Chicago Area Leadership Development

GCI’s Director of Neighborhoods Initiative, Thea Crum, partnered with the Institute for Policy and Civic Engagement (IPCE) to publish a report on the system of leadership development programs in the Chicago area. The study was driven by a commitment to support a new generation of civic leaders and to encourage a more “inclusive paradigm of public service leadership” by determining what opportunities currently exist for leadership development and where there are challenges or gaps in the system.

Overall, the study identified 166 leadership development programs in the Chicago area, administered online surveys with 66 programs, and conducted 16 individual interviews with program directors or coordinators. Three overarching categories of leadership development programs emerged, revealing important differences obscured by the general leadership landscape trends, including:

  • Student programs (53 total) that are primarily based at universities or colleges and target 18- to-24-year-old undergraduate college students, regardless of race, sex, or community. These programs tend to focus on the internal, individual dimensions of leadership, such as self-awareness, integrity, and creating a personal vision.
  • Professional programs (54 total) that are primarily geared towards college-educated, working professionals between the ages of 25 and 34 looking to advance their careers. They prioritize professional relationship building and networking activities and offer alumni events.
  • Community programs (58 total) that intentionally target participants based on race, geographic community, and income, regardless of educational background. Participants join these programs to improve their community, and these programs prioritize building community organizing, political leadership, and community visioning skills.

The study examined the purpose of programs, the participant selection process, whether the program had a specific target population, and the program design. The research identified the need for increased and intentional efforts to target and recruit people of color, women, and low-income individuals for leadership development programs to better reflect the diversity of the Chicago region and improve the diversity of public leadership overall. Additional findings include the need for collaboration between programs, expansion and support for leadership development programming models that include a more holistic approach to leadership development, and the development of standardized evaluation metrics. The full report can be found here.

About the Author:
Thea Crum, GCI Director of Neighborhoods Initiative: As the Director of GCI’s Neighborhoods Initiative, Thea works in collaboration with community-based organizations, elected officials, and university faculty, staff, and students to provide training, technical assistance, and applied research on community and economic development projects. She is the lead staff person on the Participatory Budgeting Chicago initiative and is a member of the North American Participatory Budgeting Research Board.