Great cities prepare the next generation.

The future of Chicago is inextricably linked to the success of its schools. Education prepares our workforce, strengthens families and communities and brings an intellectual vitality to everything we do. Our ability to prepare our youth for the future says a lot about who we are and what we want our future to look like.

Our vision in education is that Chicago becomes the most educated big city in the nation. To this end, we focus on:

  • Developing a cohesive system to support student achievement both in and out of school
  • Producing scalable impact to improve the educational outcomes for large numbers of students
  • Implementing and testing new educational models
  • Reinventing our community colleges, the pathway to a better life for more than 100,000 Chicagoans every year
2014 Case Study:
The Reinvention of City Colleges of Chicago

For many low-income Chicagoans, education and training is the path to a better life. But by the middle part of the last decade, the City’s community colleges had lost a step. Enrollment had fallen from 200,000 to 115,000 in less than 10 years. Barely seven percent of first-time students attending full time were completing a certificate or degree, just a third of the national average. Eighty percent of programs were graduating fewer than 45 people per entering class and too many of these programs weren’t tied to actual regional economic need. Fifty four percent of degree-seeking students were quitting in their first six months. While City Colleges was meeting its goal of providing access, the Colleges were not, by objective standards, putting students on the road to success.

The origins of the turnaround can be traced to 2007, when Civic Consulting Alliance, at the behest of then Mayor Daley and in partnership with the Boston Consulting Group and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, convened a panel of civic, educational, non-profit, and business leaders across the city. The group was charged with answering one fundamental question: what role should the City Colleges play in the future of Chicago?

In 2010, Cheryl Hyman was appointed as Chancellor and quickly established herself as the kind of client that Civic Consulting Alliance looks for: visionary, collaborative, committed to change and willing to make the tough decisions. The process of “Reinvention,” as this initiative was now called, took shape. Everything from the student registration process to the student program portfolio was overhauled.

Over the next few years, Civic Consulting Alliance recruited and deployed a range of world-class expertise. McKinsey & Company helped develop the detailed strategic blueprint for Reinvention; Accenture redefined technology needs and strategies; KPMG designed new procurement processes and reengineered other operational functions; Lantern Partners provided key recruiting services; and R. Kent Carson contributed important human resources services. All this work was done in collaboration with Chancellor Hyman’s new leadership team and dozens of faculty, staff, and students, who came from all corners of Chicago to be part of Reinvention.

One step at a time, results began to emerge. The total number of awards (degrees and certificates) topped 10,000 for the first time. Graduation rates doubled. Operations began running more effectively. Last year, City Colleges met or exceeded at 20 out of 24 key metrics of performance and reinvention.

Reinvention is not complete. There is more to do. But City Colleges of Chicago is on an extraordinary path of renewal and reinvention which has an incalculable benefit.

Click here to access the PDF of this case study.

Click here for article from Stanford Social Innovation Review.

Taking library data off the shelf

Since its founding in 1871, the Chicago Public Library (CPL) has continually transformed itself to meet the needs of Chicagoans. In 2014, in the face of rapidly-changing norms around library usage nationwide, CPL responded by collaborating with Civic Consulting Alliance to create its first strategic plan, which provided a roadmap for how CPL should grow, invest, and innovate to serve its nearly 10 million annual patrons... Read More

Performance management presented the logical next step from our strategic planning efforts and has allowed us to focus on areas of our work that most need our attention.

Brian Bannon


Chicago Public Library

Recent Projects:

Taking library data off the shelf
Five years after the Great Recession, too many neighborhoods still suffer from double-digit unemployment. While these neighborhoods have significant assets that could be used to spur regional economic growth, including land and human capital, new industrial investment has been lacking…

Making big change on campus
Helping low-income students turn their lives around through education is central to the mission of the City Colleges of Chicago. Six years ago, that institution launched its own turnaround effort — a bid for “reinvention” — and now it’s earning high marks for improved performance. This Stanford Social Innovation Review case study dives into the ...

Make no small plans: Revamping higher education strategy in Illinois
As the new head of Oliver Wyman’s Chicago office, I wanted the office to be more active in the civic community. I looked at various options for myself and the office, and Civic Consulting Alliance offered an ideal way to get involved. I reached out to the Civic Consulting team and was able to work ...