June 2021
Building Meaningful Healthcare Employment
Pathways in a Time of Change
Since West Side United was founded in 2017, Civic Consulting Alliance has helped this innovative health equity collaborative incubate, launch, and execute initiatives to address the social determinants of health for the West Side’s 550,000 residents.

One key initiative in West Side United’s Economic Vitality focus area is the development of ‘career pathway programs’ that connect low-wage workers to in-demand, well-paying healthcare roles. Pathway participants receive training to earn nationally-recognized credentials, as well as professional development supports and other wraparound servicesall at no cost. Civic Consulting Alliance developed a process that West Side United follows to incubate new pathway programs, and we are supporting the incubation and implementation of four pathway programs in partnership with six hospitals: 
In 2019, West Side United was awarded a three-year, $3 million grant from JPMorgan Chase’s AdvancingCities Challenge to scale its Economic Vitality initiatives, including the pathway programs. With these critical philanthropic resources in place, the programs were just building momentum when the COVID-19 crisis struck.

COVID-19 has had a profound impact on the pathway programs: courses required for certifications and degrees paused or moved to a virtual format; pathway participants grappled with the personal, health, and financial challenges brought by the pandemic; and our region’s healthcare needs shifted to treat COVID-19 patients and to adapt to new safety precautions.

Over the past year, with problem solving and program management support from Civic Consulting Alliance, West Side United pivoted to adapt its pathway programs to COVID-19 and to support pathway participants through this challenging time. West Side United also sought to incorporate new strategies to magnify the impact of the pathway programs, to increase the number of pathway participants, and to better target West Side residents. Below are key examples of these strategies and the challenges they sought to address:
“During this tumultuous year, Civic Consulting Alliance provided the capacity and thought partnership we needed to adapt and stay focused on our pathway program goals – even as our healthcare and education systems underwent rapid change.”

-       Ayesha Jaco, Executive Director, West Side United

In just two and a half years, West Side United’s pathway programs have already impacted the lives of individual Chicagoans and our city’s healthcare system more broadly. A cohort of Medical Assistant pathway participants graduated from Malcolm X College in June of 2021, and multiple cohorts of Nursing Assistant pathway participants have already earned their credentials. Additional cohorts of Medical Assistant, Nursing Assistant, and Health IT pathway participants are currently enrolled in training. Over the course of the AdvancingCities grant, around 300 Chicagoans are expected to participate in these career pathways programs. Moreover, the six participating hospitals are setting an example for how other hospital systems and healthcare institutions can provide opportunities for economic advancement to current employees and to residents of the communities they serve—even in times of crisis.

As West Side United hospitals and stakeholders prepare for future pathway program cohorts, they will continue to incorporate the important lessons learned during COVID-19 in order to increase the programs’ impact, and ultimately, improve the economic wellbeing of West Side residents.
Rising Together for an Equitable Recovery
The COVID-19 crisis has had a devastating impact on Chicago’s Black and Latinx communities, where disparate financial and health outcomes were already the norm after decades of disinvestment and systemic racism. Recognizing these structural inequities, in October 2020, The Chicago Community Trust stood up We Rise Together: For an Equitable & Just Recovery, an unprecedented coalition uniting partners from across philanthropy, government, business, and communities.
We Rise Together is guided by two goals:
  • Accelerate equitable economic recovery for Black and Latinx communities by pooling and distributing philanthropic resources.
  • Reform and re-envision policies and business practices to ensure our region invests more equitably moving forward.

Together with our pro bono partner BCG, Civic Consulting Alliance supported We Rise Together between January and March 2021, translating its ambitious vision into a clear and actionable strategy designed to guide investments and partnerships. We also collaborated with We Rise Together’s community engagement partners, Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) and New America, to ensure community voice was integrated throughout.
“BCG’s work on We Rise Together is a testament to the effectiveness of joint pro bono teams to tackle complex, time-sensitive challenges with highly capable social impact partners. We were excited to bring our deep strategy expertise and our passion for advancing equitable economic development together with Civic Consulting Alliance’s skill in cross-sector collaboration, and MPC and New America's commitment to anchoring the work in community perspective. By working in tandem we were able to ramp up a team quickly, provide more support, and deliver a better product than any of us could have provided alone.”

- Kedra Newsom Reeves, Managing Director & Partner, BCG Chicago – and Civic Consulting Alliance Board member


Working closely with We Rise Together Associate Vice President Gloria Castillo, the BCG and Civic Consulting Alliance team focused on two objectives:
1. Define Strategic Priorities – We conducted an in-depth market mapping exercise—looking at macro challenges impacting Black and Latinx Chicagoans, inventorying 400+ cross-sector programs working on Chicago’s economic recovery, and conducting interviews—to identify priority areas where We Rise Together could fill gaps in existing efforts and have the greatest impact. This exercise identified nine strategic priorities aligned to WRT’s three goals:
  1. Increase employment opportunities by connecting siloed stakeholders and creating new ways to train and hire
  2. Strengthen small businesses by providing capital and support to incubate and scale Black and Latinx small businesses
  3. Spur neighborhood development by aligning stakeholders and investing in equitable real estate development

2. Operationalize Strategies – We developed a comprehensive operating model to bring those strategies to life. The model defines We Rise Together’s role within the recovery ecosystem, and includes an organizational and governance structure—described below.
Role – We Rise Together focuses on four ‘levers’ of influence that it is uniquely positioned for and that drive engagement from cross-sector partners: 
Organizational and Governance Structure – We Rise Together’s governance structure—consisting of cross-sector working groups and a Steering Committee—is designed to ensure that community voice is represented at every level. Community Conversations facilitate ongoing communication between staff and community members and representatives, grounding the work in their lived experiences and their vision for economic vitality. This deliberate structure ensures that the communities most impacted by We Rise Together’s work are involved in problem-solving and decision-making. 


With these tools in place, We Rise Together is making fast progress towards its goals. In June 2021, it announced its 5/25 Move to Action initiative and to date, more than 25 Chicagoland companies have pledged to pursue racial equity through tangible measures like: increasing spending with local Black and Latinx-owned companies; undertaking equity-focused hiring practices such as ‘second-chance hire’ programs (which recruit returning citizens, victims of abuse, and others who face barriers to employment); and committing financial resources to impact investments.
“We are at a unique moment in Chicago’s history, when cross-sector leaders all have a shared vision for an equitable economic recovery. Now, with We Rise Together, we have a way to activate that vision. I’m enormously thankful to Civic Consulting Alliance and BCG for supporting the development of We Rise Together from an ambitious concept into an actionable approach.”

- Gloria Castillo, Associate Vice President of We Rise Together: For an Equitable & Just Recovery, The Chicago Community Trust
Welcoming New Board Members
Civic Consulting Alliance is pleased to welcome two new members to our Board. Visit our website to learn more and to see our full list of Board members.
Catherine Nelson
Catherine Nelson is Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer of Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC) where she leads legal strategy for HCSC and its operating units. Catherine previously served as Business Advisor and Counsel to HCSC’s Office of the Chairman, President and CEO, and also led enterprise risk management, strategy and planning, and internal consulting.
Ann Marie Wright
Ann Marie Wright is the US Chief Risk Officer of BMO Financial Group. Ann Marie has been with BMO for 15 years and was previously the US Chief Auditor and the Chief Operating Officer for the North American Commercial Bank.
Spotlights: Alex Barth and Hannah Caplan
What project work were you involved in during your time at Civic Consulting Alliance?

AB: I supported the City of Chicago’s Together We Heal racial healing initiative, and a strategic review for the Cook County Bureau of Asset Management.

HC: I worked with Chicago State University on a project to create a workforce development center, and supported an internal project to develop a best practice guide for Civic Consulting Alliance analysts. 

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

AB: This fellowship opened my eyes to the impact cross-sector partnerships can have on societal issues at a city-government level and beyond. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to collaborate with so many talented leaders and teams throughout Chicago, and it's been extremely rewarding to deliver projects that directly benefit our city and its people.

HC: My time at Civic Consulting Alliance validated my interest in consulting and my passion for social impact work. Because of this experience, I plan to continue to pursue these professional interests going forward.

What was your most memorable experience during your time at Civic Consulting Alliance?
Alex Barth is a Senior Associate in KPMG's Financial Services Consulting practice. He was with us as a fellow from February through May 2021.
Hannah Caplan was with us as an undergraduate fellow from Northwestern University from March through June 2021.
AB: I was given the opportunity to present to members of Civic Consulting Alliance's Leadership Council for one of my projects. It was energizing to see leaders from so many industries and companies come together, dedicate their time, and be genuinely invested in the success of our work and the impact our work has on Chicago.

HC: I helped organize a workshop with Chicago State University that engaged an array of stakeholders to brainstorm ideas for the design of the workforce development center. It was really cool to hear from people with a wide variety experiences in and perspectives of Chicago's workforce development space.

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

AB: Civic Consulting Alliance's staff and clients have such a diverse range of backgrounds and professional experiences. I learned about a wide range of topics and industries that I hadn't engaged with significantly prior to my fellowship.

HC: I learned the value of strong communication and professionalism. We came to each client meeting prepared with materials and game plans, which ensured the project stayed on course and with a shared understanding of next steps. My teammates were amazing role models in this preparation and delivery, which I will bring into my future engagements.

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. In partnership with Northwestern University, we provide a semester-long Undergraduate Fellowship. Please visit our Fellowships page to learn more about our range of fellowship opportunities.
In Other News
  • In 2020, Civic Consulting Alliance and our pro bono partner Slalom supported the City of Chicago to create the Chicago Youth Service Corps. Read more about how this partnership created nearly 2,000 opportunities for community service in the middle of the pandemic in Slalom's recent case study.

  • The Equity Working Group for Black Student Access and Success in Illinois Higher Educationa statewide, cross-sector partnership convened by Chicago State Universityrecently released an Action Plan identifying critical actions needed to close equity gaps and enable Black students, families, and communities to thrive and survive in Illinois. Civic Consulting Alliance is proud to have provided strategy and project management support to the Equity Working Group as it developed this unprecedented plan over the past year. Read the group's findings and recommendations here.

  • Want to learn more about our work? Visit our Vimeo page to watch recordings of our ongoing virtual conversation series, Getting Big Things Done, which highlights recent projects that further our goal of building a more equitable Chicago.
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:
Intended Impact
Support to achieve our Education platform vision - to advance high quality education and equitable access to opportunity for all Chicago students to prepare them for lifelong success and fulfillment.
General Operating Funders
Civic Consulting Alliance is grateful to our general operating funders, whose support empowers us to maintain our flexible and responsive capacity to get big things done.
Questions? Comments? Contact Marie Akerman