February 2021
Sustaining Momentum Towards a COVID-19 Recovery
2020 was a year of immense challenges, in particular the COVID-19 crisis and its impact on communities’ health, economic, and social well-being; a dramatic spike in gun violence; and widespread protests of racism and police brutality. As we look to the year ahead, many organizations and leaders are grappling with how to fulfill the important and ambitious commitments they made in the wake of these crises.

This month, we highlight two examples of projects Civic Consulting Alliance undertook to address the COVID-19 crisis and to lay the foundations for a more equitable Chicago region. Both projects built upon work we supported earlier in 2020, and aimed to ensure those efforts led to sustained action and change. We hope these examples spark ideas for how organizations and leaders can make progress towards bold, long-term goals.
COVID-19 Recovery Task Force
Project Management Office Implementation
Last April, Mayor Lori Lightfoot launched the COVID-19 Recovery Task Force to provide recommendations for the economic and social recovery of the Chicago region. The Recovery Task Force was a group of industry experts, regional government leaders, community-based partners, and policymakers. Civic Consulting Alliance and our pro bono partners served a key role in coordinating the efforts of the Recovery Task Force, led by its co-chairs, Mayor Lightfoot and former White House Chief of Staff Sam Skinner.

In July, the City released its advisory report, Forward Together, outlining 17 recommendations to ensure an inclusive and equitable recovery, in alignment with the Mayor's commitment to eradicate poverty and address systemic inequities. Read more about our work supporting the Recovery Task Force and Forward Together in our July 2020 newsletter.

Forward Together generated bold recommendations across a wide range of issues—from mental health to business attraction. Despite its ambitious scale, the Mayor was committed to ensuring that the report would lead to concrete action.
Starting in July, Civic Consulting Alliance staff, with pro bono support from EY, collaborated with the Mayor’s Office to design and implement a system to manage the 17 recommendations from Forward Together across City departments and sister agencies. Over eight weeks, the team:
  • Stood up and piloted a Project Management Office (PMO) structure to oversee and unify work towards the recommendations—drawing upon EY’s technical experience building PMOs and our complementary knowledge of the City;
  • Broke the 17 recommendations into specific initiatives and, for each initiative:
  • Identified owners and working groups
  • Set up charters outlining goals, milestones, and activities
  • Developed tracking tools to monitor progress;
  • Established a Steering Committee—inclusive of the City’s Deputy Mayors, Chief Financial Officer, Chief Equity Officer, and Policy Director—that is accountable for ensuring goals are met;
  • Developed and launched processes for the PMO to regularly report initiative progress to the Mayor and the Steering Committee; and
  • Developed and launched a structure for report-outs to the public and to the Recovery Task Force members, ensuring transparency and accountability

By mid-October, we transitioned management of the fully operational PMO structure to the Mayor's Office, so that City staff could seamlessly carry this critical work forward as our region continues to work towards an equitable COVID-19 recovery. Since the transition, Civic Consulting Alliance has shifted our support to accelerating the implementation of select initiatives—for example, recovery workforce development initiatives.

“Civic Consulting Alliance’s support helped the Mayor’s Office take timely action on the initiatives outlined in Forward Together," said Deputy Mayor Samir Mayekar. "They ensured that we have processes and structures in place to keep multiple City departments and agencies focused on a unified vision for an equitable recovery and future.” 
Racial Equity and Healthcare Progress Report
As local leaders and public health officials have called out since the early days of the pandemic, COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted Black and Latinx Chicagoans, due in part to longstanding racial inequities in healthcare quality and access.

Last April, the City brought together West Side United, community leaders, and healthcare providers to form the Racial Equity Rapid Response (RERR) Team to flatten the COVID-19 mortality curve in Chicago’s Black and Latinx communities, and to build a foundation for future racial health equity.

Civic Consulting Alliance supported the RERR Team from the beginning. Read more about our work with the RERR Team and its outcomes in our October 2020 newsletter.

One key product of the RERR Team was the Racial Equity Provider Working Group, co-chaired by Dr. David Ansell (Chief Equity Officer, Rush University Medical Center) and Brenda Battle (Vice President, Urban Health Initiative and Chief Diversity, Inclusion and Equity Officer, UChicago Medicine). The Provider Working Group is an open table of more than 40 healthcare providers—including Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), academic medical centers, and safety net hospitals, as well as community members and Chicago Department of Public Health representatives. In June, the Provider Working Group released a powerful joint statement—developed with Civic Consulting Alliance support—speaking out in a unified voice to declare racism a public health crisis and making seven commitments to improve health equity at their individual institutions and as a collective.

Next, the Provider Working Group sought to translate this unprecedented collaborative statement into concrete action.

“Making a statement is a crucial step, but I came up in an industry that said, ‘If you didn’t measure it, it didn’t happen,'" said Vice President Battle. "The Provider Working Group was fortunate to work with Civic Consulting Alliance to put together the Racial Equity in Healthcare Progress Report—a tool to help members track progress towards and hold ourselves accountable to the seven commitments outlined in our joint statement.” 

From August through December, Civic Consulting Alliance staff:

  • Worked with a team from our pro bono partner Oliver Wyman to develop metrics across four topics—People (e.g. Board, employees), Patients (e.g. demographics, access to care, health outcomes), Organization (e.g. policies, strategies), and Community (e.g. wealth creation, engagement)—that could apply to healthcare providers big and small;
  • With support from a pro bono fellow from KPMG, crafted a stakeholder engagement plan and held more than two dozen conversations with healthcare providers, community leaders, and national and local health experts to gather feedback;
  • Created a long-term plan and vision for the Progress Report, which aims to be an internal tool for providers to conduct baseline self-assessments, as well as a means to aggregate data across providers to assess progress on a systemic scale; and
  • Launched a pilot with 9 healthcare providers to test the assessment and process, with data analysis and reporting support from RERR Team Data Working Group member Dr. C. Scott Smith, who is the Assistant Director of DePaul University’s Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development.

The resulting Progress Report is as unprecedented as the joint statement that sparked it. It is the product of an unusual level of collaboration between a wide range of healthcare providers, and, as a result, is the first assessment to measure racial equity across hospitals and FQHCs in one ecosystem. Provider Working Group members hope the Progress Report will eventually serve as a public accountability tool that can be replicated across the country—a means to score and rank institutions by their progress towards racially equitable health outcomes.

It has already garnered significant interest from local and national healthcare stakeholders because of its comprehensive approach to assessing racial equity in healthcare organizations’ internal and external practices. In mid-February, we will launch the Progress Report across the 40 providers of the Provider Working Group. In the coming months, the Illinois Hospital Association (IHA) will take ownership of the Progress Report to evolve it over time and to ensure it is sustainably adopted by providers statewide.

“We’re excited to be in this moment in time," said Dr. Ansell. "Healthcare institutions have long used scorecards for quality, patient safety, LGBTQ equality, and other issues, but there has never been a racial equity scorecard. We’re optimistic that this is the start of something that will make us all better.”
Are you driven to make the Chicago region a great place for everyone to live in and work? We are searching for a Development Director to lead and fully implement our Major Gifts Initiative.

We encourage you to consider and share this opportunity - and we appreciate any support in growing the Civic Consulting Alliance team!
In case you missed it in December, we invite you to explore our 2020 Impact Report! This annual report provides a snapshot of what our team, our clients, and our partners collaboratively accomplished in our 2020 fiscal year.
Undergraduate Spotlights: Sonali Patel and Owen Szafran
What project work were you involved in during your time at Civic Consulting Alliance?

SP: I started on the internal DEI team where I researched how to implement some best practices and created a training for staff to participate in. After that I worked on the City of Chicago's Together We Heal racial healing initiative, where I helped develop a microsite for the initiative and a toolkit for participants.

OS: I worked with Civic Consulting Alliance's operations team to create a centralized and streamlined system to manage staff and fellows' on- and off-boarding processes.

What will you take away from your time at Civic Consulting Alliance?

SP: I’ve learned a great deal about communication and work ethic, which I am really grateful for. I also realized that I love nonprofit and social justice-focused work, which has helped me better understand what I want to do after college and the fields that I should pursue.

OS: I'm taking away the importance of communication and collaboration throughout a project. My supervisor prompted me to ask questions, get feedback, and iterate ideas constantly which made the project much more successful and coordinated at every stage.
Sonali Patel was with us as an Undergraduate Fellow from Northwestern University from September to December.
Owen Szafran was with us as an Operations Extern from Carleton College from November to December.
What was your most memorable experience during your time at Civic Consulting Alliance?

SP: Finalizing the toolkit and microsite for Together We Heal and presenting it to our client. I was really nervous, but this experience helped me grow out of my shell.

OS: My most memorable experience was how immediately warm and welcoming everyone on the team was. It made for a really positive experience. 

How has your time at Civic Consulting Alliance helped you develop professionally?

SP: I’ve learned about what it means to be a great consultant, and what a career in social impact-focused work can look like. I see myself continuing to merge these fields throughout my academic and professional career.

OS: I learned the importance of considering a variety of problem-solving approaches before beginning a project to select the one that is most important. I also learned so much from my supervisor, who I cannot thank enough for all of her care, guidance, and wisdom.

In partnership with Northwestern University, we provide a semester-long Undergraduate Fellowship. We periodically work with other undergraduate institutions on shorter internship opportunities. 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:
General Operating Funders
Additional Funders
Intended Impact
Questions? Comments? Contact Marie Akerman