October 2020
Chicago's Racial Equity Rapid Response Team
a Model for Other Cities
Three in four people in Chicago who have died from COVID-19 are Black or Latinx. This striking disparity is in part the result of longstanding racial inequities in healthcare quality and access, and necessitates an urgent and forceful response from our city’s leaders.

Chicago was one of the first cities in the nation to highlight these disparities. Under Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s leadership, the City (led by its Chief Equity Officer Candace Moore and its Deputy Mayor for Education and Human Services Sybil Madison) brought together West Side United, community leaders, and healthcare providers to form the Racial Equity Rapid Response (RERR) Team in mid-April. The RERR Team sought to: mobilize community- and data-driven rapid responses to address racial health disparities of the crisis; determine and implement direct interventions that flatten the COVID-19 mortality curve in Chicago’s Black and Latinx communities; and build a foundation for future racial health equity by rectifying historical institutional and systemic racism.

“We thought Civic Consulting Alliance was uniquely prepared to support the RERR Team’s efforts, given its experience standing up and managing RERR co-convener West Side United—itself a community-driven and health-focused collaborative—as well as numerous other cross-sector coalitions.”
Candace Moore, Chief Equity Officer, City of Chicago

Civic Consulting Alliance helped to develop the RERR Team’s collaborative structure and framework, supported implementation of immediate mitigation strategies in high-need communities, and brought additional resources to the table to fulfill critical needs—including pro bono fellows and teams from Accenture, Deloitte, KPMG, and Slalom. As a result of these collaborative efforts, over the spring and the summer, the RERR Team achieved significant outcomes within key strategies across its four focus areas, described below.

  • Led a campaign to distribute information about COVID-19 and the importance of social distancing and testing, resulting in 60,000 door hangers and 65,000+ views on Facebook and Twitter
  • Hosted 7 virtual and phone-in townhalls attended by more than 2,000 people in heavily-impacted communities to educate folks about COVID-19 and learn about community members’ greatest concerns

  • Partnered with 21 healthcare providers to proactively reach out to patients in communities that are most impacted by COVID-19, contacting approximately 75,000 patients. Of those who provided race/ethnicity information, 48% self-identified as Black and 40% self-identified as Latinx
  • Facilitated collaboration between healthcare providers, which culminated in an unprecedented joint statement in mid-June, in which 40 institutions spoke out in a unified voice to declare racism a public health crisis and pledge collective action to improve health equity
  • Produced a guide incorporating patient engagement data and practices from 10 healthcare providers to inform other cities about the RERR Provider Working Group’s approach to proactive patient engagement, as well as outcomes and lessons learned

Testing and Treatment
  • Worked to ensure testing sites were in historically underserved communities, resulting in 8 testing sites in RERR Team target locations and mobile testing sites to making testing more accessible
  • In light of highly-attended protests in May, produced a video series and fliers to encourage protestors to get tested for COVID-19; videos reached 50,000 viewers, contributed to a 13% increase in testing two weeks after initial protests, and helped prevent a spike in cases from the protests

Support Services
  • Secured financial support for those most impacted by COVID-19, including $3.1M in grants secured by partners, $155K in rent assistance, and cash assistance—including $120K for 120 individuals ineligible for federal stimulus dollars
  • Between March and May, distributed critical resources to communities, including 130,000 masks and 13,000+ meals, reaching 8,000 households and more than 2,000 seniors
  • Enabled public access to COVID-19 data via a Slalom dashboard that provides testing, case, and death rates by race / ethnicity and at the zip code-level—and which established Chicago as a national leader in data transparency
  • Facilitated a data sharing agreement between academic organizations and the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) in order to increase transparency and collaboration, and, in turn, improve RERR Team members’ ability to mitigate COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on Black and Latinx communities

Given its success, the RERR Team is a model worth replicating in other cities struggling to address inequitable health outcomes—including and beyond COVID-19—and the systemic issues that underpin them. Specifically, the RERR Team demonstrated the value of:

  • Bringing together communities and forming coalitions between government agencies, health providers, and community organizations;
  • Identifying needs and disparities by gathering community insight, and advocating for resources; and
  • Championing reliable data and information, and promoting healthy behavior.

While the RERR Team's achievements thus far are critical, COVID-19 continues to have a dramatically disparate impact on Chicago's Black and Latinx communities, and our work is far from done. In the months ahead, Civic Consulting Alliance will continue to collaborate with the City and West Side United to amplify priority racial health equity initiatives. As announced in mid-September, racial equity will be a focal point of the CDPH’s “Healthy Chicago 2025” strategic plan. At the same time, we will continue working with the members of the RERR Team’s healthcare provider working group to fulfill the commitments they outlined in their joint statement and to hold themselves accountable for promoting racial equity in healthcare. With COVID-19 an ongoing challenge, it is essential that we continue to center racial equity in all our efforts to address the pandemic in order to save lives and alleviate further harm to Black and Latinx communities. Moreover, we must carry our actions and lessons learned past the pandemic to work towards a more just and equitable future, where race and ethnicity are not determinants of health.
INVEST South/West Catalyzing Equitable Economic Development
In October 2019, Mayor Lori Lightfoot launched INVEST South/West, a groundbreaking initiative to counter disinvestment on the South and West Sides, the result of decades of policies and practices that exacerbate racial segregation. Undoing this harm will not happen quickly, but it is urgent—as the COVID-19 crisis and recent civil unrest have underscored.

INVEST South/West will dedicate $750 million in public funds over the next three years to key commercial corridors in 10 communities: Auburn Gresham, Austin, Bronzeville, Greater Englewood, New City, North Lawndale, Humboldt Park, Greater Roseland, South Chicago, and South Shore. Additionally, INVEST South/West aims to attract significant private sector and philanthropic investments, taking an integrated approach to economic and community development that multiplies the impact of public dollars. This place-based approach to addressing economic disparities mirrors that taken in recent years by philanthropists like the Pritzker Traubert Foundation’s Chicago Prize, and by anchor mission collaboratives like West Side United.

Given the ambitious scope and timeframe of INVEST South/West, as well as our unique expertise cultivating cross-sector collaboration, the City turned to Civic Consulting Alliance to accelerate INVEST South/West’s implementation.

From January through April 2020, Civic Consulting Alliance joined our pro bono partner BCG to work with Samir Mayekar, Deputy Mayor of Economic Development, to define an operating model to implement INVEST South/West. This model features an investment committee that coordinates decision-making across all City agencies, as well as City planners who work with residents of the 10 communities to identify investment priorities and vet proposed projects through neighborhood-led roundtables that take place monthly, the first of their kind. Our staff and BCG also mapped how funding could be sourced from across City agencies and departments and redirected to INVEST South/West projects—a foundational resource for the investment committee’s decision-making.

To accelerate implementation of INVEST South/West’s operating model, Civic Consulting Alliance provided an ‘executive on loan’ to temporarily staff the role of Business Development Manager within the INVEST South/West office. With this resource in place, we have achieved the following since June:

  • Worked with the Department of Planning and more than 50 private sector and nonprofit organizations to explore moving or investing in facilities on the South and West Sides, which led a major hospital to make plans to build a clinic in Bronzeville. This work entailed:
  • Interviewing the organizations to understand their needs;
  • Identifying potential sites;
  • Understanding community residents’ priorities; and
  • Mapping out the process for a move or investment.
  • Supported the creation of the first three requests for proposals (RFPs) for development of sites in Austin, Auburn Gresham, and Englewood by coordinating input across public agencies, securing pro bono support from a design-build firm to calculate the City’s costs for subsidizing development, and securing other sources of funding.
  • Developed a pilot effort to clean and beautify vacant lots on INVEST South/West corridors, coordinating with four City agencies, advising landscape design, and securing federal funding for the project, thanks to the work of a pro bono fellow from Bain.
  • Secured support from a pro bono partner who gave us access to a data analytics platform to assess real estate investment trends.
  • Helped secure $11 million in grant funds from the CARES Act for projects that will address health care deserts in the Auburn Gresham and North Lawndale communities.

“Civic Consulting Alliance has been instrumental to INVEST South/West’s progress,” Deputy Mayor Mayekar told us, reflecting upon this collaborative work. “There is no other organization that has Civic Consulting Alliance’s depth of experience collaborating with the City, nor the breadth of visibility across major initiatives and sectors in Chicago. Having an embedded executive has meant that we are able to identify needs for additional, specialized pro bono support as the project moves along, and that they can secure that support from their partner network. At a time when the City’s resources are stretched thin, Civic Consulting Alliance has kept us driving towards INVEST South/West’s ambitious, transformative goals.”
We're Hiring!
Civic Consulting Alliance is now accepting applications for our 2021 class of Analysts! If you are passionate about improving the Chicago region, Civic Consulting Alliance is the place to do it.
Fellow Spotlight: Tarun Kapoor
What project work were you involved in during your time at Civic Consulting Alliance?

I supported two Racial Equity Rapid Response (RERR) Team initiatives: developing a ‘Guide to Patient Engagement’ that describes best practices for providers to reach out to their patients who are most vulnerable to COVID-19, including its impact on access to food, medication, etc.; and assisting the Provider Working Group in fulfilling the commitments laid out in its powerful joint statement - including creating joint strategies and a health equity scorecard to ensure accountability.
Tarun Kapoor was with us as a Fellow from KPMG from July through October.
What will you take away from your time at Civic Consulting Alliance?

Relationships with my Civic Consulting Alliance colleagues. I also appreciated the unusual opportunity to build solutions that benefit communities while participating in a program that was personally and professionally fulfilling. Lastly, I deepened by understanding of team dynamics, by learning about new team engagement strategies.
What was your most memorable experience during your time at Civic Consulting Alliance?

To name a few highlights... I appreciated the organization's fun tradition of inviting new staff and fellows to present about a topic that is meaningful to them during staff meeting, as a way to break the ice. I also enjoyed doing interviews and workshops with various healthcare providers as part of my work on the RERR Team. 
How has your time at Civic Consulting Alliance helped you develop professionally?

I have a much greater understanding of and appreciation for how the public sector works, especially in terms of the intersection of public and private healthcare. 

Civic Consulting Alliance Fellowships are full-time positions that typically last between three months and a year. Fellows are integrated into project teams for a unique professional development opportunity. Please visit our Fellowships page to learn more about our range of fellowship opportunities.
Thank you to our funders!
Civic Consulting Alliance is grateful for the critical support of all of our funders. Since our last newsletter, we were thrilled to receive philanthropic commitments from the following corporations and foundations:
Intended Impact
Support for the stewardship of an inclusive regional COVID-19 recovery, and management of the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities
General operating support to advance Civic Consulting Alliance's mission - to make the Chicago region a great place for everyone to live in and work
Surge Relief Fund Award for diversity, equity, and inclusion consulting support
In Other News...

  • On September 29, Mayor Lori Lightfoot released Our City, Our Safety: A Comprehensive Plan to Reduce Violence, Chicago's first-ever comprehensive violence reduction plan to guide public safety efforts through 2023. The report is the culmination of over a year of collaboration by City, County, and State partners, community members, philanthropic organizations, faith leaders, and the business sector. Civic Consulting Alliance is proud to have provided program management throughout the planning process—and to have supported many of the critical initiatives called out in the report, including the Mayor's Public Safety Cabinet, the 'On the Block' mobile services pilot, equity-focused improvements at the Chicago Police Department's (CPD) Juvenile Intervention Support Center, INVEST South/West, and the redesign of performance evaluations at CPD.

  • On September 21, the Cook County Assessor's Office released a study of the office's 2018 commercial property assessments that reveals potential inequities and a failure to meet industry standards. When Assessor Fritz Kaegi came into office, Civic Consulting Alliance supported the development of a 100-Day Plan to reform the assessment system. This recent sales ratio study builds upon that foundational work, and is consistent with recommendations to improve the fairness and transparency of the Cook County assessment process.
Questions? Comments? Contact Marie Akerman