Thea Crum

Thea Crum

Director of the Neighborhoods Initiative | Great Cities Institute at University of Illinois at Chicago

Thea Crum, MUPP, is Director of the Neighborhoods Initiative at the Great Cities Institute at University of Illinois at Chicago (2011-present) and previously served as Program Coordinator (2008-2011). In these roles, she designs programs, raises funds, leads multiple projects, supervises students, and coordinates with community and internal partners. She provides overall project management of initiatives and programs that have included the Community Economic Development Research Cluster, the Civic Leadership Training Program, serving as Assistant Director on the ChiWest ResourceNet capacity building project, and serving as Director for the Participatory Budgeting Chicago Initiative. She served as Assistant Director on the Illinois ResourceNet Initiative, which helped to secured over $113 million in new federal resources for communities across Illinois over four years of technical assistance. She holds a BFA from University of Wisconsin (1998) at Madison and a Master of Urban Planning and Policy from University of Illinois Chicago (2011).

Crum has over 13 years of experience in the areas of community development, capacity building, and civic engagement. She regularly gives public and conference presentations on participatory budgeting, guest lectures undergraduate and graduate courses, and publishes research and practitioner reports. She recently presented on Advanced Participatory Budgeting at the Second White House convening on Participatory Budgeting in the United States. She co-authored “Democratizing Tax Increment Financing Funds through Participatory Budgeting” (2016) and “The Civics of Community Development: Participatory Budgeting in Chicago” (2015), which share best practices and general findings from the research and evaluation conducted annually on participatory budgeting in Chicago.

Crum is a member of North American Participatory Budgeting Research Board (2014-present) and the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (2012-present), and serves on the Board of Directors of the Women’s Economic Agenda Project (2006-present).

Why do you believe innovations in participatory democracy are important?

Sharing promising practices, challenges, research and successes across the field refines and improves PB so that it can grow to other cities and expand in existing cities to additional pots of money so that PB can be more impactful and inclusive. Now more than ever we need a strong democracy where people’s voices are authentically heard and spaces where people have real decision – making power in their communities.

What do you hope to see at the 2018 Innovations in Participatory Democracy Conference?

I hope to learn from other practitioners and researchers in the field and be able to bring those insights, innovations and promising practices back to Chicago to share with others.