Danielle Kutasov ’14, Civic Consulting Alliance

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

Wednesday morning, I caught a bus into downtown Chicago and found my way to the office of the Civic Consulting Alliance (CCA). Once I arrived to the Chase Tower, where CCA is located, I was greeted by Princeton alumnus Alexander Gail Sherman ’97, a Principal at the Civic Consulting Alliance. The Civic Consulting Alliance is a nonprofit organization that brings together teams of business experts, government leaders, and CCA staff members, to help improve the city of Chicago. CCA works on everything from economic development to education to public safety. The staff members at the Civic Consulting Alliance represent a large variety of academic and professional backgrounds.

After taking a few minutes to meet everyone in the office, I accompanied Alexander to a meeting at the Office of the President of the Cook County Board of Commissioners. The meeting, with the Director of Policy for the County Board, was focused on ways the County could collaborate with the Civic Consulting Alliance over ongoing public safety and violence reduction efforts in Chicago. On the way back from the meeting, I discussed this a bit further with Alexander and had the opportunity to ask him a few questions about his work at CCA more generally. It was also wonderful to get his advice on various career options that I have been considering. Because his work brings him into contact with so many different people and organizations, Alexander seems almost infinitely knowledgeable about everything I was curious about.

I stepped out for lunch with Julius Dimas ’10, an Associate Civic Fellow at CCA (and another fellow Princetonian!). It was interesting to hear the perspective of a recent college graduate working at the Civic Consulting Alliance, and it was also great to discuss some of our common Princeton memories. We finished off day one with a few meetings; first, we walked over to City Hall for a monthly collaboration meeting, which included heads of various agencies (like Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Police Department), representatives of the City government, and CCA staff. Finally, I sat in on another meeting in City Hall to discuss anti-violence and community stabilization efforts, especially summer programs to help high-risk youth in Chicago. Day one gave me a taste of the wonderful range of activities that comprise Alexander’s work at the Civic Consulting Alliance.

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

Alex Sherman and Danielle

On day two, I met Alexander in a coffee shop for a meeting to discuss databases holding information on social services in Chicago. After that, we made the quick walk back to the CCA office and Alexander finished off some preparation for a meeting with the President of the Cook County Board of Commissioners later in the day. During this time I  had the opportunity to sit down with Kelsey Burr, an Associate Principal with the Civic Consulting Alliance. This was a particularly fascinating conversation; Kelsey has had experience in a diverse range of public and private sector organizations, having worked at places like the New York Federal Reserve and Boston Consulting Group. I was intrigued to hear about his experiences in these different organizations. His advice was some of the most insightful and helpful I have received.

The next meeting was with Toni Preckwinkle, President of Cook County Board. This was especially exciting for me because President Preckwinkle represented the 4th Ward of Chicago (where my childhood home is located) for 19 years, before being elected as Cook County Board President in 2010. In this meeting, Alexander and his colleagues from CCA presented their plans for an innovative summer program to help high-risk youth in Chicago. We finished off the day with a meeting on anti-violence and community stabilization efforts, with members of the City and County government staffs.

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

Day three started off quite interestingly, with a train ride to the offices of UCAN, a social service agency that serves more than 12,000 children and youth who have suffered trauma. CCA staff shared their plans for the summer program to help high-risk youth, and all those present at the meeting brainstormed how UCAN could partner with CCA to be part of the effort. UCAN staff also shared some of their most exciting current activities and efforts. Before heading back to CCA offices in downtown, I sat in on a conference call between CCA staff and a few employees of Ernst and Young, to discuss collaboration on some upcoming violence reduction efforts for the city of Chicago.

Once we returned to the Civic Consulting Alliance office, we moved into the conference room for a meeting with about 15 Chicago leaders to solidify the final plans for the summer program to help high-risk youth. Alexander and I stepped out a few minutes early to head to the offices of Accenture, a global consulting firm. The beautiful space and even more gorgeous views from the 33rd floor office was breathtaking, but the Accenture and Civic Consulting Alliance executives got right down to business. Throughout the almost two-hour meeting, I was endlessly fascinated by the conversation on workforce development in Chicago and the potential for reproducing the Civic Consulting model in other cities.

My time at the Civic Consulting Alliance was fascinating, informative, and enjoyable. I really appreciated the opportunity to sit down and talk with so many inspiring people, and it was wonderful to be exposed to a variety of organizations, from non-profits to government agencies to larger consulting firms. This experience has definitely given me a lot to think about with regards to my career plans.

Thank you for the wonderful opportunity!