Ethical Redevelopment Principle #7: Stack, Leverage + Access

Successful interventions, whether a single project, location, or gesture, have impact and reverberation. Ethical Redevelopment Principle #7: Stack, Leverage + Access, asserts that excitement can lead to investment and that resource streams can come from diverse sources.


An investment in yourself, in your ideas and projects, sends a signal to those watching your work that you value place and people over profits. It is critical to have skin in the game, to have something at stake, even if the investment is sweat equity. 

Ethical projects require belief and motivation, sometimes more than they require funding. Early, small successes demonstrate feasibility and can spur the next success or even the next project. Whether you work on a series of projects or just one, leverage the attention garnered by your idea to amplify it. Let the work attract more believers.

Have a vision. Be demanding.
— Colin Powell, 65th U.S. Secretary of State


Over time, a project from your initial days of engagement and experimentation can mature. Something that you passionately believed in, but had little external backing for, can grow in scale and scope to become a sophisticated version that many stakeholders support and believe in. Demonstrating this type of capacity permits access to greater resources.

Establishing relationships with funders, gaining access to multiple spheres of influence, and incorporating expertise are crucial to the enduring success of your project. You may not have access to sufficient funding from one distinct source. However, you can stack and bundle resource streams from diverse sources to meet the price tags of your projects. 


The Chicago Arts + Industry Commons (CAIC) is a collaboration between the City of Chicago, artist Theaster Gates’s Rebuild Foundation, and the University of Chicago’s Place Lab. The concept excited people with a new model for artist-led, neighborhood-based development for mindful city-building. It proposed using arts and culture as tools to revitalize. It attracted believers. 

The project leveraged this interest to garner financial support. CAIC acquired $10.25 million from four major foundations: JPB Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation, as well as individual donors and philanthropic organizations. 

CAIC’s self-sustaining, cultural reinvestment model appealed to funders.  The project description explains, “CAIC employs an evolving cultural reinvestment model that uses the revitalization of sleepy assets as part of an engine that spurs new development and new capital, a portion of which is used to support the civic commons.” Funders are more likely to support a project when their contributions will catalyze ongoing economic change.
The project stacked and bundled resource streams from diverse sources to meet its initial price tag. This provided access to a level of funding that would be otherwise unavailable, resulting in a more impactful project. Finally, the inclusion of multiple funders offered more people access points to involve themselves with the project. A larger community could take ownership over the work and have a stake in its ongoing success.

Have you worked on a project that cultivated investment from excitement? Did you stack, leverage, or access resources? Tell us about it in the comments section.