Civic Consulting Alliance:  Smart work.  Great city.  

FY 2014
YTD totals



March 2014 - Collective impact through citywide collaborations

City aims to triple STEM credentials

Pro bono partners:

On March 27, Mayor Emanuel announced a city-wide strategy to triple the number of Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) degrees and credentials earned by Chicago youth within four years.


Jobs in STEM fields are among the fastest growing and highest paying. By 2018, one out of five jobs in Cook County is expected to be in a STEM field, with the majority of STEM jobs requiring a bachelor's degree. However, few Chicagoans - in particular few youth - are prepared for these jobs: just 5 percent of the students who enter high school every year at CPS go on to earn a degree or credential in a STEM field.


Over the past four months, Civic Consulting staff and pro bono partners from Bain & Company and McKinsey & Company have been working with the Mayor's Office, Chicago Public Schools (CPS), City Colleges of Chicago (CCC), local universities, businesses and non-profits to develop this strategy.  Through our joint efforts, the team has identified 11 priority areas for investment, such as STEM career and academic readiness and teacher capacity to deliver STEM curricula.



"By increasing access to a high-quality STEM education, we are providing our children with the tools they need to get a solid footing on the economic ladder, innovate new technology, and make new scientific breakthroughs that will define the future of our City," Mayor Emanuel said.


"Now, we have a vision and a goal that all sectors can jointly focus on and be better able to help our students achieve STEM degrees and prepare them for the jobs of the future," said Beth Swanson, deputy for education to Mayor Rahm Emanuel. 


NBCChicago: City Aims to Triple Number of Students with STEM Education 


City of Chicago: Mayor Emanuel Announces City-Wide Strategy to Increase Access to a High-Quality, Cradle-to-Career Stem Education Pipeline for Students


For more information, please contact Kelsey Burr.


New partnership to help all Chicagoans Thrive

Pro bono partners:

A new citywide partnership, Thrive Chicago, aims to help Chicagoans succeed in education, career, and life.  Thrive is achieving these goals by:

  • Setting common outcomes and milestones
  • Forming groups of providers ("change networks") to work collectively toward a specific outcome
  • Providing change networks working on outcomes the data needed to be successful and measure impact

To date, more than 200 organizations have been involved in Thrive.  These organizations helped determine the target outcomes and joined Change Networks to develop and implement an action plan to achieve a specific target outcome.


Civic Consulting Alliance and its partners have been working with the Mayor's office to develop the data infrastructure and launch several Change Networks, which focus on improving the following outcomes:

  • Kindergarten readiness
  • Engagement in enrichment and academic activities
  • High school graduation
  • College readiness and completion
  • Employment at living wages


"Most of us agree that we can no longer afford to work in isolation and expect to see profound social gains for our city's children and youth," said Evelyn Diaz, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Family and Support Services. "That's why it's so exciting that we have this moment, right now, to work collaboratively with so many exceptional stakeholders toward a common vision that puts children and youth first."


"The issues facing many of Chicago's youth, particularly those confronted with violence and poverty, are far too complex for any one organization to take on in isolation," said David Hiller of the McCormick Foundation. "Our city needs a coordinated response, involving all stakeholders who care about and invest in the lives and potential of our young people."

For more information, please contact Brian Battle.

Guest feature: Alexander Shermansong: How can you give it away for free?


Alexander Shermansong

A lot of people assume that if you're not charging for your services, it's not worth charging for them.  In fact, it used to be the case that "pro bono" meant you couldn't get anyone to pay you, either because they didn't have money or because you weren't very good. 


But nowadays it's different:  only the best people get to do pro bono work.  Companies actually assign their top stars to community service projects.  Why would companies take staff off a billable client for community service?


For one, doing good is the right thing to do.  Tom Wilson from the Allstate Corporation put it well: "Those of us who are business leaders have a particular responsibility to invest in our communities. We do business in these communities. We live in these communities."


In fact, three out of four companies see community engagement and impact as a top benefit for pro bono work.  "Helping out this way is what GE employees do," said Mike LaChapelle.


"The primary reason is a genuine desire to contribute," agreed Jim Rechtin from Bain & Company.  "The side benefit is a tremendously positive impact on our culture and on the recruitment and retention of our employees."



According to one national survey, 91 percent of HR professionals believe skills-based volunteering can be an effective way to develop leadership skills.  What is it about pro bono projects that make them such fertile training grounds?


"The common cause - coming together to help solve the tough issues that face the urban community, without money in the way - creates a level of trust and respect simply not found in a business-as-usual relationship," explained IDEO's Andrew Burroughs.  "This heightened level of trust creates some wonderful learning opportunities along the way."


You also see an unusual mix of people on pro bono projects, which brings out the best in the team, according to Frank Muller from Crust Young. "It is both gratifying and exhilarating to be part of a team with the brightest minds of some of the world's leading strategy consulting firms."


Simply put, "corporate citizenship efforts inspire our people," states Mike Scimo of Accenture.

As you talk to business leaders across the country, you'll hear again and again that pro bono is good HR strategy.  These projects help their employees find meaning in their work (skills-based volunteers are 38 percent more likely to have high morale).  That keeps their top performers from looking at other places to work.  And pro bono projects put them in new situations to test their skills and try different approaches.  When finding and retaining the right people is so crucial for your company's success, you can't afford not "to give it away for free."

For more information, please contact Alexander Shermansong.

In other Civic Consulting news...  


City Colleges Reinvention featured in Governing magazine


In its March issue, Governing magazine featured Reinvention at the City Colleges of Chicago (CCC), taking a look at progress in the three years since CCC launched Reinvention.  Under the leadership of Chancellor Cheryl Hyman, and with support from Civic Consulting and our partners, the graduation rate has nearly doubled, from 7 percent to 13 percent. As part of the initiative, students are taking more focused classes that map to degrees and certifications of economic value and campuses are aligning to specific industries with private corporate partnerships.


For more information, please contact Brian Fabes.


Philadelphia flatters Chicago


Based on recommendations from Civic Consulting Alliance and our partners Griffin Strategic Advisors and Jones Day, the City of Chicago merged two separate marketing entities, creating a single organization, Choose Chicago, charged with promoting both leisure and business tourism to the city. Since Choose was created, tourism has risen significantly, with record hotel occupancy of more than 75 percent and record visitation of more than 46 million visitors in 2013. These successes have since garnered national attention, and the Philadelphia Inquirer recently highlighted Choose as a model Philadelphia might emulate. Imitation is, as they say, the most sincere form of flattery.

For more information, please contact Liz Coon.


Join us as a guest writer

If you've worked with us in the past as a partner or client and would like to share your perspective in an upcoming newsletter, please email Jason Li with your idea.