In the aftermath of March's lockdown, a group of IT departments across professional sports began calls to discuss the adjustment to remote work.
The Bears joined in those calls. After the lockdowns of spring gave way to social justice protests in the summer, Justin Stahl, the team's vice president of information technology, began to wonder if these conversations could change into something more concrete.
"On one of the larger calls," said Stahl, "I spoke up and asked the group if anyone would be interested in applying our technology expertise to help and do some good. I didn't even know what that meant at that point, but it felt like this group of technology professionals would be wasting our platforms and expertise if we didn't find a way to be a part of the solution."
Working with a team that included Manager of IT Operations Josh Naylor, Senior Applications Engineer Bryan Greenaway and IT Support and Operations Analyst Allen Silva, Stahl began looking for ways their IT expertise could help reduce inequality. Charles Sims, Los Angeles Clippers Head of Technology, and members of his team also volunteered on the project after connecting with Bears IT in the offseason about resources during the pandemic.
The team set out to create an accessible template or package used by non-profits or minority-owned businesses to improve their IT infrastructures.
After consulting with the team's charitable arm, Bears Care, the group settled on working with Target Area, a multi-issue grassroots leadership development organization that works for social justice reform and systemic change in Chicago.
"There was some real value," said Stahl, "we felt, in designing a system that was going to collect the data from all of Target Area's clients, be able to automate some of their processes and reporting, and really just streamline that effort not only making the data more effective but also just free up time for them."
Target Area comprises several departments that work in violence prevention, prisoner rehabilitation, and victim advocacy.
Target Area worked with Bears Care last month to provide essential family bags, gifts and more to families supported by the Victim's Advocate program, which serves residents of the Auburn Gresham, Chatham, Englewood and West Englewood neighborhoods who have lost loved ones to gun violence and face other critical challenges including job loss, eviction, food insecurity and staying safe during the pandemic.
Executive Director Autry Phillips said that Target Area had outgrown their previous means of collecting data over the last two years. The organization tracks several metrics to measure its effectiveness.
"What they're providing for us is an opportunity to capture our work and talk about our work with data," said Phillips. "Everything in our community now is data-driven. For us to have a platform where we're able to extract information for our funder, to talk about our work through numbers, that's a game-changer."
The team partnered with Aon Chicago to fund a three-year license for Target Area's new IT system, valued at around $30,000.
"The opportunity to partner with the Chicago Bears and Bears Care to support Target Area was the right decision for our Aon United team," said Aon Chicago Resident Managing Director Don Ortegel. "At Aon, it is our core belief to support our colleagues, our clients and our communities. We believe that the ability to use data to enable better decision-making has never been more important. We are proud to support Target Area and their mission to help Chicago families in need."
EngageRM, an Australian company, offered to build and provide ongoing support for the project free of charge.