U of I System
Publish Date

The Illinois Innovation Network (IIN) awarded $30,000 to a new social innovation seed grant project this week. Provided by the University of Illinois System, the funding is designed to translate research into projects that directly affect lives, address critical social problems and build trusted partnerships in communities across Illinois.

The funded project, “Journeys to Justice: Commemorating and Memorializing the History and Legacy of Anti-Black Terror in Illinois,” will launch a statewide coalition to promote and support the research and remembrance of anti-Black riots, massacres and lynchings in Illinois.

The work will be led by University of Illinois Springfield associate professors Devin Hunter and Lesa Johnson, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville assistant professor Tandra Taylor and Western Illinois University professor Peter Cole. IIN funds will support a trip to Equal Justice Initiative sites in Montgomery, Alabama, and a follow-up symposium in Springfield this fall.

“This project has great potential to not only raise awareness of tragic events throughout Illinois’ history but also to provide reconciliation and healing for many Illinoisans,” U of I System Vice President for Economic Development and Innovation Jay Walsh said. “I look forward to seeing the results of this group’s work and the impact it can have across our state.”

IIN is a network of 15 hubs across the state working to boost Illinois’ economy through entrepreneurship, research and workforce development. Most hubs are at public universities.

Proposals for seed grants were required to include a meaningful collaboration between at least two IIN hubs and were encouraged to include other hubs or community organizations. Projects also must be completed within one year of receiving funding. Proposals were evaluated on their alignment with IIN principles, how well they address their stated areas of social innovation and impact, the scope of their work and level of collaboration, as well as their potential for further work.

“I am extremely happy to be able to support a project like this one,” said Leslie Roundtree, interim provost and vice president of academic affairs at Chicago State University, and IIN Council chair. “This group’s idea to research and memorialize our state’s history will provide a more complete understanding of our past and provide an opportunity for healing.”