Monday, May 22, 2017
Monday, May 8, 2017
by Shawn P. Healy, Director, Democracy Program
In April, I participated on a panel at a Council on Foundations’ preconference in Dallas, discussing Philanthropy’s Role in Strengthening America’s Democracy.
I was asked to weigh in on a narrative that dominates our county today: (1) Are we a divided country? (2) And if so, how do you see civic education helping to bridge our differences?
The McCormick Foundation’s statewide civic education work offers guidance on how schools and educators can begin bridging ideological and geographic divides. Context matters a great deal. A controversial issue in one region is settled in another. Research suggests that most of us follow the guidance of our grandparents to not discuss politics or religion. For the junkies among us, we're more likely to discuss politics among those with whom we agree, leading to the ideological amplification that increasingly cripples our democracy.
Understanding how to productively discuss controversial topics and learning to appreciate others’ perspectives, even if they are different than yours, is a key ingredient in building a stronger democracy. And America's classrooms is the perfect setting to begin developing these skills.
And here is why: students enter school with surprisingly heterogeneous views, even in deep red or blue areas. This coupled with the fact they are being taught by educators with the training (or at least the potential) to facilitate difficult political conversations across various ideologies and beliefs. Learning these practices will not only illustrate that thinking differently is not wrong or bad, but may demystify conflicting beliefs and help students to approach those issues with greater objectivity.
Civic development in the classroom needs to happen beyond state and national elections. True, elections have consequences and the outcomes may frustrate some, but elected officials represent us all and we are obliged to work with them through the public policy process that follows.
Many issues have local resonance and are often less ideological than those that play out on the state or national stage. Politics is a game of addition, and policy making often requires the building of bipartisan majorities across legislative bodies and branches of government.
Our successful legislative push two years ago for a high school civics course requirement offers many of examples of how we were able to build strong bipartisan collations in the Illinois General Assembly which was controlled by a Democratic supermajority. As a result, the bill was later signed by our Republican governor.
Civic education is bigger than red-blue, urban-suburban-rural divides. It is about the future of our democracy. Local context considered, best practices remain central to youth civic development and must be offered universally. Illinois' civic health may be on life support, but the prognosis for its long-term recovery is strong thanks to the fruits of the #CivicsIsBack Campaign.
by Cornelia Grumman, Director, Education Program
With support from the McCormick Foundation’s Education Program, the Erikson Institute in March launched a new track of its Early Childhood Leadership Academy. The McCormick Foundation Executive Fellows program trains high-level leaders across disciplines -- including politics, government, law enforcement, education, the law --about key components of the early education system. Fellows will hear from experts on leading-edge research, visit exemplary early childhood settings, network with cross-sector leaders and receive on-demand online content. Equipped with this information, the executives can make better informed decisions about policies and resource allocation in their respective fields to advance outcomes for young children.
In early April, the Foundation relaunched its current website, McCormickFoundation.org, with a refreshed appearance, refined functionality, and simplified content presentation. The previous site has been in place since 2009, and was in great need of update.
“The reengineered design better reflects the mission and history of the McCormick Foundation and incorporates the latest web technologies,” said Phil Zepeda, Director of Communications. “It’ll be much easier for users to find what they’re looking for and allows us to share news about our latest work with grantee organizations in a dynamic, engaging way.”
The site features a fully-responsive design, catering to a growing number of people who browse the internet via smart phones and tablets. The content remains focused on the Foundation’s grant programs, but also shares our connection with Cantigny Park and Cantigny Golf. Nonprofit Garden provided insightful and invaluable design consulting and programming guidance.
Among the key changes: a site-wide content update; written with a renewed, engaging tone; simplified navigation and hierarchy; a full foundation staff bio and contact listing; social media integrations; and bold imagery. “We eliminated redundancy and streamlined navigation, providing more intuitive pathways to information,” said Brad Lash. “This will help us keep current with news, fundraising efforts and grant application deadlines.”
Zepeda added, “We look forward to building upon this great new digital space for the Foundation.”
by Jim Struthers, Chief Development Officer and Assistant Director, Communities Program
This year, the City of Chicago and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation formed a unique partnership to give Chicago youth and young adults, ages 14-24, the opportunity to make the most of their summer with Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s One Summer Chicago.
One Summer Chicago 2017, a McCormick Foundation Fund, is the charitable fundraising arm of this dynamic initiative raising donations to support summer jobs, internships and other opportunities. Bringing together government institutions, community organizations and the business community, more than 31,000 of the city’s most at-risk youth will be engaged, safe and active while learning new job and life skills during the summer months.
In early May, former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama announced their support with a $1 million leadership gift to One Summer Chicago and drive additional donations from the public.
“We are so honored that the Obamas stepped forward with a substantial gift to help One Summer Chicago bring opportunities to Chicago’s young people, keeping them on a pathway to high school graduation and career success,” said David Hiller, President and CEO of the McCormick Foundation. “We hope their gift inspires thousands of other to support this effort.”
Under Mayor Emanuel’s leadership, Chicago has steadily increased its investment every year in mentoring and other youth programs to address some of the most urgent needs facing the city: keeping youth safe, improving school outcomes and reducing crime. In the past six years alone, One Summer Chicago has more than doubled the size of its program, providing more than 130,000 youth with valuable job training and work experiences.
An exciting city wide campaign is being planned in partnership with the Radio Broadcasters of Chicagoland, utilizing the expansive reach of radio to amplify One Summer Chicago 2017 fundraising efforts, additional details to be announced soon.
Lean how you can make a difference by visiting www.mccormickfoundation.org/onesummerchicago. Follow the McCormick Foundation on Facebook and Twitter to learn the latest developments.
by Megan Everett, Director, Veterans Program
There are a lot of misconceptions about veterans.
PTSD or on the brink of committing suicide.
The list goes on and on.
Veteran-stereotypes are just that, stereotypes. And like most stereotypes they are not true.
The reality is most veterans are neither heroes nor broken, they are normal people looking to lead happy lives, have loving families, and obtain meaningful, successful careers.
Sadly, this is not reality that most veterans face when returning from service. According to a recent survey issued by the University of Southern California and Loyal University of Chicago, Chicago veterans are unprepared for the shift from military to civilian workforce, and, consequently struggle during the transition process. The study also showed about half of post-9/11 veterans, returning to Chicago, will experience a period of unemployment.
Here’s the thing -- veterans ARE trained leaders for whom accountability and strong work ethic are second nature. They are uniquely equipped to meet the demands of today’s civilian workplace, and should be seen as assets to an organization, not a charity case.
How can we as a city dispel veteran stereotypes and position them as “assets” in the Chicago business community? Insert one solution: the Commercial Club of Chicago’s Veterans Working Group (VWG).
In 2013, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, the Commercial Club of Chicago, and the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning joined forces to start and initiative that would raise awareness within Chicago’s business community of the strengths veterans bring to the workplace and the unique nature of recruiting, hiring and retaining veterans.
Recognizing that meaningful and stable employment is the foundation for a smooth transition home, the VWG, comprised of regional leaders from a diverse range of industries and veteran employment experts, work together to devise actionable solutions to develop pathways for Chicago veterans to access and obtain meaningful, satisfying careers.
Over the last four years, VWG model has proven to be a success. The Group members attribute its success to a few key components:
- Meeting content focuses on addressing members and veterans’ needs
- Well-planned quarterly convenings
- Encouraging engagement and exchange of timely, localized best practices that can be easily implemented
- Connecting businesses to local resources