Archive for January, 2011

Job Description for the Next Mayor of Chicago

January 25, 2011

The Chicago Tribune is partnering with the City Club Chicago to sponsor a debate between the four most prominent candidates for mayor in the upcoming election. The online community TribNation put out a call for readers to submit job descriptions–15 winners would be selected to attend the debate.

Drawing on conversations with my social innovation colleagues in Chicago (including Ryan Blackburn, Linda Darragh, Jamie Jones and others), I wrote up a job description for the mayor I want to see, and submitted it to TribNation. Since I apparently passed the security screen with flying colors (I feel so boring…) I’ll be taking my husband to the debate Thursday night. Here’s what I submitted, below.

Let me know what you think. How would you like to see the next mayor work to make Chicago a hub for social innovation? What has worked in other cities?

Position Objective: Turn Chicago into a well-known hub for social innovation, proving that innovators need not head for the coasts to find support for their ideas and that investors need not look any further for worthy investment opportunities.

Major Responsibilities:

  • Develop policies and programs to support social entrepreneurs in Chicago, such as loan forgiveness programs similar to those available to graduates entering public service or mentorship programs that pair existing Chicago business leaders with up and coming social entrepreneurs.
  • Develop incentives for investors to direct more funding toward social benefit organizations, and for businesses of all kinds to use their business assets to solve social problems in Chicago.
  • Attract major social innovation conferences, publications, thinkers and speakers to feature the increasingly vibrant social entrepreneurship community in Chicago.
  • Connect the many players and organizations already working on this area.
  • Solicit ideas and input from a great range of people who live and work in Chicago, a la the Denver “Change Your City” campaign
  • Work with Chicago-based foundations and corporations, large and small, to generate support and funding for initiatives that make Chicago a hub for social innovation.

Measures of success:

  • Increased awareness among opinion leaders and those in the media (first in Chicago and then beyond) of Chicago as a home for social innovation, as measured by press mentions and occasional surveys.
  • Increasing number of national conferences or programs around social innovation hosted in Chicago and featuring Chicago-based projects (e.g., those of the Council on Foundations, Social Capital Markets, Social Venture Partners).
  • Percentage of college grads (and especially business school grads) who choose to stay in Chicago should rise.
  • Identifiable angel and mezzanine funding sources, especially for sustainable, equitable businesses, should increase to levels near those of secondary cities in California, if not San Francisco; more “social impact funds” invest more dollars in Chicago-based social enterprises
  • Several well-regarded social enterprises should emerge that start in Chicago and stay headquartered in Chicago
  • Projects that demonstrate results in education gains, reducing homelessness, increasing employment rates among difficult-to employ populations, etc. from Chicago are studied and picked up by other cities.


  • Must be a true believer—cynics need not apply
  • Must be able to engage in reasonable discourse without demonizing those who disagree, even if they ARE stupid and evil.
  • Must favor practical and applied wisdom over ideological and theoretical knowledge.
  • Must inspire people to want to get engaged; be someone we can look up to more than someone we can relate to.
  • Must be smart, experienced in government, and on good terms with the business community.
  • Must be able to keep his or her private life private.

Also, fix streets, balance the budget, root out corruption and cronyism, keep the trains running on time, yadda yadda yadda.

Tithing Your Time Online

January 12, 2011

I just read a fascinating post suggesting that we need to make purposeful choices about how we live our increasingly online lives, “choices that will determine both the quality of your life online and of your relationships offline.” The author, Alexandra Samuel outlines 6 decisions we often make without ever consciously making them.  But one in particular stuck out to me as an interesting idea.

Essentially, given all the time we waste online, Alexandra suggests that we do something to give back or be helpful to others with some of our online time.

What problems am I choosing to fix with the help of the Internet? The village that needs a new water pump. The prospect of climate change. The aunt who needs a new beau. The creative vacuum left by the implosion of your garage band. Whether it’s a problem for you, your community or the world, the Internet can help you fix it. Tithing 10% of your time online — from micro-volunteering to online activism to writing a heartfelt note to a lonely friend — is a structured way to ensure that the Internet becomes part of the solution instead of part of the problem. This can be the year in which you get serious about the Internet as the single most promising problem-solver in a world that faces many fast-growing problems.

Sounds like a great plan. What can you do with a portion of your online life to make the real world a better place? Ideas and suggestions welcome.


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