Entrepreneur Leaders Philanthropy (ELP) will not have its annual “Big Idea” event nor will the group award a $50,000 seed grant next March. 

“We’ve done four years of the ‘Big Idea’ challenge,” said ELP co-founder John Harris.

ELP was created to bring entrepreneurs together around a contest to find a big idea that would be transformative to Oak Park and River Forest. The first grant recipient was the Oak Park-River Forest food pantry, now called Beyond Hunger.

“They were working on a food surplus project,” said Harris. 

The project consisted of taking food not being used from Oak Park and River Forest High School and other schools and connecting that food to people in need.

“That $50,000 helped fund a staff person and refrigeration equipment,” said Harris. “The program has really taken off and it’s been wonderful.”

The most recent awardee was the It’s Our Future program. Its idea was to create a program that grooms students interested in climate change into future leaders. 

The challenge and event aren’t going away, they are just on hold while ELP recalibrates the structure of “Big Idea.”

 “We’re reworking the concept,” Harris said. “It became so focused on being an event in March, a point in time. It’s really about finding the right ideas at the right time.”

ELP plans to take a step back from the timeline approach to “Big Idea” to develop ways to make the program even more effective in the future. 

The organization works with the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation to administer the grant.

“We facilitate the funds coming in and we help them provide the grants going out,” said Community Foundation CEO Tony Martinez. 

The Community Foundation also provides administrative support to ELP.

“They’ve really helped make sure that this continues to work, continues to grow and to evolve,” said Harris.

While ELP does not currently have the funds to award the grant in March, they may have the funds for the grant sometime in 2020.

“It could be an event later on in the year or not,” said Martinez. “There’s a lot of thinking and a lot of brainstorming that’s going to be happening.”

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