In 2017, a task force of Chicago’s leading business, civic, and cultural leaders came together to outline a global strategy for Chicago that coordinates the broad range of international activities and steers major efforts toward improving the city’s economic well-being and quality of life for all residents. These leaders recognized that Chicago has many global interactions across many sectors and institutions, but they “stop far short of a well-designed, coherent global engagement strategy.”
The task force’s report, Chicago’s Global Strategy, laid out the broad vision. To meet it, representatives of more than 60 museums, universities, civic organizations, chambers of commerce, business associations, and other groups came together to identify specific actions they could take to help advance the overall strategy. This report summarizes their findings.
To ensure more effective and efficient coordination, a central hub would help maintain communications and a database and convene the stakeholders regularly. This strategy would also benefit from a formal advisory committee of leaders in and from the city, a connected network of stakeholders from each organization, and a vision to plan long term rather than ad hoc.
To establish a more effective international narrative, stakeholders conceived ways to articulate a consistent message about the city that could be incorporated into institutional and business branding materials. Increased promotion overseas in key markets, through media engagement and by mobilizing partners and alumni groups can help. Furthermore, Chicago needs to bring more people to the city to experience it. Institutions can extend more strategic invitations, host summits, recruit foreign faculty, and capture layover tourists. To be sure, the group acknowledged that to improve Chicago’s narrative, the city also needs to fix the problems that lead to the alternate narrative.
To create a global mind-set throughout the city, stakeholders can help regularly inform residents through creative means of the impact of international connections. They can also help train the next generation of global citizens in schools, jobs, and through cultural experiences. Increasing exposure to voices and visitors from abroad while also intentionally targeting outreach and investments in marginalized communities can help connect Chicagoans with the city’s global identity.
To make this vision a reality, all institutions need to play their part in advancing these actions. Much of their effort is simply elevating what they are already doing to strengthen the narrative and deepen the impact. It is no small task, but coordination in this global era is a path worth pursuing.