CLA Social Impact Projects


The CLA has been built for today’s Millennial leader who doesn’t just want to sit on the sidelines and watch (or complain), but for those of us who desire to work together, build solutions, and play an active role in the future of Chicago.

Rather than focus on just one issue, The CLA provides our members with an opportunity to get involved with dozens of causes, organizations, projects, population segments, and geographical areas in Chicago. We also offer the necessary support and resources so our members can launch their own social impact organizations and initiatives, which pertain to causes they’re personally passionate about.

Below are overviews of some of the projects we've recently taken on:

Techweek Gives

  • Issue: The need to drive awareness of STEM/STEAM programs in Chicago + the fact that there isn’t a great mechanism that promotes giving amongst the entrepreneurial tech ecosystem.
  • Beneficiary: STEAM Programs and Chicago nonprofits overall.
  • Date: Mar 16, 2017

Involvement Multiple members of The CLA were involved in conceiving, and helping to launch this initiative to begin with. One CLA member’s company even developed the technology. Aside from being involved in the genesis of the idea for the drive itself, the CLA has been invaluable regarding publicity and encouraging some of Chicago's most prominent tech companies to participate in this mission. 

Impact The goal for the program overall (concluding summer, 2017) is to raise $1,000,000, and contribute 10,000 volunteer hours to multiple local nonprofits.

Quote “In 2017 Techweek is committed to helping high-growth companies solve their toughest problems, including talent acquisition. That’s why we are thrilled to announce the launch of this campaign, which supports a new generation of tech talent from local and diverse communities.” -Amanda Signorelli, CEO of Techweek.

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Partnership with Cara Chicago

  • Issue: The need to help motivated individuals break the cycle of poverty and homelessness.
  • Beneficiary: Cara and their unemployed or underemployed students
  • Date: Feb 14, 2017

Involvement Chicago Leadership Alliance celebrated Valentine's Day with Cara Program, a social enterprise dedicated to providing jobs and community support to the homeless and unemployed.

Impact Over 20 CLA members came out and participated in a collective 60 hours of service, working with job candidates to hone their personal pitches and explore their professional interests.  We also spent time with the leaders from Cara’s employment sector, helping them with their reach into local corporations for placement of their students.

Quote "We’ve already connected with one of your member's organizations to continue business partnership potential – all exciting stuff, especially when considering how continued big picture engagement with the overall Cara enterprise may align well with CLA’s Philanthropy and Civic components. Many thanks for your personal enthusiasm and CLA’s passion for meaningful and impactful work in the community. Deeply appreciate that you’ve chosen to channel it to Cara!" - Sasha, Talent Manager at Cara Connects

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Chicago Tech Rocks

  • Issue: STEM and STEAM programs need more funding, and awareness
  • Beneficiary: 6 Chicago STEM Programs
  • Date: Aug 13, 2016

Involvement Along with Synap Labs, The CLA Co-hosted Chicago Tech Rocks which was a rock concert held at Metro in Lakeview. The concert brought out almost 500 people, and raised over $60,000 for six different STEM education programs in the city.

Impact STEM Education programs are critical not only to the future of Chicago, but to the development of Chicago’s youth. The problem, is that many people either don’t know about STEM, or simply don’t have a good forum to provide support. Through Chicago Tech Rocks, we were able to introduce over 500 people in the Chicago tech community to the excellent work being done by 6 different STEM programs, and raise a significant amount of money in the process, which will go towards helping these programs continue to deliver on their important missions. The beneficiaries of the event were Black Tech Mecca, Genesys Works, i.c.stars, Lumity, Project Infinite Green, and Year Up

Quote "Chicago Tech Rocks provided impactful branding and financial support to Black Tech Mecca during a vital time for our organization. These investments helped us build further capacity to produce our Annual State of the Black Tech Ecosystem Summit (Tribune Article) and Inaugural Black Tech Ecosystem Research Study (report)." -Fabian Elliot, Founder, Black Tech Mecca

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Muslim American Leadership Alliance

  • Issue: The need to elevate public dialogue on Muslim-American identity in the 21st Century, unite all Americans in a common struggle for freedom and human rights, and partner with civic leaders to strengthen community and counter extremism.
  • Beneficiary: Muslim American Community
  • Date: Jul 19, 2016

Involvement The Chicago Leadership Alliance has been involved with Mala from its inception. Mala and the CLA share a common mission which is Mentor and empower emerging young leaders. Mala Inspires Muslim-Americans to share their unique stories and shape their futures. Michael Stark co-founder for the CLA was one of the first advisory board members for Mala. CLA members have been very supportive of Mala's board by providing them access to their network and attending Mala's events.

Impact Mala has collected over 500 stories that are archived at the Library of Congress. Mala created the first ever Muslim American Heritage database at the library of Congress.

Quote "Build bridges through a respectful exchange of ideas. Individual progress is linked to community progress." - Ahmed Flex Omar. Co-founder Muslim American Leadership Alliance.

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Signs of Change

  • Issue: Process to get a sign permit in the city is way too long, and antiquated.
  • Beneficiary: Chicago's Small Business Community
  • Date: Jul 4, 2016

Involvement The CLA worked hand in hand with The Small Business Advocacy Council to spearhead Signs of Change. We brought together a coalition of over 40 local business groups, alderman, and chambers of commerce to all work together on supporting this initiative. The CLA was also very influential in helping to develop the strategy, messaging, and process for Signs of Change.

Impact The ordinance, along with companion administrative changes, reduces the time it takes to obtain a public way use permit by 50 to 80%. In some circumstances, the city estimates these reforms reduce the process by two-and-a-half months. In addition to reducing the number of days for business owners to obtain their public way sign permits, there are also about 130 other public way uses including canopies, benches and awnings that will be issued more quickly because of this ordinance.

Quote "The CLA was a fantastic partner for Signs of Change. They brought initiative, ideas, and effort to the table. There is no way that Signs of Change would have gotten off the ground, much less succeeded, without The CLA being involved from the start!" -Elliot Richardson, President, The SBAC.

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Community Startups

  • Issue: Chicago Public Schools students have BIG ideas that could potentially transform their communities but no pathway to formally develop those ideas into revenue generating businesses that can seed scholarships and grants.
  • Beneficiary: Chicago Public Schools Youth
  • Date: May 25, 2016

Involvement CLA members devoted over 30 hours of skills-based volunteerism and $5,000 in sponsorships and in-kind resources to Community Startups' pilot accelerator program. Working alongside two teams of youth, CLA was able to help develop, prototype and craft business models that were pitched to a panel of investors.

Impact The goal of Community Startups' Summer Accelerator is to create social impact products and business models that can be acquired, licensed or sold and seed educational scholarships and entrepreneurial grants for CPS students. One of the teams of students was able to catch the eye of an investor who is in the process of seeding a production run of their product. Success from this pilot allowed Community Startups to expand their program to include additional teams for the 2017 Accelerator.

Quote “Startups rely heavily on early stage supporters who are willing to provide resources that enable the success of pilots and test cases. We put out a request for mentors, corporate sponsorships, and various in-kind resources to the Chicago Leadership Alliance and were amazed by the quick responses of "YES!". Our pilot Summer Accelerator would not have been possible without the support of the CLA and we look forward to partnering with them again this upcoming year, making an impact in the lives of CPS students on the south and west side of Chicago." -Beth Bond, CLA Member and Community Startups founder

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Solve Chicago

  • Issue: The job opportunity gap. Specifically, the need to create a network of every workforce nonprofits and align them with neighborhoods and community leaders, job seekers, etc.
  • Beneficiary: Underserved, distressed neighborhoods and workforce development nonprofits.
  • Date: May 17, 2016

Involvement The CLA worked with a few committed young leaders to ultimately assist in the launching of the Solve Chicago concept. The CLA provided support in the following ways: helped founder Matt Strauss (CLA member) to brand himself as a civic leader and attract Emile Cambry of Blue 1647 as a co-founder; assisted in acquiring Cara Program, i.c. stars and Ideal Candidate as clients ; Gave the Solve Chicago team the opportunity to raise awareness to 80+ thought leaders on a daily basis, while getting feedback from their partners; promoted announcements and achievements by Solve Chicago through various platforms and social channels; Assigned board members.

Impact As of April 2017, while Solve Chicago is still being built and getting off the ground, we’ve already acquired some of the top nonprofits in Chicago and have begun dialogue with dozens of community leaders and civic-based organizations who are very interested in officially partnering with Solve Chicago.

Quote "I have always believed that age doesn't matter in work. Once I started selling our smart city software to the Government, I realized the importance of a brand which Chicago Leadership Alliance has helped me attain" - Matt Strauss, Founder of Solve Chicago and CLA Member

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Working with DePaul Students

  • Issue: Mentorship and work experience for students
  • Beneficiary: DePaul University and their students
  • Date: Apr 20, 2016

Involvement In April, The Chicago Leadership Alliance announced it's official partnership with DePaul University's Center for Creativity & Innovation.  This partnership is focused around The CLA engaging with DePaul and it’s students in various ways: Providing a pipeline for DePaul students to apply for open internship opportunities at CLA-run companies; CLA members actively mentoring students; Guest lecturing by CLA members; Students and CLA members engaging in ideation sessions together.

Impact As of February 2017, The CLA and DePaul have engaged in multiple sessions and events together, providing mentorship, learning experiences, and real-world connections for hundreds of DePaul Students.

Quote "The CLA has collaborated with us on events for our students, bringing business leaders into the classroom and on campus to mentor and inspire future entrepreneurs and innovators.  A panel of CLA members spoke on leadership and career development, sharing strategies and tips with students about to enter the workforce.  We have had CLA members work with our students in interactive sessions to generate innovative ideas for businesses, enabling students to see first-hand some of the challenges and opportunities facing organizations. Working with the CLA has been incredibly beneficial to our students as they get the opportunity to meet some of the city's most transformative leaders and learn about how to create a meaningful work life tied to the community." -Lisa Gundry, Professor of Management & Entrepreneurship

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  • Issue: Startup charity needing awareness and support
  • Beneficiary: The Remix Project
  • Date: Oct 23, 2015

Involvement The CLA hosted "CLAremix" which was an evening of art, music performances, dance and photography. Hosted at Lacuna Lofts in Pilsen, over 200 people attended. The beneficiary for CLAremix was The Remix Project, a local 501c3 here in Chicago. The Remix Project was created in order to help level the playing field for young people from disadvantaged, marginalized and under served communities. Their programs and services serve youth who are trying to enter into the creative industries or further their formal education. The Remix Project provides top-notch alternative, creative, educational programs, facilitators and facilities.

Impact The event helped to bring awareness and publicity to the outstanding work being done by The Remix Project. The event also gave kids involved in The Remix Project the opportunity to either perform live on stage, or actually sell some of their artwork. Finally, the CLA was able to award The Remix Project with over $6000 as a result from sponsorships and ticket sales!

Quote "Partnering with The CLA on this event was amazing. They exposed us and our mission to well over 300 people in Chicago, and provided us with some much needed seed capital. Unreal!" -Corey Jenkins, Director of Programming. The Remix Project

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Mentoring with After School Matters

  • Issue: Children’s readiness for life after high school
  • Beneficiary: After School Matters
  • Date: Jun 20, 2015

Involvement A group of over 30 CLA members, and over 40 kids from the After School Matters program in Chicago got together for an afternoon of learning, mentoring, and practicing interviewing skills as the kids prepare for college and professional life. 

Impact This was a hugely successful event for both groups.  For the kids, they got a chance to learn from successful members of the generation right ahead of them, and get answers to questions like "What do I have to do to get hired for a job?" "What's the most important thing you've learned in your professional life?" and "What's the best advice you'd give to someone my age?" For the CLA members, this was a great opportunity to give back and help the next generation of Chicago's leaders start their path to personal and professional success!

Quote “I've been through several similar workshops with other organizations and today was by far the best situation we have been in. It was amazing to hear the students talk about not only their understanding of the resume writing and interview process, but also their deepened sense of self coming out of that."  —Caitlin, Program Director, After School Matters

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Building a New Program for Ronald McDonald House

  • Issue: Ronald McDonald House needed help to pilot a breakfast program
  • Beneficiary: Ronald McDonald House Charities
  • Date: Mar 8, 2015

Involvement On a cold day in March, the members of The CLA warmed up the hearts of many families in Chicago!  Over 35 CLA members made it to The Ronald McDonald House on Grand Ave prior to 8am on a Saturday, to cook breakfast for all of the families who were staying at the house....most of which who had kids or loved ones at the children's hospital across the street. The CLA provided all of the food, and made a magnificent feast which included eggs, chocolate chip pancakes, bacon, sausage, quiche and assorted sliced fruit.  In addition to making and serving breakfast, The CLA also assembled a "street team" who stood on Michigan Avenue and persuaded pedestrians to make a small donation by offering free Girl Scout cookies.  The team raised over $300!

Impact Working with the leadership at Ronald McDonald House, we helped them to pilot a new “breakfast giving” initiative, so that other groups of volunteers can now come into the house in the mornings and help support the charity through group activities and cooking breakfast/brunch.

Quote  "As the week ends, I wished to reach out to say a BIG Thanks for your participation here last weekend. Whether cooking families breakfast, engaging the community on Grand Avenue (and beyond) or helping to establish our new storage area, YOU contributed a TON to helping families here. Thank you, thank you, thank you- collectively and individually. YOU are quite the impressive group."  —Mark Shouger, Managing Director, Ronald McDonald House

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