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2021 Virtual Forum

Advancing Equity

Through Cross-Sector Partnerships

June 30, 2021

The 2021 Virtual Forum was an interactive gathering of non-profits, philanthropists, educators, businesses, and government to discuss collaborative solutions to advance an equitable future for immigrants and refugees in the suburbs.

Structural barriers must be addressed in order to ensure that all immigrants and refugees have equitable access to the supports, resources, and services they need, including education, food, health care, high-quality jobs, housing, and more.

Thank You for Participating

Thank you to the presenters and participants of our 2021 Virtual Forum. The presentations and conversations were thoughtful and engaging. We look forward to working together to advance an equitable future for all immigrants and refugees in the Chicago suburban region. 


Through the Miro platform, participants discussed vulnerable families, barriers to services and assistance, and working together to address barriers and develop collaborative solutions. We plan to compile discussion notes and share them in the near future. 


Special thanks to Professor Scott W. Allard, Representative Dagmara Avelar, and Bureau Chief Lisa Robinson - your words informed and inspired us all to take action. 

Small Group Discussion Questions

Professor Allard facilitated small group discussions and participants were encouraged to add thoughts and notes to a virtual discussion board.  Discussion questions and images of the final boards can be found below.

Discussion Questions

  • Who are the most vulnerable families in your community? Which types of households struggle most to find assistance?

  • What are the barriers to services and assistance typically experienced by clients?

  • How can communities work together to address those identified barriers and develop collaborative solutions?

Guest Speakers

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Professor Scott W. Allard

Daniel J. Evans Endowed Professor of Social Policy, Evans School of Public Policy and Governance, University of Washington

Professor Scott W. Allard has research expertise in poverty, inequality, and social welfare policy. His most recent book, Places in Need: The Changing Geography of Poverty in America (2017, Russell Sage Foundation Press), focuses on the changing geography of poverty within metropolitan America and the organizational challenges confronting local safety net providers as a result. Prior to his faculty position at the Evans School, Allard was on faculty at the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago.

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Representative Dagmara Avelar

Representative, Illinois General Assembly, 85th District

State Representative Dagmara “Dee” Avelar immigrated to the United States from Ecuador to the United States. For over a decade she has dedicated her life to advocating for working families, particularly focusing on projects that address the barriers of low-income, limited English proficient Illinois residents.  A community organizer at heart, she has also advocated to increase the minimum wage and  the fight for a fair budget that puts working families first.

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Lisa Robinson

Bureau Chief of Refugee and Immigrant Services, Illinois Department of Human Services

Lisa Robinson currently serves as the Bureau Chief of Refugee and Immigrant Services for the Illinois Department of Human Services. In this role, Lisa serves as the State Refugee Coordinator and works with public and private sector organizations through purchase of service contracts and inter-agency agreements geared towards improving the lives of immigrants, refugees, and limited English proficient people.  Lisa has been an advocate for children, adults and their families in homes, schools, hospitals/facilities, courts, and the Juvenile Detention Centers.

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