How Pro Bono Business Can Help Hurting City Halls

In Chicago, City Hall has an asset that may help it weather the storm of budget cuts. This unique program gives access to pro bono resources from the top consulting firms in the city.
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In November, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced New York City would need to eliminate more than 10,300 people from its payroll to address the city's budget deficit. These cuts are painful and include more than 6,000 teaching positions, 350 police department civilian posts, 200 jobs in the sanitation department and 200 jobs at the Administration for Children's Services.

These layoffs may be most shocking in their sheer volume, but nearly every city in the nation is facing similarly painful decisions. For smaller municipalities, the number of cuts may pale in comparison, but they are often far more disruptive as the governing bodies don't have a large staff to absorb the loss.

In Chicago, a city certainly not immune to these realities, City Hall has an asset that may help it weather the storm. Through a powerful partnership with local business leaders, City Hall has developed a nonprofit organization called the Civic Consulting Alliance. This unique program enables the mayor to access pro bono resources from the top consulting firms in the city.

Every year, companies like Deloitte, Leo Burnett and Bain provide hundreds of thousands of dollars in pro bono consulting services to the city. These consulting services enable the city to be smarter about how to use the limited resources they have at their disposal. For example, CCA helped the city redesign workflow for the police department that resulted in the equivalent of adding dozens of officers to the force--all without spending a penny.

CCA has been engaged in a wide range of projects for the city, from developing the city's environmental scorecard that helped realign city priorities to addressing the reality of deferred maintenance of Chicago's famous "L" rail system.

It is going to take a lot of initiative, tools and creativity to address the challenges in our cities today. We can't simply look to business to create jobs; we need them to be part of a new model of local government that makes use of pro bono talent to address community issues and advance the government's agenda.

The CCA model is one tool that every municipality should explore creating. Companies are hungry to make a difference, and there is a clear model now for how to channel their passion and expertise to have an impact in a time when it is most needed.

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