Representatives of a group of Evanston “community-based” organizations asked the City of Evanston to join their group in “working together to accomplish related goals” through “collective impact.” Representatives of the Evanston Cradle to Career Initiative (ECCI) met a reluctant City Council on May 19, and the proposal was sent to the Human Services Committee for further discussion.

The ECCI planning group began meeting in October 2012, according to their literature, when leadership recognized that the goals of their respective groups were closely aligned. Since that initial meeting, the planning group has been working to create what Y.O.U. Executive Director Seth Green called the underlying infrastructure that will form the basis of ECCI’s operations in the coming years.

By setting common goals and working together to achieve those goals, the initiative hopes to address children and youth in a collective and comprehensive manner. A steering committee formed after the planning committee concludes its work (probably November 2014) will create an 18 month rolling plan to be implemented by the groups member organizations, according to the literature.

The idea, Mr. Green said, is that when children move from one organization to another the message received will be not only similar, but practically identical. Each organization will adhere to a common message: “Our vision is that by the age of 23, all Evanston young adults will be leading productive lives, building on the resources, education, and support that they and their families have had to help them grow into resilient, educated, healthy, self-sufficient, and socially responsible adults,” he said.

Mr. Green, Mark Dennis of the McGaw YMCA and Marybeth Schroeder of the Evanston Community Foundation spoke at the City Council meeting. They have already received buy-in from School Districts 65 and 202, which have agreed to contribute the suggested $50,000 to the cause earlier this month.

City Council members appeared not to know what to do with the concept. “I am nowhere on this,” said Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward. “I am a pretty nice person. I support giving money to everybody. I just don’t get this.” She said that the organizations themselves already had the resources to accomplish what the ECCI concept sought. “I object even sending this to a standing committee,” she said.
Every alderman who spoke had a different concern. Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, said City Council should be kept in the loop, implying the need for a more active City role. Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, asked about City involvement to date, then added that the City already spends close to $1 million on social service. “We’re doing it every day,” she said.

Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, said the focus should be on “tackling poverty.” Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, said that strengthening family units should be the primary concern, and if the goal was to target a specific group, such as black youth, Hispanic youth, or the poor, then the initiative should come right out and say so.

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl said, “I am very concerned that the young people the City works with every day are important enough to measure,” in response to the initiative’s focus on youth under the age of 23. She said she wanted older youth included.

After discussing the concept for more than an hour, Council members voted to send the concept to the Human Services Committee for further discussion. A voice vote was taken, and there were no “no’s” heard, though Ald. Rainey appeared to abstain. The next step is unclear. There is no requirement that the City participate, and ECCI is free to continue with or without City support.