John Thomas Connor

Three years ago while John Thomas Connor was living in Portland, Oregon, the Chicago native noticed that it was easier to find community organizations in Portland than in Chicago. With a city the size of Chicago, it was harder for him to keep up with the abundance of community organizations happening here.  

Wanting to solve that problem, he began working three months ago to create Stronger Chicago, an online platform that aggregates community organizations’ information in the city. Much like a Yellow Pages or Yelp for activists, the platform, which launched Sept. 15, organizes the contact information, mission, location and other information all in one place.   

The site is free for organizations and volunteers to use. It will also feature a series of video and text interviews with activists from various Chicago communities. The first video interview features Kevin Coval, poet, artistic director of Young Chicago Authors and founder of Louder Than A Bomb: The Chicago Youth Poetry Festival.  

“We have a lot of different problems in Chicago, and when organizations are talking about their accomplishments, they’re often speaking to their own audiences,” Connor said. “We think it’s important to let Chicagoans know and other organizations know that there’s progress happening in all these different spaces.” 

The site currently has 50 organizations listed, but Connor wants to increase that over time. Right now, organizations can sign up to create their own profile. In the next few weeks, Connor will roll out more features including allowing organizations to list volunteer opportunities and submit press releases. Connor will soon add information for more than 1,000 organization that he scraped from online, which will allow organizations to claim and update their community profile similar to other platforms like Yelp or Yellow Pages.   

For now, Connor, who’s also the founder of the skill sharing platform HelpWith.co and the debate education platform DebateAcademy.Online, is funding the site himself. He did not disclose how much it costs to run the site but said that it was fairly minimal. For now, Connor and his friends are spreading the word about the site to nonprofits and community organizations they already know, but he’d like to do fundraising and more marketing down the line. 

“We’re slowly reaching out to organizations and gathering feedback,” Connor said. “We’re not fundraising. We’re not looking for venture capital. This is a for the people, by the people kind of project.”  

(Images via John Thomas Connor)