Year in Review
2013 – 2014

This year marked an exciting turning point in The Chicago Council’s 92-year history. We welcomed a new president, received our single largest grant ever, developed a new strategic vision, and expanded our research capabilities in areas like the global economy, global security and defense, and global energy.

Watch the year-in-review video


In July 2013, The Chicago Council welcomed Ambassador Ivo H. Daalder as its 13th president.

Ivo H. Daalder
Glenn F. Tilton

A widely recognized expert in American foreign policy and European security and transatlantic relations, Daalder came to the Council following a four-year posting as US ambassador to NATO. In April, the Council announced that Glenn F. Tilton, formerly chairman and CEO of United Airlines and Texaco and chairman of the Midwest for JP Morgan Chase, had been named executive vice chairman of its board of directors. Tilton will eventually succeed Lester Crown who has served as chairman of the Council since 2004.

Over the past year, Daalder has worked with Crown, Tilton, the board of directors, and staff to develop a new strategic vision to ensure when The Chicago Council marks its 100th anniversary in 2022 it is recognized – not just locally and regionally but nationally and globally – as one of the premier world affairs institutions in the country. The Council was ranked as the #11 "Think Tank to Watch" by the University of Pennsylvania’s 2013 Global Go To Think Tank Index.

Generous support from members, foundations, and Chicago’s top civic, corporate, and philanthropic leaders this year made it possible for The Chicago Council to organize and host more than 200 public and leadership programs and to influence important policy debates through studies, public opinion surveys, conferences, and task forces. In 2013-14, individuals provided more than $4.6 million in support, corporations more than $2.9 million, and foundations more than $2.6 million.

In August 2013, the Council received a $3 million, multi-year grant – the single largest in its history – from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for its work on US global agricultural development and food security policy. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation provided more than $1 million in support of various projects, and The Chicago Community Trust, Robert R. McCormick Foundation, Dr. Scholl Foundation, and other foundations also provided significant support in 2013-14.

We expect the 2014-15 program season, now underway, to be as exciting and transformational as 2013-14. In September, we will release the findings of our 2014 Chicago Council Survey of American opinion on the US role in the world. For the first time in a decade, we have surveyed elite opinion alongside the public. The first of these surveys was published 40 years ago; moving forward, the Council will conduct the survey annually.

Michele Wucker, president of the World Policy Institute, will join us in September as our new vice president of studies and will spearhead our efforts to generate new ideas and influence policy debates in the United States and abroad. In October, we will launch a new website, incorporating responsive design, more video, and other interactive features. Our Chicago Forum on Global Cities, planned for May 2015, will convene international leaders from the four pillars of urban life – commerce, education, civics, and culture – to discuss trends facing global cities in the 21st century.  

Influencing Policy Debates

Throughout 2013-14, Chicago Council studies and reports influenced policy discussions on climate change and food security, US public opinion on foreign policy, immigration, and global cities. Council fellows and experts also provided commentary on Syria, Ukraine, Iran, and Iraq; the global economy and trade; and global energy.

  • Global Cities

    In November 2013, the Council collaborated with Northwestern University, The University of Chicago, and the University of Illinois to bring leaders from 30 top research universities from around the world to Chicago for a conference on the role university-based research plays in addressing challenges in the areas of urban health, urban education, and urban vitality. Later that month, Senior Fellow Richard C. Longworth wrote an op-ed for the Chicago Tribune about reinventing Chicago’s economy to create a new middle class. Longworth also wrote a report with Senior Fellow Philip Levy explaining that manufacturing expertise coupled with diversified manufacturing and related business services could ensure Chicago’s continued future as a leading global city.

    Chicago has used its old expertise in manufacturing to turn itself into a center of global business services.

    Richard C. Longworth in The Midwesterner,
    February 25, 2014

  • Global Agriculture and Food

    In August 2013, the Council received a multi-year grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for its work on US global agricultural development and food security policy. In May, we issued a report urging the US government to curb the risks that climate change poses to food security. National Security Advisor Susan Rice, US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, and USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah delivered keynote addresses at the Council’s Global Food Security Symposium 2014, where the report was released. Roger Thurow, senior fellow for global agriculture and food, also received a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for a multimedia project and his next book about the 1,000 day window from the beginning of a woman’s pregnancy to her child’s second birthday.

    Just last month, The Chicago Council released a study showing how hotter temperatures, changing rainfall patterns, and more intense weather events could slow food production by 2 percent a decade for the rest of the century.

    - US Secretary of State John Kerry remarks at the World Food Prize Ceremony, June 18, 2014

  • US Public Opinion on Foreign Policy

    Since polling expert Dina Smeltz joined the Council as a senior fellow in 2012, she has conducted surveys of American public opinion on the US role in the world and a wide range of other topics. In February 2014, she wrote about survey findings showing bipartisan support among Midwestern business leaders to pass immigration reform. Later that month, in advance of President Obama’s trip to Toluca, Mexico, for the North American Leaders’ Summit, the Council released findings from surveys of both American and Mexican publics that said two decades since the implementation of NAFTA, Americans have grown incrementally more positive toward NAFTA, and a majority of Mexicans now say that NAFTA is good for the Mexican economy, Mexican companies, and creating jobs in Mexico.

    Only 20 percent of Americans know that Mexico is a top-five trading partner of the United States, according to a Chicago Council on Global Affairs report.

    - Foreign Policy,
    July 16, 2014

  • Immigration

    In July 2013, the Council received grant support from the MacArthur Foundation and the Chicago Community Trust to continue its work on immigration and US economic competitiveness. Juliana Kerr was named director of the initiative and has overseen new work, including a June 2014 report on how immigrants offset population decline and an aging workforce in Midwest metropolitan areas. The Council also hosted a panel discussion on immigration reform, in partnership with the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition, featuring Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, US Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), and US Representatives Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL). Retired chairman and CEO of Exelon Corporation John Rowe, who is cochair of the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition and a Chicago Council board member, moderated the discussion.

    From innovative and educated workers to those working in labor-intensive sectors such as manufacturing, agriculture, hospitality and health care, immigrants help sustain traditional Midwestern businesses.

    - Juliana Kerr in Crain’s Chicago Business,
    August 26, 2013

  • Global Security

    Media outlets across the globe, including BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera America, The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Foreign Policy, and more turned to Chicago Council experts for their analysis about the situations in Syria, Iran, Ukraine, and Iraq. Chicago Council President Ivo Daalder appeared on the PBS NewsHour in August to discuss how the United States should react to the chemical attack outside Damascus. In November 2013, Senior Fellow Nabeel Khoury wrote about a needed nuclear deal with Iran. Daalder wrote for the Financial Times in March about how Vladimir Putin's incursion into Crimea would ensure that NATO stands the test of time. And Senior Fellow Rachel Bronson explained on NPR’s Morning Edition in June that the ISIS crisis in Iraq creates a vacuum in the region that everyone is trying to fill.

    The most important thing right now is that we leave the question of what happened, and why it happened aside and we get united behind a single strategy where the future of Ukraine is decided by the Ukrainian people, and not by any of its neighbors.

    Ivo H. Daalder on BBC’s HardTalk,
    March 6, 2014

  • Global Economy

    In October, The Chicago Council hosted a day-long conference “Frontiers of Economic Integration” in partnership with Northwestern University’s Center for International Economic Development and Kellogg School of Management, and The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. Participants described the importance of trade as a key component of a national competitiveness agenda and warned of both the difficulty and the importance of meeting key deadlines in the months to come. Philip I. Levy, who joined the Council as a senior fellow in August 2013, organized the conference and authored a report in January assessing the state of leading trade negotiations from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, to the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, and multilateral talks under the World Trade Organization.

    You’re getting something of an unholy alliance lined up against TPA – on the one hand you have a fair number of Democrats in the House who are skeptical about trade and what it will do, and now you’re getting a new movement to join them from groups aligned with the Tea Party that’s focused on the delegation of authority, making more of a constitutional argument [against it].

    Phil Levy in the Financial Times,
    November 4, 2013

  • Global Energy

    The Chicago Council in partnership with Konrad Adenauer Stiftung led an energy fact-finding mission to Belgium and Germany in November 2013 to learn about European energy policies, US-EU energy relations, and the German Energiewende (energy transition). A trip report summarized the findings from the 12-person trip delegation that included representatives from business, academia, government, and NGOS. Rachel Bronson, who took over the Council’s energy work as a senior fellow in early 2014, led the delegation. Bronson also wrote several commentaries on the changing US energy landscape and its implications for US foreign policy, national security, and economic competitiveness.

    Talk of a loosening of ties between the United States and its energy-producing Middle Eastern partners as a result of growing US energy independence is just that, loose, and possibly reckless. All sources of energy will be needed to slake new demand, keep prices from escalating further, and promote global economic growth

    Rachel Bronson, senior fellow on global energy, in the Middle East Policy Journal. June 18, 2014

Educating the Public

The Chicago Council continues to be the go-to place for world leaders and other international experts to engage with the Chicago community. We partner with hundreds of civic organizations, cultural institutions, professional associations, and universities throughout the year to expand the reach of our public education programs. In 2013-14, we hosted more than 200 public and leadership programs with a total attendance of more than 38,000.

Engaging the
Next Generation

Recognizing that the next generation of Chicago’s leaders is increasingly global – in their interests and responsibilities – the Council has significantly expanded its efforts to engage younger audiences through its Emerging Leaders and Young Professionals Programs.

  • In September, the Council welcomed 21 individuals from, among others, the Boston Consulting Group, Credit Suisse Securities, Jones Lang LaSalle, Northwestern University, and United Airlines as its 2015 Class of Emerging Leaders. They spent the first year of the two-year program examining key global issues that affect the world and Chicago’s global future. In June, the Emerging Leaders Class of 2014 released a report on the power of big data to improve the lives of Chicagoans and residents of other global cities. Using Chicago as a model, the report outlines big data strategies for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of cities around the world.

  • Chicago Council Young Professional members live and work in a global marketplace and understand that to succeed they need current, behind-the-headlines information about what’s happening in the world. YP membership is up from 500 in 2011 to more than 1,900 today, and YP event attendees totaled more than 6,000 in 2013-14. This year’s Next Generation Discussion series and YP Conversations fostered professional development and networking and allowed YP members to consider global topics and share personal experiences. Annual social gatherings, like the New Year Party and town hall conversation with Chicago Council President Ivo H. Daalder in January and the Global Affairs Pub Quiz in June, drew huge crowds.