Report Calls for Venture Philanthropy Fund to Support Innovation in Public Education for Chicago’s Global Future

June 19, 2014
The Chicago Council on Global Affairs today released a report from its Emerging Leaders Class of 2010 calling for the establishment of a venture philanthropy fund to increase the global competitiveness of Chicago’s students. The fund would support innovative projects focused on critical areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills and global competence that can be scaled up to work across broad areas of the Chicago Public School system. 

Elizabeth Swanson, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s deputy chief of staff for education, and Bruce Rauner, senior principal and chairman of GTCR Golder Rauner, LLC, will deliver remarks and comment on the report at a Chicago Council public event this evening. Representatives of the Emerging Leaders Class of 2010 also will participate. Copies of the report will be distributed at the event, which begins at 6:00 p.m. at the InterContinental Hotel, 505 North Michigan Avenue. 

U.S. students trail their counterparts in more than twenty other industrialized nations in math and science achievement. Chicago’s economy, like that of the Midwest as a whole, is shifting from a manufacturing base, which required lower skills but sustained middle-class lives for generations, to a technology and service base, which requires higher level skills and knowledge. 

In Chicago, billions of dollars have been invested in new approaches to education, resulting in modest improvements. The Chicago Council’s Emerging Leaders Class of 2010—twenty young leaders from different sectors in the city—proposes the establishment of the Emerging Leaders Program Venture Fund (“ELP Ventures”) as a new contribution to this matrix. 

According to the Emerging Leaders Perspectives report, “ELP Ventures: Supporting Innovation in Public Education for Chicago’s Global Future,” the fund would focus on achieving measurable, short-term outcomes with lasting impact on teachers, principals, students and the global reach of the academic environment. Potential investments would distinguish themselves through their scalability, reach, entrepreneurial strength, access to underserved communities, uniqueness and ability to disrupt the educational status quo.  

Roughly 20 to 30 early-stage opportunities (between $50,000 and $250,000 per project) would form the core of ELP Ventures’ intended $10 million investment portfolio, once the effort is launched. A subset of initiatives that prove sufficiently successful in the pilot phase would then be rolled out system-wide.  

“We are excited about this creative approach to one of Chicago’s deepest problems,” said Marshall M. Bouton, president of The Chicago Council on Global Affairs. “The Emerging Leaders Class of 2010 has proposed an innovative approach that has the potential to make a meaningful difference in our community and serve as a model for other communities struggling with the same issue.” 

Co-chaired by Chicago Council Vice Chairs John F. Manley and Shirley Welsh Ryan, the Chicago Council’s Emerging Leaders Program assembles a class drawn from the best and the brightest emerging leaders from across business, civic, government and academic sectors in the Chicagoland area.  Support for the program is generously provided by Manley, Ryan and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.   

Members of the Class of 2010 have experience in education, venture philanthropy, law and civic leadership in Chicago. They devoted a year to in-depth study of the education and venture philanthropy spheres, including discussions with the leading thinkers across the country on these issues and examinations of other models of success. 

Emerging Leaders Daniel Bryant, founder and CEO of Sheridan Road Financial; Gillian Darlow, principal of Civic Consulting Alliance; JP Fairbanks, cofounder and managing director of Sigvion Capital; and Lila Leff, founder and chief partnership development officer for Umoja Student Development Corporation, will discuss the report and ELP Ventures at this evening’s event. 

​“A fund like ELP Ventures would have the advantage of drawing from the resources, experience and connections we gained through our participation in The Chicago Council’s Emerging Leaders Program,” said Leff.