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Opportunity Chicago is a collective impact initiative that successfully helped over 5,000 public housing residents prepare for and find quality jobs in Chicago, Illinois from 2006-2011. This case study provides collective impact backbone organizations, funders, and partners with an overview of the initiative and key lessons learned.

Top Takeaways

  1. Have an ambitious but actionable goal: Opportunity Chicago began with a very specific goal – to get 5,000 residents of public housing into employment. Starting with this goal went a long way towards aligning and motivating partner organizations. A discrete goal gave Opportunity Chicago the ability to start tracking data right away and allowed partners to see if they were making progress.
  2. Opportunity Chicago was a strong collaborative because it did not just bring stakeholders to the table, it brought the right stakeholders to the table. The partners were well positioned to provide complementary skills and services toward achieving the initiative's goal, were able to influence others, and built a high regard for each other.
  3. Backbone roles often shift over time: the Chicago Jobs Council (CJC) began as primarily a facilitator, helping provide legitimacy through its past work in employment access and convening the disparate stakeholders of the initiative. After the initiative had been active for a few years, CJC’s role had evolved to not only focus on facilitation and management, but also to help other partners clarify roles and responsibilities and to create momentum for the initiative as whole.
Opportunity Chicago was designed to be collaborative from the very beginning.