Bringing Capital & Connections
to Chicago Communities
Community Desk Chicago works to connect leaders on Chicago’s South and West sides with funders and investors who share their commitment to equitable economic prosperity. These partners come together to develop real estate projects that are aligned with community goals—and in doing so elevate innovative ways to bring capital and connections into communities that have been historically underserved.
Our long-term vision is a Chicago where all communities are valued and have equitable access to holistic amenities and services—and the capital and capacity that makes those things possible.
Community Desk Chicago’s mission is to advance equitable economic prosperity in collaboration with Black and Latinx communities through our advocacy, capacity building and capital connections.
Our work ultimately advances both individual projects as well as an ecosystem that supports many community-driven developments. The impacts go beyond dollars and cents – generating jobs, creating wealth, and improving the quality of life in communities.
For example, here’s how one neighborhood development might create a trickle-down effect to create positive outcomes for a community:
Community Desk Chicago believes the following:
Strong talent and commercial development opportunities exist in communities, but face challenges accessing the necessary capital and resources.
Communities deserve holistic development, including commercial projects that create wealth building opportunities and improve quality of life.
Projects in communities of color should have equitable access to capital without fear of racial bias.
Our role is to collaborate, not duplicate — partnering with the existing ecosystem to add capacity and fill gaps.
The Desk was established in 2019 at The Chicago Community Trust through a collaborative partnership with the Boston Consulting Group’s Center for Illinois’ Future and JPMorgan Chase. The Desk’s work builds on research conducted by BCG and the Trust and is informed by extensive work of others advancing place-based community development.
Ja’Net Defell has more than 20 years of management consulting, urban planning and real estate development experience. Prior to leading Community Desk Chicago, Defell served as a real estate subject matter expert for a federal agency and a real estate consultant and developer at a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) where she managed a portfolio of nonprofit community-based real estate projects. In addition to her direct real estate experience, Defell has worked with the philanthropic community in the City of Detroit to build capacity related to facilities management and planning as well as supported the development of city-wide initiatives to improve facility conditions in low-income and underserved communities.
Defell holds a Master of Urban Planning and Policy from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) from the University of Michigan. She is a Fulcrum Fellow with the Center for Community Investment, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and LEED Green Associate.