Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Political Science


Over the last decade, many of America's urban areas have developed "sustainability plans" focusing on the long-term viability of their communities. Although many local governments have concentrated on environmental issues, others have incorporated economic and social policies. A new subset of literature has emerged highlighting equity and social justice within the sustainability dialogue. Scholars and practitioners alike argue that true sustainability requires equal access to all three pillars of sustainability for all groups.

Through interviews with public and private actors, as well as content analysis of the plan, this study investigates the structure of the governance network responsible for the development of "Sustainable Chicago 2015", elements of the sustainability plan, and the plan's consideration of equity and social justice. The central purpose of this research is to determine if underserved communities were represented in the decision-making process and whether they will benefit from the resulting policies and programs.

"Sustainable Chicago 2015" is found to be largely an environmental plan, with some elements of economic and social sustainability that are rooted in the environment. As a guiding document for Chicago, the plan defines sustainability for the city and includes little explicit acknowledgement of Chicago's underserved communities. This can be seen as a result of a lack of underserved and minority voices in the decision-making coalition, but ultimately the network was found to have little influence on the plan. From the onset, "Sustainable Chicago 2015" was the mayor's plan and that vision did not emphasize social justice and economic equity.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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