News / Insights

A Look Back on 2020: Reinforcing Our People and Innovation

  • Sana Jafri

Transitioning to Zoom. Increasing programming from monthly to weekly. Getting COVID-19. Crowdsourcing and sharing digital divide and engagement resources. Creating space for youth to talk about policing and healing. Slashing our organizational budget. Granting resources to promote youth voice and digital activism during nation wide youth-led protests. Having a baby during a pandemic. Pausing and reimagining programs. Writing, grieving, and celebrating wins. 2020 has been a year of challenges, a year of new learnings, and a year of many firsts.

Although we may have experienced much of these activities from our homes, perhaps alone, it taught me the importance of our network of relationships, our people, and innovation.

And, as I reflect on the end of the year, I start at the beginning with my introductory letter as Executive Director of the Chicago Learning Exchange (CLX). Although I didn’t know a pandemic and righteous unrest would change our world perhaps forever, each day has reinforced my original sentiments of the importance of our people and innovation:

2020 has taught us the importance of educators and mentors. They are our young people's “front line” workers. We must center, support, and recognize the people, the people, the people...especially the educators and administrators who have dedicated their life to serving our youth.

2020 was a year of innovation where seemingly every organization had to transform their original game plan to a new one. While doing so, we must invest in innovation, not for innovation's sake, but because we must always dream of a better world and be open to ideation, iteration, failing, and learning.

2020 was a year where technology moved from the margins to the center and we realized learning happens anytime, everywhere. We must continue to champion and celebrate all of Chicago’s assets from its learners to spaces of learning whether they are in barbershops, museums, libraries, schools, or our 2020 theme of living rooms. Whether they are on the West Side, South Side, North Side, in the alley, or our beloved Lake Michigan. And, at the same time strive toward a Chicago where a child’s life circumstances do not impact one’s opportunities.

With an amazing staff and members in our Network, many of us stretched and leaned into our people and innovation to overcome adversity, practice wellness, and challenge the status quo; TOGETHER, we accomplished an incredible amount in 2020.

Thank you for being part of our 2020 story. We are excited to continue our journey together to support Chicago’s digital-age learners and leaders into the New Year and beyond.

We will begin the year with our continued commitment to racial equity and healing through a Community of Practice (CoP) for youth development professionals. More to come, so please continue to stay tuned via and @CLXchange.

At your service,

Sana Jafri, Executive Director

Chicago Learning Exchange (CLX)