Connect Chicago aligns citywide efforts to make Chicago the most skilled, most connected, most dynamic digital city in America. It is a unique collaboration of dynamic partners centered at The Chicago Community Trust, the region’s community foundation and led by Smart Chicago, an organization serving as a center of gravity for investments around digital excellence since its inception.
The Connect Chicago network has more than 900 people delivering training, running computer centers, and helping residents improve their lives through technology. It consists of more than 25 distinct projects run by government institutions, nonprofits, and other entities, doing this work in 275 locations across the city, no matter where you are.
This project collects information about these programs and the impact they make. We get quantitative data like the number of people trained, number of certificates earned, and types of training in each location. We also share training materials, success stories, and challenges.
We foster this network through direct funding, community-building, and impact assessment. We invest in programs that are already deeply embedded in communities, stimulating community technology efforts and measuring their impact. Please join us!
Structure & Operations
Connect Chicago Staffing
The core team from Smart Chicago has primary responsibility for managing the coordination of the initiative, raising and managing funds and reporting to funders, making grants/contracts to other principal partners, managing the evaluation and leading on the execution of core components of the work plan, such as developing and maintaining the Connect Chicago website and tool kit.
Connect Chicago is guided by a unique collaboration of dynamic partners: LISC Chicago, the Smart Chicago Collaborative, Chicago Public Library, the City of Chicago’s Department of Innovation and Technology, MacArthur Foundation, World Business Chicago, and The Chicago Community Trust.
Connect Chicago Steering Committee
A Steering Committee composed of principal partners will manage the strategic direction of Connect Chicago.
Connect Chicago is a collaborative effort of many organizations rooted in two citywide plans— the City of Chicago Tech Plan and the World Business Chicago Plan for Jobs & Economic Growth.
The Steering Committee consists of leaders of and representatives from key government agencies, institutional funders, and program partner organizations. The Committee helps guide and execute on the program strategy. The Committee facilitates coordination, alignment and operational accountability across program partner organizations. Here’s the current list of organizations on the Steering Committee, along with a quick look at the focus of contributions for each:
- Mayor’s Office, City of Chicago: provides input from the perspective of Mayoral imperatives and strategy.
- City of Chicago Department of Innovation and Technology: DoIT is the key department for the City in matters of digital access and skills, and will convene staff from City departments and agencies that provide direct digital skills and access programming to ensure that efforts are coordinated under the Connect Chicago program. DoIT also supports the technology infrastructure (including the network and workstations) at the over 100 City-managed public computer centers (community service and senior centers and libraries).
- Chicago Public Library: The Library is the largest public-facing institution that delivers digital access and skills. Coordination and amplification of these activities is key to our success.
- LISC Chicago: LISC was key to the creation of the Sustainable Broadband Adoption BTOP grant and they delivered on their Smart Communities program.
- Smart Chicago Collaborative: Connect Chicago is housed at Smart Chicago.
- World Business Chicago: WBC is the creator of the Plan for Jobs & Economic Growth, which is central to our work.
- MacArthur Foundation: MacArthur is a key thinker and funder in the area of digital access and skills. They are also one of the three founding organizations of Smart Chicago.
- Chicago Public Schools: CPS delivers programs designed increase parent’s digital skills and promote student achievement.
Chicago is widely regarded as an exemplary city for digital access and skills programs, and the reason for that is the track record of these partners.
After years of working together in the BTOP programs, we’ve developed an asset-based strategy to amplify the enormous resources that exist in neighborhoods in libraries, public computer centers, community technology centers, senior centers, workforce centers. We seek to amplify and strengthen these assets and build on our proven success.
All Connect Chicago spending will flow directly from the workplan developed by the Steering Committee.
Technology Advisory Council
A Technology Advisory Council will work with Smart Chicago staff to align resources and assets.
The Technology Advisory Council consists of people working at the corporate funders of Connect Chicago, along with the Principals from the Steering Committee. The Council is a place where members hear specific information about Connect
Chicago strategy and execution, are given an opportunity to provide their feedback, and share any other efforts they and their corporations are making in the area of digital access and skills. The Council facilitates the alignment of investment and resources across corporate partners.
The Technology Advisory Council convenes twice per year. The members and work of the Technology Advisory Council will also be deeply embedded into the meetings of the Connect Chicago Meetup group, which is a group of people who work to bring public computer centers, community technology centers, and digital literacy programs to the people of Chicago. This group was started in October 2012 by Smart Chicago and the City of Chicago Department of Innovation & Technology to build community and keep the momentum of BTOP.
Advisory Committee of the Smart Chicago Collaborative
The Advisory Committee of the Smart Chicago Collaborative approves the budget of Connect Chicago.
Smart Chicago was created by its founding partners— the City of Chicago, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and The Chicago Community Trust in 2011 specifically to execute on two federal BTOP grants. As a funding collaborative, Smart Chicago brings together municipal, philanthropic, and corporate investments in civic innovation.
Smart Chicago is governed by its Advisory Committee. Here are the members:
- Brenna Berman, Commissioner and CIO, Chicago Department of Innovation and Technology
- Terry Mazany, President and CEO, The Chicago Community Trust
- Julia Stasch, President, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
Finances & Donors
All funds pledged to Connect Chicago are deposited in the Connect Chicago Trust Fund of The Chicago Community Foundation. The financial relationship between donors of Connect Chicago and Connect Chicago itself are maintained through The Chicago Community Foundation, which is an organization run by Terry Mazany, President and CEO of the Chicago Community Trust.