of Transparency! This certification means that Delta ranks among the top 1% of all 1.5 million nonprofits nationally regarding transparency.

This commitment represents publicly and voluntarily sharing a comprehensive overview of our organization, including:

  • Clearly defined programmatic goals and strategy;
  • How we measure our results on a yearly basis;
  • Our alignment with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals;
  • A financial report of our revenue and expenses;
  • Disclosure of board leadership practices such as ethics and transparency; and,
  • Demographic information about our board and senior staff.

We welcome everyone to learn more by visiting our Candid profile by clicking the button below.

This year, we hosted several webinars and digital events exploring a wide range of environmental, economic, and climate topics. Missed one? Check them out on our YouTube page!

  • “Green Soapbox” panel discussion on City Resilience – This is an annual event organized by our Delta Emerging Leaders associate board; this year’s event was generously sponsored by the Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship and one anonymous supporter.
  • Our Earth Day Celebration – This was an online event showcasing some of Delta’s partners working on exciting environmental projects, featuring speakers from Chicago Tool Library, Emerald South Economic Development Collaborative, and Chicago Tool Library. 
  • Expanding Chicago grass-fed beef to grow Illinois grazing – Delta and Wallace Center at Winrock International’s Pasture Project co-hosted an informational webinar discussing grass-fed beef value chains in the state of Illinois. This work was made possible with support from Food:Land:Opportunity, an initiative of Kinship Foundation and The Chicago Community Trust, funded through the Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust. 
  • The Agroforestry Series In partnership with the Savanna Institute and Liberty Prairie Foundation, Delta Institute is co-hosting a series of webinars discussing concepts surrounding agroforestry, such as our most recent webinar discussing agroforestry for conservation.

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