How do you respond when the torch is passed to you? That is what I ask myself when I think of Jeff Baker, a diligent, low-key, enthusiastic, Chicago activist. I first met Jeff while assisting with the mayoral campaign of William Dock Walls III during the 2011 Chicago elections. Although our candidate of choice did not win the election, Jeff and I continued discussions on local issues while focusing our talks on long-term solutions.
Shortly after the election, Jeff was nominated and elected as the new president of Committee for a Better Chicago (CFABC). The mission of CFABC is “To provide clear and factual information about political & social justice issues, affecting the Chicagoland area.” As president, Jeff is responsible for shaping and re-shaping the organizational structure of CFABC, as well as growing the momentum of the members and their purposeful service.
Jeff believes that community development is “strategic education, marketing, and networking….community development is about meeting people where they are.” Through CFABC, Jeff aims to effectively deliver information to those that have fallen between the cracks. CFABC will “simplify public information [of local
orgs] so that community messages are more easily digested. CFABC will then strategically disseminate the information using social media, text, email, word of mouth, and contest with cash prizes.” Jeff supports the idea of providing incentives for children and young adults to be awarded for learning and engaging in the civic education and enhancement of Chicago. “There are monetary incentives for us as adults to find answers, and better ourselves; we should present the same opportunities for our children and those that have fallen between the cracks,” says Jeff.
During our interview, Jeff shared one of CFABCs upcoming supporting collaborations, which I consider to be brilliant and critical for the Chicagoland area- Neighborhood mentoring through the restoration of Block Clubs. Syron Smith spearheaded this initiative, and CFABC will help accomplish the goals of this timely endeavor within the Chicago vicinity.
A part of restoring block clubs and re-building villages/ neighborhoods, includes bartering with local businesses. Jeff struggles with bartering because he feels “that people should be paid for their services and that is one of the challenges I have had adjusting to the community service/ social activist scene. We (CFABC) have had to approach local business owners with the only hope of compensation being the residual effects of CFABCs social action”, to change the course of social ills rampant in each community.
Jeff Baker sets high goals and revises as needed. “While working on the campaign for Dock Walls, I began to share in Docks goals to market and reach over 300,000 Chicago residents and help educate them about issues affecting the city, while providing solutions as well….Because my goals are so large/ high, I often fall short, but i regroup, strategize and keep moving toward the goal” stated Jeff.
Jeff may fall short of his lofty goals, but there is still much success in what he does accomplish. In order to achieve his goals, Jeff carries a notepad with him, taking notes that lead to action plans. Reviewing these notes daily, along with his calendar, Jeff studies his notepad. “I feel that these [studying notepad and creating action plans] things on a daily basis are prayer, as I ask for guidance and realign my connection to the source/ God and my God given purpose!”
When I asked Jeff how does he put himself first in a healthy manner, his answer further revealed the depth of his insight and commitment to Chicago. Jeff puts himself first by focusing on his family first. Jeff stated, “I watch members of my family successfully take on certain roles and responsibilities…And I realize that my family is a team, a small business, and although my personal needs may sometimes be put on the back-burner, putting my family needs first is part of putting myself first. With that, I also see my block, community, etc as an extension of family. As I move in a different level/rank in my family, my role evolves.” Rarely has someone been able to articulate the correlation between self, family, and community so selflessly.
In his roles as a family and community servant, I can only imagine that Jeff has had to sever a few ties in both his personal, professional, and community intersections, so I sought his wisdom about letting go of stale relationships. His method: straight forward communication, one more chance, and then if the same problems continue, cease all communication cold turkey! Jeff asserts “…I am always straightforward so that I do not doubt whether my message was clear.”
Jeff truly believes that his work with CFABC is his God-given purpose, designed to serve his family (and community family) as well. His ego is low and his goals are high. Jeff Baker embodies the characteristics needed to achieve lasting social change.
Jeff Baker’s Success Formula = Messaging to the masses + Above the bar goal setting + Family and community deference + Straight forward communication
More on Jeff Baker
As you are growing and exploring new opportunities in the city of Chicago, have you thought about your ideal position or ideal job description?
“I am still bouncing it around, but the more I work toward it, it is becoming clear to me. I believe that I am to be a communication liasion between the higher educated and the lesser educated (no less intelligent). I believe the position I am in now, with CFABC, I can do this for the rest of my life and achieve many of my SMART goals.”
To have 50 members of CFABC inside of 50 different orgs in the Chicagoland area by 2013
And the way we will achieve this is by recruiting 2 new members in 2 new orgs per month- 2013 to reach the target number