We say all of the program areas are equally important, but I don’t think that is really true. I think there is one program area that that is more strategic — and more important — because when done well it can enable everything else. I am speaking of economic development. In most places, the critical question to answer is: How can folks get more money? — Jim Capraro

My last four blogs have shared “Traders in Hope” from:

• my National Peoples Action days
• my National Community Reinvestment Coalition family
• my LEED Council tenure

Now it’s time to convey a CANDO colleague. The trip through that stuffed binder brought back many young faces, including my own and my wife Lynne. It also reinforced great practices and policies still pertinent for rebuilding Chicago’s neighborhoods and our upcoming Mayoral election in February.

Jim Capraro not only recruited me in 1984 to become CEO of the Chicago Association of Neighborhood Development Organizations [CANDO]; he also encouraged me in 1974 to forego pursuing my PhD for my rewarding career in community development. Jim was then lead staff of the Metropolitan Area Housing Alliance [MAHA]. As a political science graduate student at the University of Chicago, I was accessing video equipment to document less than 24 hours before Housing Court that slumlords were not repairing their buildings as ordered as part of a city-wide MAHA organizing campaign.

In 1976, Jim went on to his 35-year tenure as CEO of the Greater Southwest Development Corporation in his own Chicago Lawn community, where he grew up. As the saying goes, “the rest is history.”

Jim Capraro (center) & Mayor Harold Washington in the early '80s.

Jim Capraro (center) & Mayor Harold Washington in the early ’80s.

Under his leadership, Greater SW was designated by the National Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation as a national “model” for commercial revitalization, selected by the Chicago Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) as the recipient of the “Outstanding Community Development Organization” award, and also selected by Bank of America as a winner of their prestigious Neighborhood Excellence – Community Builder Award.

I can’t recall now which foreign visitor I was introducing to Jim about our neighborhood development work. But I have always remembered that after hearing Jim describe what he did, the visitor responded: “So you are an impresario.” Without looking it up, that made perfect sense to me.

For your benefit, I did refer to Wikipedia for this definition:

An impresario (from Italian: impresa, meaning “an enterprise or undertaking”) is a person who organizes and often finances concerts, plays or operas; analogous to an artist manager or a film or television producer. The origin of the term is to be found in the social and economic world of Italian opera, where from the mid-18th century to the 1830s, the impresario was the key figure in the organization of a lyric season.

Jim Capraro

Jim Capraro

Jim has taken his lyrical message “Changing the world, one community at a time!” to many communities with his comprehensive community development consulting practice. Most recently, he has launched the Praxis International Network for Community Transformation to network his US colleagues with his international ones, promoting Paulo Freire’s definition of “praxis: reflection and action upon the world in order to transform it.”

I have contributed some of my writings to the Praxis website. You can read Jim’s chapters on It’s the Economy!” there for his perspectives. Earlier this year, LGT Bank, owned by the Princely House of Liechtenstein, which is the largest privately held, private banking and asset management group in Europe, did a cover story on Jim for its international magazine, CREDO. The topic was Community Spirit. That’s a spirit that Jim has been conveying for decades, as a CANDO Impresario of Hope.

Jim’s choice for the U2Cando playlist was released in 1973 and motivated him back in “the day”. It certainly remains timeless considering this week’s mid-term election.

Money and Corruption
Are ruining the land
Crooked politicians
Betray the working man,
Pocketing the profits
And treating us like sheep,
And we’re tired of hearing promises
That we know they’ll never keep.

Money and Corruption
The Kinks



  1. Pingback: HAVE I TOLD YOU LATELY… | U2Cando

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