Civic Leadership

Chicago benefits from a long and distinctive history of extraordinary civic leadership. Our tradition of private sector involvement in the advancement of our region is the envy of other cities.


Today, the context in which civic leadership is exercised is changing. Traditional senior corporate leaders face growing national and global responsibilities, economic growth is increasingly driven by younger, entrepreneurial leaders with high expectations for civic engagement of themselves and their employees, and attitudes and trust in public and private institutions and the leaders of those institutions have deteriorated sharply. Meanwhile, the complexity of the challenges and opportunities we face as a region are increasing, requiring new ways to work across sectoral, functional, racial, and other traditional silos.

This evolving context of leadership and the challenges we face impact all of Civic Consulting Alliance’s work. These forces also provide an opportunity to build a stronger foundation of civic leadership in Chicago, one that enhances the region’s distinctiveness as a place of extraordinary civic engagement, where all sectors and all people play a significant role in the region’s vitality.

Our goal is to create a culture of civic leadership that can address the region’s most difficult challenges—and captures our most exciting opportunities—in a way that brings people together and builds trust in institutions. We have taken important steps already, such as our role in developing the University of Chicago Civic Leadership Academy and placement of our alumni in civic leadership roles in the public and private sectors.  

Looking to the future, we have begun to focus on four core building blocks we believe will be critical in building a new culture of civic leadership that Chicago needs to thrive in the decades ahead.

  • Building “communities of purpose” across all sectors;
  • Working across power structures;
  • Supporting personal growth and ownership;
  • Finding ways to work at scale, impacting thousands or tens of thousands of Chicago residents.

Rasmus Lynnerup and Kevin Nigarura
Discuss our Vision and the Civic Leadership Building Blocks


creating a stronger chicago through civic leadership

four critical building blocks 


2018 Civic Leadership Snapshot


Civic Leadership Building Blocks

Looking to the future, we have begun to focus on four core building blocks we believe will be critical in building a new culture of civic leadership that Chicago needs to thrive in the decades ahead.

fist bump
Crowded Street-2 hires_2015 Impact Report.jpg

Building “communities of purpose” across all sectors.

A new culture of civic leadership must intentionally develop and support people finding each other through communities of purpose across all sectors. Leaders must grow and develop in these communities while they realize tangible results and develop trust in one another. It is only by working together that trust is built where it is currently lacking. At the same time, these communities are examples of the new culture that will in turn inspire others to initiate meaningful change themselves.

Working across power structures.

In addition to working across traditional boundaries of race, class, sector, and age, communities of purpose need to work across traditional power siloes. It is the human connections between communities that do not today exist and must be nourished, and this can only happen if connections are made across our greatest divides.

Supporting personal growth and ownership.

This region’s leadership structure is a human system, and for any human organization to transform, its members must be open to a journey of personal change. This means re-thinking the basic assumptions that drive our actions. Those leading need to be the first ones to dive into the deep end of the pool, taking personal ownership of the problems and opportunities and simultaneously challenging their own assumptions, in particular about others they are working with across power structures in communities of purpose.

Finding ways to work at scale.

To change the culture of a region, we will need to scale and sustain participation for years to come. Having a substantial impact on the trajectory of a region with more than eight million people, all must challenge themselves to develop and participate in approaches that involve tens of thousands of people to move towards a tipping point where the culture, nature, and impact of civic leadership is qualitatively different.