When Khari Humphries was accepted into the 2018 cohort of the UChicago Civic Leadership Academy (CLA), he’d been working for several years building community at a nonprofit developer of affordable housing. After completing the program, he moved to a job with even broader impact, and he credits his CLA experience with helping him grow. “I moved from working at the neighborhood level to working at the citywide level, and that’s no accident,” he says.
The six-month CLA program – based at the Harris School of Public Policy – is led by William Howell, the Sydney Stein Professor in American Politics at Harris Public Policy, and Sadia Sindhu, Executive Director of the Center for Effective Government. CLA includes valuable insights from faculty from the University’s professional schools and practitioners from around the city, county, and beyond. The program aims to strengthen the capacity within Chicago nonprofits and government agencies by bringing together their emerging leaders to learn critical skills, connect with one another, and explore new ways to find solutions to institutional challenges. CLA is the flagship program of the new Center for Effective Government at Harris, which is committed to solving major systemic challenges in our institutions.
Some of the program’s coursework in 2018 centered on the Chicago Housing Authority, creating what Humphries says was “an amazing moment that built my understanding of the policy and history that I was seeing in action at my job every day.” Other fellows in his cohort included a commissioner from the city Department of Planning, a place-based artist, a Chicago Park District executive, and leaders serving communities ranging from immigrants to first-generation college students. “There were so many people in my cohort who touched my work without my knowing,” he says, “and we became colleagues during a process that helped me expand and broaden my understanding of how work in the city is done. Your network opens up broadly when you become part of CLA.”
“I developed really strong professional relationships in the CLA, and everyone I met has a real commitment to showing up to the work in a way that has measurable impact in Chicago. I’m able to get inspired and show up ready because of the conversations we have.”
Eighteen months after finishing CLA, Humphries moved into his new job as executive director of school-aged strategies for Thrive Chicago, a collective impact organization focused on bringing together funders, community-based organizations, city agencies, and businesses to build cradle-to-career paths for young people. CLA, he says, was a motivator “to challenge myself to accept challenge in a way I hadn’t before.”