Notes from the Cook County Commission on Social Innovation January Meeting

The Cook County Commission on Social Innovation (CCCSI)held its monthly meeting at the Loyola University Schreiber Center, on 16 East Pearson on January 19, 2017.

Kevin Stevens

The meeting started a little after 4:00 pm, with a welcome and remarks from Kevin Stevens, the Dean of Loyola’s Quinlan School of Business.  Mr. Stevens also shared an overview of Loyola’s Quinland School of Business’ programs.


Scott Curran
Scott Curran, former General Counsel of the Clinton Foundation shared lessons learned from cross-sector collaboration during his tenure at the Foundation.  Cross-sector partnerships are partnerships o 2 or more organizations that work in government, nonprofit and/or the private sector (to address complex problems).  He reminded the audience of the addage, “If you wanna go fast, go alone.  If you wanna go far, go together…”

Mr. Curran shared the following recipe for successful cross-sector collaboration:

  1.  Crystal clarity of purpose and objectives
  2.  Clearly defined roles and deliverables
  3.   Timelines
  4.   Objective criteria and measures of impact
  5.    Procedures to pivot the work to another entity

When asked about how to engage people in impacted communities in the work, Mr. Curran advised that it is best to only go places where (the Commission) is invited.  He also admonished us to not “parachute” in to communities, and to make sure we add value.  Processes must be stakeholder-driven, and documented from the beginning.  Objective criteria for measurement must be developed, as well as a blue print for moving forward.

When asked how groups with open-ended timelines should approach their work, Mr. Curran suggested that any initiative be new, specific and measurable.  The process should be documented, with assignments, timelines and deliverables to everything to ensure accountability.


Sara Aye

Sara Aye, Co-Founder and Principal at Greater Good Studio, spoke about design thinking, or ways to ensure that people benefit from products and services.  Ms. Aye defined human-centered design,  a process that begins and end with the user in mind.  Her firm uses design methods to solve business problems, as well as social problems.  Ms. Aye indicated that it is relatively easy to find unmet needs in under-served communities.  The challenge is finding the assets.

Human-centered design may also be used as a capacity-building tool.  Ms. Aye shared as an example a literacy program to help teachers improve their own skills, as well as the reading skills of the students.  Other examples included capacity building programs that led to improved school lunchroom nutrition and a program to improve medical assistants’ ability to better understand their patients’ needs and develop more impactful medical care plans.

Ms. Aye indicated that there are 3 levels of human-centered design .

  1. Level 1 is capacity building
  2. Level 2 is teaching
  3. Level 3 is collaboration

Discussion ensued, with Commission members expressing an interest in applying this framework to workforce development.

Reggie Greenwood

Reggie Greenwood, Chairman of the Public Capital Committee, shared an update.   He indicated that the Cook County Board’s Business and Economic Development Committee unanimously approved the Commission’s recommendation to conduct a feasibility study of the proposed Cross-Rail Chicago project, which would connect Chicago’s North, South and West Sides to suburban job centers using various modes of transportation, with the primary focus being under-utilized Metra electric lines.  The Business and Economic Development Committee is chaired by Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, who also chairs the CCCSI.

This is the first major policy recommendation developed by the Commission, through the leadership of our Public Capital Committee. Not only was the resolution approved unanimously, but every member of the Business and Economic Development Committee signed on as Co-Sponsors of the resolution, which will be presented before the full Cook County Board.

Vice Chairman Marc J. Lane has indicated that this is the first of several policy recommendations he envisions the Commission putting forward in the very near future.


Maria KimMaria Kim, the Human Capital Chair, indicated that the Committee hasn’t met for a couple months, and they are looking for new members.  They are working on access to emplooyment, particularly in the ride sharing industry, as it relates to providing transportation to somewhat remote suburban areas.   She also indicated that they have been successful in their advocacy for the City of Chicago to provide extra points in RFP’s for vendors who serve under-served communities.  This would include social enterprises.


Victor Dickson 2

Victor Dickson, Chair of the Social Capital Committee indicated that the Committee met with Dr. Byron Brazier, the President of the Arthur M. Brazier Foundation to better understand his model of civic engagement and community development.  The Social Capital Committee will also be meeting with ASE and Alderman Sue Sadlowski Garza to understand their model.  Mr. Dickson recommended that both organizations be invited to present before the full Commission to share lessons learned.

Marc Loveless

Marc Loveless (right), Social Capital Youth Subcommittee Chair, shared an update.   There will be a young adult civic engagement summit on March 4th at the Rainbow PUSH headquarters.  Featured speakers will include the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Attorney Marc J. Lane and others.  The event will be publicized County-wide, and is expected to draw 200-300 people.  More details will be provided as they come available.



Wendy Raymer, Financial Capital Chair,  indicated that her committee is working on a document to propose changes to local TIF laws to allow municipalities to work together on TIF-funded projects.  The Committee is also testing project manager databases to support the work of the Commission.

The next SEA/CCCSI technical assistance session will be on February 10, from 12 noon- 2:00 pm at Calumet Park Fieldhouse, 9801 Avenue G.

There will be a leadership training session on February 9, at 9:00 am at 69 West Washington, 17th Floor.


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