Community Renewal Society (CRS) is a faith-based organization that works with people and communities to address racism and poverty. CRS transforms society towards greater justice and compassion.
A just community where race and class no longer limit each person' s full participation in all aspects of society.
Theory of Change
In efforts to empower persons of color and low-income individuals to transform their lives, circumstances and the conditions of their communities, CRS's theory of change connects four primary components: public engagement, public will/opinion, civic demand and public policy/practice change.
Public Engagement. In order for citizens or organizations to take action on an issue, they must first be aware of the issue, its importance, its causes, its consequences and possible solutions to it. Effective public engagement is intertwined with building knowledge and understanding. CRS's newsmagazine, The Chicago Reporter, surface issues and provide insightful analyses into pressing social concerns.
Public Will/Opinion. Awareness of a problem rarely compels people to take action to resolve it; resolution flows from a belief that the problem should and can be solved. Having raised awareness of an issue with constituents, CRS works with them to identify, analyze and test solutions, and to develop strategies that will lead to the adoption and implementation of those solutions. This includes research into best practices and legislative initiatives, identification of potential barriers as well as likely allies, an assessment of contextual issues that offer opportunities to promote change, and creating an organized network of constituents interested in and willing to take action on the issue.
Civic Demand. Having determined that change is necessary on a particular issue, Organizing staff guide and assist constituents and coalition partners in using their knowledge and skills to demand that policymakers take action to reach clearly articulated and agreed upon outcomes. The newsmagazines press these leaders to respond to the challenges outlined in our work. Community members are no longer overlooked bystanders but rather citizens claiming their full rights and responsibilities in a democratic society.
Public Policy/Practice Change. Experience has demonstrated that creating and implementing new policies or programs does not always lead to the outcomes advocates had articulated and policymakers agreed upon, for a variety of reasons. CRS monitors the implementation and impact of the policy or program and, in doing so, holds the policymakers and public agencies accountable for its success.
CRS's mission since its founding has always reflected the spirit of the denomination that founded it, the Congregational Church (predecessor denomination to the United Church of Christ). Even today, CRS's programmatic focus aligns with the mission principles of the United Church of Christ: combating social injustice, striving for economic and racial justice and combating poverty.
CRS was started in February 1882 when seven laymen and ministers of the Congregational Church of Chicago formed the Chicago City Missionary Society to address the social, educational and economic needs of newly arrived immigrants. They envisioned an organization that would provide a Christian structure that would renew the quality of life in the Chicago metropolitan area.
Congregationalist were strong in their belief of the civil rights of all people. They believed in the transforming power of the gospel to right social ills, particularly inhumanity to other races, specifically the injustice of slavery. The Congregational Church was comprised of black and white Americans who were active supporters and workers in the faith. One example of their belief in action was the now famous episode that began aboard the slave ship Amistad. In 1839, Africans being transported to Cuba led a mutiny for their freedom that landed 44 of them in a New Haven, Connecticut prision. Congregationalists provided legal counsel for the prisoners which resulted in their acquittal and freedom in 1841.
In addition, since migrating to America, Congregationalist have been responsible for the establishment of hundreds of churches, colleges, social justice organizations and universities including Harvard, Darmouth, Tougaloo, Fisk, Talledega, Lemoyne Owen, Oberlin and Dillard.
As the needs of the city changed, so did the organization as reflected in the evolution of its name. Four name changes reflect four different approaches to urban centered faith-based mission: Chicago City Missionary Society, Chicago Congregational Missionary and Extension, Chicago Congregational Union and, today, the Community Renewal Society. Though the name has changed, the mission has remained the same: to provide a moral voice, faithful witness and concerted action on social issues.