Positive Community Impact Through World Business Chicago’s Fellowship Program

 |   Shelley Stern Grach

Chaired by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, World Business Chicago (WBC) drives regional economic growth. WBC is a public-private, non-profit partnership that drives inclusive economic growth and job creation, supports business, and promotes Chicago as a leading global city. One key initiative is the WBC Fellowship Program, which engages community and business leaders to advance the Plan for Economic Growth and Jobs. The Fellowship Program offers an exclusive opportunity for mid-level executives to bring the plan to life. Following the goals and strategies of the plan, Fellows focus on implementation and management of the strategies.

The Fellowship Program is a fabulous way for companies to provide professional development for their employees, while positively impacting the City. From the Fellow perspective, the four-to-six month assignment provides the opportunity to gain a unique understanding of how the public sector works; gain experience working with influential stakeholders; and build lasting connections through the Fellowship Alumni Program.

Microsoft is honored to be a supporter of World Business Chicago and its programs and to have our Corporate VP Dan’l Lewin serving on the WBC Board of Directors. Through our local Technology and Civic Engagement programs, we work closely with WBC to advise on the Plan for Economic Growth and Jobs, the ChicagoNEXT program, ThinkChicago and the Chicago Venture Summit.

It was my pleasure to join the WBC Fellows on February 7th, for a Fellows Appreciation Breakfast. The purpose of the breakfast was to extend the Fellowship Alumni Program, and thank Fellows from various cohorts (or “waves”) and recognize the Fellows for their invaluable contributions to WBC and the City of Chicago. The hard work and partnership with the Fellows has directly helped the economy of Chicago grow. As WBC President & CEO Jeff Malehorn pointed out, a key differentiating factor is that WBC has evolved its mission statement to include the term “inclusive growth”, because inclusion of marginalized communities and populations, of all types of workers and all types of companies, is a priority for WBC and the City of Chicago.

To bring “inclusive growth” to life for the Fellows, WBC hosted a panel of City, nonprofit and business leaders to share perspectives on the import issue of inclusive growth and how it drives economic growth across the board.

The panel included:

Each panelist described what inclusive growth meant to the City. Shari discussed how the Chicago Urban League is working with the private sector to promote economic growth that focuses on all neighborhoods. Both Andy and Steve shared the challenging discussions and debate that is part of “getting deep” into our neighborhoods to improve economic growth that is inclusive and to find the right community partners and programs that drive change. I discussed how technology and digital access and 21st century skills are crucial to economic development and how Chicago—while a leader nationally—still has some work to do to provide access and skills to all. We also discussed how the civic tech ecosystem is thriving in Chicago and shared some stories on how Open Data in the City provides opportunities for all citizens to participate and use the City’s resources.

The lessons learned from our discussion are:

  • Inclusive economic growth means making decisions and setting priorities such that economic growth reached marginalized populations and communities.
  • Efforts to grow the local economy inclusively probably will not produce a series of quick wins. This is hard work.
  • Patience is required because economic development often requires rethinking systems and reprioritizing long-term outcomes.
  • Steadfast effort and innovation are required along with the focus on inclusive growth.
  • Inclusive economic growth is about both breadth and depth of impact.

Congratulations and THANK YOU to all the Fellows from World Business Chicago. Your dedication of time and talent is making the City of Chicago stronger and healthier.

For more information about applying to the Chicago Economic Growth Fellowship Program, please contact the Manager of Strategic Corporate Partnerships, Ben Berlin at bberlin@worldbusinesschicago.com or visit: http://www.worldbusinesschicago.com/fellowships/.

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Shelley Stern Grach
Shelley Stern Grach

They say that great work stems from a combination of passion and commitment, something that Shelley certainly possesses when it comes to her life and career. She currently serves on the boards of the Women’s Business Development Center, the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, Thrive Chicago, Year Up and LISC Chicago. At Microsoft Chicago, she’s the Director of Civic Engagement, working at the intersection of computing and community, promoting STEM programs and using Microsoft technology to spur growth in the community. So no matter if it's work, play, or giving back, Shelley always makes sure her drive and professionalism help her complete her life's goals.