UChicago Unveils Results of Civic Leadership Academy Evaluation

The Civic Leadership Academy at the University of Chicago (CLA) unveiled results from a three-year evaluation of its fellows program on Oct. 29. The findings demonstrate how the interdisciplinary program benefits individuals, organizations, and Chicago’s civic network.

Created in 2014 by the University’s Office of Civic Engagement, in partnership with LISC Chicago, Civic Consulting Alliance, the City of Chicago and Cook County, CLA develops a pipeline of promising leaders to help local nonprofits and government agencies thrive.

The evaluation was funded by JPMorgan Chase, which in September 2017 made a $40 million commitment to help drive inclusive growth in underserved Chicago neighborhoods.

“In cities across the country, JPMorgan Chase is involved in a wide range of efforts that link the private, public, and nonprofit sectors to revitalize neighborhoods,” said Courtney Howard Hodapp, head of the Office of Nonprofit Engagement at JPMorgan Chase. “We believe that it is deeply important to invest in the development of local leaders who are driving inclusive economic growth in their communities. With the CLA, the University of Chicago has created an innovative support model to cultivate strong, cross-sector leadership for our cities.”

Evaluators from Outlier Research & Evaluation examined three areas of impact across three CLA cohorts: fellows’ leadership development and self-efficacy; benefit to fellows’ organizations; and development of networks that could strengthen Chicago’s civic infrastructure.

The University of Chicago brought together local government and nonprofit sectors to study with faculty from multiple disciplines and civic practitioners to make a positive impact on the individual fellows, their organizations and the larger civic network of Chicago, thus benefiting the city.

Key findings of the evaluation include:

  • Increased self-efficacy - Fellows became more confident in using data to make decisions. By the program’s end, 86 percent of Cohort 2 and 91 percent of Cohort 3 felt “mostly or completely confident” in their ability to use data and information to guide their decisions (compared to 68 percent and 59 percent before CLA, respectively). 
  • Increased intentionality - Fellows became more confident in developing effective action plans. By the program’s end, 96 percent of Cohort 2 and 91 percent of Cohort 3 felt “mostly or completely confident” in their ability to develop effective plans of action to accomplish organizational goals (compared to 59 percent and 77 percent before CLA, respectively).
  • Increased connections - By the end of the six-month program, fellows felt more confident making connections in their organizations and developed more external connections. 
  • Stronger civic infrastructure - By the program’s end, 86.7 percent of Cohort 2 made five or more introductions to their peers (compared to 20 percent pre-CLA). In Cohort 3, 86.7 percent made five or more peer introductions (compared to 13.4 percent pre-CLA). 

“These findings suggest that when urban research universities partner strategically with local nonprofits and government agencies to leverage resources and human capital, the individual and citywide impact is powerful,” said Joanie Friedman, executive director of Civic Leadership in the Office of Civic Engagement.

Meet the CLA fellows profiled in the three-year evaluation.

The Civic Leadership Academy and this evaluation are part of a strong, interdisciplinary movement at the University of Chicago toward data-driven urban social impact.

“Investing in civic leadership development is critical to create and sustain safe and vibrant cities,” said William Howell, Sydney Stein Professor in American Politics at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy and faculty director of the Civic Leadership Academy. “Evaluating programs like CLA to understand their impact on the talented, driven leaders who are working to transform their local environments is just as critical.”

On Dec. 3, at 11 a.m., the Office of Civic Engagement will host a national webinar for community foundation leaders, philanthropists, university leaders, and city governments to share the story of how a university (UChicago) partnered with its local government and nonprofits to educate rising civic leaders.

Download the CLA Blueprint: Transforming Leaders, Transforming Cities.

Download the full 70-page Outlier evaluation of the Civic Leadership Academy.

Cassata, A., Talbot, M.E., & Century, J. (2018). Civic Leadership Academy Final Evaluation Report. Outlier Research & Evaluation, UChicago STEM Education, University of Chicago.

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