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Great Cities Institute

The Civic Leadership Training Program


Revised December 10, 2010

Project Summary
Chicago historically has a long tradition of community activism as a way to
affect change, especially during times of political and economic upheaval. As
the leaders of yesterday reach retirement age and increasingly shift towards
roles of an advisory capacity, the activists and leaders of tomorrow must be
prepared for a life of civic engagement and political service.
Drawing on UIC Great Cities Institute’s access to faculty expertise throughout
the campus, we propose to pilot the Civic Leadership Training Program
that will offer young leaders from Chicago’s neighborhood-based non-profit
organizations the opportunity to grapple with complex problems of urban policy
and begin to discuss, understand and propose solutions that can propel us into
this new century. Great Cities Institute will utilize existing relationships with
these neighborhood-based organizations to select individuals and create a
cohort of young and emerging leaders to participate in the program based on
criteria outlined in detail within the proposal.

The Civic Leadership Training Program will consist of a series of half-day


workshops for program participants on policy issues that are relevant to
anyone seeking political office or higher leadership positions in non-
governmental organizations that influence policy. Individuals must possess a
foundational knowledge about these topics, be familiar with the basic
definitions, existing legislation, and empirical research in each area, and
develop a confidence in speaking on these topics. Our workshops are designed
to accomplish these three goals. As future political leaders, participants will be
expected to speak publicly on these topics in an informed and engaging
manner. After they have participated in a specific topical workshop, they will
come to the subsequent workshop prepared to debate their fellow participants
for an hour on that topic. After the debate, they will be assessed and receive
feedback designed to improve their public speaking and persuasive skills.

Participants will also be required to engage with each other and their
instructors outside of the classroom through an online forum, designed to
provide experience utilizing the multimedia and social networking tools vital to
achieving success in today’s political landscape.

We will use critical knowledge gained through previous work at Great Cities
Institute to evaluate this program to refine the role for universities working to
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build civic capacity and engagement. We seek to use this background as a
jumping off point to examine the kinds of programs that are most effective in
disseminating knowledge about political issues relevant to cities.

The Civic Leadership Training Program


Great Cities Institute
Project Background, Description, and Workplan

Chicago’s Tradition of Civic Engagement and Leadership Development


While the nomenclature of civic engagement is relatively new, Chicago’s
tradition of community activism is not. In the 1960s and 1970s, many young
adults and students found their voices in movement politics, joining groups like
Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, Students for a Democratic
Society, Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan, and the Resistance. In
Chicago a number of young activists formed organizations -- some associated
with college students, others affiliated with neighborhood street gangs. The
Black Panther Party, the Brown Berets, CASA, and the Young Lords
Organization introduced young Chicagoans to issues as varied as immigrant
rights, Puerto Rican independence, feminism, and African American
empowerment.

Others were spurred into action because of the economic and political changes
occurring in the city. The manufacturing sector was in decline and certain
neighborhoods - particularly those with a large share of ethnic and racial
minorities - experienced the brunt of unemployment, poor schools, and
substandard housing. At the political level, these sections of the city were also
poorly represented; the largely African American West side, the Puerto Rican
Northwest side and the Mexican Near Southwest side had less power in City
Hall. In the 1980s, many young activists joined community-based organizations
that were forming to improve neighborhood conditions. These activists
became the foot soldiers of the movement to support and elect Harold
Washington. In Chicago, the Washington administration represented the
pinnacle of civic engagement for many progressive activists. Movement
politics and community organizations both have produced a large number of
successful politicians and community leaders, including Congressman Bobby
Rush (Black Panther Party), Congressman Luis Gutierrez (Puerto Rican Socialist
Organization and Bickerdike Redevelopment Organization), and County Clerk
and former Illinois State Senator Miguel Del Valle (Director of Association
House).

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But this was 30 years ago! Many of the current leadership are nearing
retirement age, and a younger cohort of activists is interested in taking their
place. Although many of the same problems still exist, new channels for
political involvement and new telecommunications tools currently exist to offer
fresh opportunities for creating solutions. Meanwhile Mayor Daley’s retirement
and the State of Illinois economic crisis will unleash a new wave of activism as
the flood of candidates begins to develop precinct and campaign organizations.
How are young leaders currently being prepared for a life of civic engagement
and political service? What kinds of training do they receive, and how can the
university enhance their knowledge about critical policy issues?

The UIC Great Cities Institute has access to faculty expertise throughout the
campus. We propose to pilot the Civic Leadership Training Program, a
model short-term training program that will offer young leaders from Chicago’s
neighborhood-based non-profit organizations the opportunity to grapple with
these complex problems of urban policy and begin to discuss, understand and
propose solutions that can propel us into this new century. The purpose of this
program is to prepare and support the next generation of leaders in the City of
Chicago.

The GCI Civic Leadership Training Program

As staff with some of the city’s numerous community development and job
training organizations, participants already have access to a number of
different types of workshops and short courses intended to help them attain
needed technical skills. For individuals who cannot attend workshops or short
courses, online training for job skills is also available. Typically offered through
universities, such as the Great Cities Institute’s Non-Profit Management
Certificate Program, online training allows individuals to virtually connect to the
CDC community without having to leave their homes or work spaces, saving
the participant time and money.

While these programs are invaluable in helping community development


practitioners gain professional and technical skills, there are few opportunities
for individuals interested in leadership positions in the city to familiarize
themselves with relevant policy issues affecting the larger urban landscape and
to do so in a rigorous, structured manner. They may be exposed to such issues
through their work or through journalistic accounts, but their understandings
will likely be partial and tied primarily to their own service areas. Furthermore,
without the opportunity for critical reflection and analysis, understandings of

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policy issues are often isolated, idiosyncratic, and can appear to be the norm
rather than the exception.

We are proposing a series of half-day workshops for program participants in 7


targeted low-income neighborhoods on policy issues that are relevant to
anyone seeking political office or higher leadership positions in non-
governmental organizations that influence policy (see below for list of topics
with potential instructors – with a few exceptions, all are former GCI Faculty
Scholars). These topics are some of the most hotly debated in the City of
Chicago, they are the ones that preoccupy policy makers, journalists and
bloggers, and they are complex and often difficult to understand for even the
most seasoned politico. It is critical that anyone coming up through the various
channels in Chicago city politics not only be familiar with these issues but be
able to take and defend a strong stance on them. As such, the learning goals
for this program are for individuals to gain a foundational knowledge about
these topics, be familiar with the basic definitions, existing legislation, and
empirical research in each area, and develop a confidence in speaking on these
topics. Another goal for the program is that participants =will network with
leaders from other disciplines around the City as well as with UIC faculty and
policy experts. Our workshops are designed to accomplish these goals.

The Civic Leadership Training Program will be designed as followed:

Selection criteria: To identify young leaders, the Great Cities Institute will
build off of previous work of its Neighborhoods Initiative in seven Chicago
neighborhoods including Humboldt Park, East and West Garfield Park, Pilsen,
Little Village (South Lawndale), North Lawndale, and the Near West Side. The
ChiWest Program worked with 40 organizations closely (70 organizations total)
to build capacity in the areas of leadership development, program
development, organizational development, and community engagement. Four
individuals were outreach coordinators and coaches to community
organizations in these neighborhoods and have developed relationships to staff
at organizations in each of the targeted neighborhoods. These individuals will
form an interim advisory committee, their sole responsibility for which will be to
propose the names of 5-8 individuals who meet the selection criteria. These
criteria require that individuals be under the age of 40, have created or led a
new innovative organization or program delivery model; have utilized media in
an innovative or effective way including using social media to advance political
or progressive causes; have developed and built successful collaborative
efforts; and have run effective advocacy campaigns or have implemented a
new approach to advocacy.
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GCI will contact each of the candidates, tell them about the program, and ask
them to submit a resume and short statement if they are interested in
participating. We will ask them to collect the signature of their immediate
supervisor so that they are aware of the program and the time commitment
involved.

If we do not receive at least 20 applications by January 21, we will send a


solicitation for the program directly to the 40 organizations in the ChiWest
network. By February 15, we intend to have cohort of 20 emerging leaders
ready to participate in the program.

Workshop topics: Having worked in these seven neighborhoods for almost 15


years, the GCI Neighborhoods Initiative has developed a deep understanding of
the issues that are relevant there. Our community partners have identified the
following four issues as priorities:

• Educational policy (particularly charter schools)


• Real estate development (particularly Tax Increment Financing
or TIF)
• Youth violence and juvenile justice
• Foreclosures and sub-prime lending

Instructors: From these four topics, we will select three to deliver during the
Spring 2011 semester. Each workshop will be co-taught by a pair of former or
current GCI Faculty Scholars (Education Policy: Pauline Lipman and David
Stovall; Real estate development: Rachel Weber and David Merriman); Youth
violence: John Hagedorn and Lisa Frohmann; Foreclosures and sub-prime
lending: Janet Smith and Phil Ashton). These faculty are not only affiliated with
the Great Cities Institute (and therefore have expressed a commitment to
engaged, locally relevant research), they are among the most respected in
their fields nationally and globally. They are some of the most cited experts in
Chicago and have extensive experience working with practitioners and policy
makers on these issues locally. Each instructor will design a syllabus, set of
relevant reading materials, and a series of slides for their portion of the course,
which will be vetted by Dr. Rachel Weber, faculty advisor for this program.

Format: Workshops will be structured as basic introductions to the particular


issue: i.e., Foreclosures 101. Instructors will introduce key definition(s), map
out key relationships, discuss practices and policies governing the issue, and

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provide details about the issue as it has played out in Chicago neighborhoods.
The courses will be designed specifically for adult learners who have
experience-based knowledge about city politics in their own neighborhoods.
The onus is on instructors to create a setting for a rich but accelerated form of
learning. This requires the possession of current knowledge of an issue that,
for the most part, cannot be gleaned from books or articles. Instead this
knowledge must be gained from hands-on experience with the subject that can
come from one’s research or from discussions with practitioners working in the
field. At the same time, instructors must be able to abstract from their own
specific experiences to help students through the different phases of the
learning process. Each workshop will last four hours with two 20 minute
breaks. One workshop will be held every other week on Saturday mornings
April 2, April 16 and April 30The workshops will be held in the GCI conference
room.

Chat room/blog: The learning process must also help emerging leaders
develop their critical thinking skills outside of the educational program, so that
each participant enhances their own capacity to complete the cycle of learning
on their own in the future. After the completion of each weekend workshop,
participants will have access to the faculty member for the following two weeks
through a structured, online forum. Information sharing via multimedia and
modal platforms will empower participants to engage with each other outside
of class, adding to the knowledge being created and disseminated. Posting,
broadcasting audio podcasts, and uploading discussion materials on a class
blog will facilitate this process.

Moderated debates: As future political leaders, participants will be expected


to speak publicly on these topics in an informed and engaging manner. As
such, one of the ancillary goals of this program is to introduce students to the
art of rhetorical speech. Two weeks after they have participated in a specific
topical workshop, they will come to the subsequent workshop prepared to
debate their fellow participants for an hour on that topic. A subset of
participants will be selected randomly to argue the pro or con side of each
issue. After the debate, they will be assessed and receive feedback from the
original workshop professor. They will also have the opportunity to work with a
media advisor, on ways to improve their public speaking and persuasive skills.
In this way, participants will have the opportunity to put what they have
learned to use with a high level of supervision and feedback.

Evaluation and research: Scholars have assessed different methods of


imparting political knowledge and have generally found mixed results in terms
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of which kinds of delivery mechanisms lead to substantive results. A third goal
of this program is to refine the role for universities working to build civic
capacity and engagement. Our experience administering the groundbreaking
and highly acclaimed Urban Developers Program (selected by Fannie Mae as a
Promising Practice), a highly subscribed online program for non-profit
management, and operating two well regarded master’s degree programs for
policy practitioners (Urban Planning and Policy and Public Administration) gives
us some critical background knowledge on this topic. Several years ago we
began to conduct an evaluation of the kinds of educational programs that are
most effective in disseminating practical, skills-based knowledge to community
development practitioners (see Smith and Weber 2006). We reviewed several
different workshops and short courses, generally more intense and focused on
building a specific skill in addition to traditional education programs, which are
generally spread over a longer time horizon and may produce multiple skills.
We will use this background as a jumping off point to examine the kinds of
programs that are most effective in disseminating knowledge about political
issues relevant to cities. While we are optimistic that short workshops taught
by experts, direct encounters with the subject matter, and moderated debates,
rather than thinking about some phenomenon at a distance, will increase the
knowledge and confidence of those seeking to pursue a career in local politics,
we will start to develop the instruments to track the progress of the program
graduates to see what they do with this knowledge and where they end up. In
particular, we will conduct an exit survey of participants so that we can refine
and scale up the program.