How Hearken Helped the City of Chicago Embrace Participatory Civic Engagement

January 2021

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The outcome

Arts funders need critical coverage and conversation around what’s happening locally to help demonstrate Colorado’s impact on a broader scale. They also need help learning about lesser-known artists, collaborative opportunities, and ways to share resources..

Project timeline

After developing a collaborative community listening diagnostic plan, we trained members of news outlets and arts and culture organizations to collect qualitative insights on how Coloradans engage with local arts and culture. We analyzed those insights to reveal three key areas of growth for better information-sharing around arts and culture. We then hosted a community design workshop to partner with arts and culture funders, practitioners and patrons to design solutions that would address the existing core challenges.

PROJECT 1: February 2020
Solutions Toward Ending Poverty (STEP) Summit
COVID-19 Mutual Aid Response
PROJECT 3: May 2020
Rise & Recover Youth Summit

In early 2020, Hearken became a trusted partner for the Mayor’s Office of the City of Chicago to support their community listening work and engagement design, technology, and events.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and her staff have worked to change the way city government designs public policy by incorporating insights and feedback from those with lived experience of the problems policy is supposed to solve.

The Hearken team has executed three successful initiatives thus far, all the first of their kind, that provide blueprints for participatory civic engagement.

Solutions Toward Ending Poverty (STEP) Summit

Background: On February 20, 2020, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s STEP (Solutions Toward Ending Poverty) Summit convened more than six hundred people from around Chicago to launch a multi-year, movement-based effort to address a foundational challenge the city of Chicago faces: entrenched poverty and economic hardship. Attendees included community economic mobility practitioners, academics and researchers, artists and storytellers, grassroots community activists, employers and business leaders and government officials.

Partnership Goal: The City aimed to start a collaborative process with communities to define how poverty and economic hardship affect them. They used those insights to develop community-centered metrics that would trace a path to ending economic hardship and poverty, generating the collective resolve to address the full scale of the economic and social challenges associated with entrenched poverty and economic hardship.

Design Challenge: Hearken was asked to design and facilitate engaging, interactive afternoon breakout sessions for more than 600 Summit attendees that could yield insight for deeper and further stages of engagement, identify people doing great work on the issue already, and generate potential solutions.

Results (Return on Engagement): Hearken designed an interactive breakout session for 600+ attendees which resulted in 300+ organizations identified around Chicago who are doing work to address poverty, 240+ commitments from participants on how they will contribute to this agenda and 113 people volunteering to host a focus group.

    “It was such a pleasure to work with Hearken on all things related to the Poverty Summit. I loved their approach and intentionality and thoughtfulness. We really learned a lot from the process and from their team.”

    Emily Krisciunas, Deputy Policy Director, City of Chicago Office of the Mayor

    COVID-19 Mutual Aid Response: Hearken Engagement System and Workflow Support

    Background: When COVID-19 began to impact US cities and the need for materials and support outstripped supply, the response team at the City of Chicago mobilized. They built a website to not only provide information, but also to solicit goods and services and connect them with local individuals and institutions. Like most places in the United States, personal protective equipment was not in adequate supply, and with the economic fallout from COVID-19, the City also needed to help meet basic needs, including food and water for local residents.

    Partnership Goal: The City of Chicago staff needed to get supplies and services to the people and organizations who urgently needed them. This included personal protective equipment, food, water, financial contributions and people hours.

    Design Challenge: Using existing tools and limited resources, Hearken quickly and efficiently created a way for Chicagoans to share supplies, goods and skills they had to offer and connected them with people and organizations who needed them.

    Results (Return on Engagement): After Hearken’s Engagement Management System was embedded on their site to solicit donations, the City of Chicago successfully connected more than 200 donations to city departments, and Chicagoans were mobilized to produce over 10,000 handmade masks in two weeks.

      I can’t say enough about the ease and responsiveness of working with the Hearken team. To begin with, their technology is fully customizable. We have recreated the same form and used it for many purposes including soliciting community feedback to receiving donation offers in response to COVID-19. However, the thing I like most about Hearken is their people. [They are] true partners in projects. They not only execute, but they bring creativity and a can- do attitude to the table, making working with them a highlight of every event.”

      Cameron Hardamon, Director of Special Projects, City of Chicago Office of the Mayor

      Rise and Recover Youth Summit

      Background: The Rise & Recover Chicago Youth Summit convened young people in a virtual event to gather their input and ensure that they are represented as the city plans its reopening and COVID-19 recovery efforts. The Mayor’s Youth Commission was the main organizing force behind this gathering. They are a group of 25 young people across the city working as a bridge between youth and government.

      Partnership Goal: The City is committed to listening to and designing policy with and for the next generation of young leaders. The insights shared and lessons learned from the Youth Summit would inform Chicago’s COVID-19 Task Force’s strategic plans.

      Design Challenge: Collaborate with the Mayor’s Youth Commission, City staff, and sponsors to organize and execute the first ever virtual youth summit.

      Results (Return on Engagement): Hearken helped the Mayor’s Office achieve broad representation from across the city at the summit, with 48 of 50 wards represented, multiple stakeholder groups present, and 11-19 year olds in attendance participating in a deep, meaningful, relevant, high-energy and active engagement. Provided a successful model for virtual gatherings and integrating youth feedback in City strategy.

        “The Hearken team personifies collaboration. From start to finish, they exemplified empathetic listening, expansive imagination, and impressive results. To be honest, I get nervous working with consultants. Prior to Hearken, I felt like they just created more work. Not the case with Hearken. Despite intense deadlines and a heavy lift, the Hearken team co-designed
        an inclusive process along with our Youth Commissioners and then worked hand in hand to pull off their vision. After the event was over, Hearken helped distill takeaways and tell our story. I was and still am BLOWN AWAY.”

        J.D. Van Slyke, Office of Community Engagement, City of Chicago

        Case studies

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        How Business for a Better Portland grew to 400 members in three years

        BBPDX saw an opportunity to design a 21st-century chamber of commerce that would leverage a broad spectrum of novel, high-impact engagement practices.

        CASE STUDY – TV2 – Denmark

        How Danish broadcaster TV 2/Fyn increased viewership during the pandemic by engaging their audience

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        CASE STUDY – The Colorado Media Project

        How Hearken helped the University Innovation Alliance design new offerings

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