Image Alt

Strategy

  /    /  Strategy

It is always about the world of ideas. About having a clear vision, mission, goal and objective to be able to achieve your dreams and end game. Gaining clarity for individual and organizational leadership is fundamental to building a successful campaign, program or product. Knowing your audience, what messages will impact them, understanding your allies and knowing your opposition, leveraging limited resources and developing effective tactics is all part of what we do with you, your team and organization.

We can assist in managing and stewarding your organization through a strategic planning and positioning process to strengthen your organizational infrastructure, identify hidden resources, and unify around an overall vision.

What makes us original is that we work with each organization and issue singularly, building  on our knowledge together, we provide original insight to create processes that are specialized for each project and organization. For more insights, see our Work Highlights & Full Client Roster.

Strategic Planning & Positioning

Representative Client: Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities (PSPC)

The Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities (PSPC) is comprised of over 50 Chicago-based foundations and funders who came together in 2016 to address gun violence in the city by investing in community-based, evidenced-backed solutions.

PSPC came to Thinkinc. in 2018 to raise the profile of the important, often unseen, work of their grantees on the ground. Thinkinc. was brought to the table as we have worked for years on criminal justice related issues around public safety and anti-violence and specifically gun violence issues. We have our own extensive network with a deep understanding of community dynamics as well as the policy issues and the relationship between the streets, community leaders, political, foundation, civic and business leadership.

Having already established relationships with many of the on-the-ground leadership, Thinkinc. built upon those relationships with the broad-spectrum of leaders of the PSPC-funded coalition of antiviolence groups — Communities Partnering 4 Peace (CP4P) facilitated by Metropolitan Planning Services.

Creating Identity, Expanding Relationships

Based on a set of extensive interviews we synthesized their goals into a multi-pronged communications strategy based on a powerful narrative: For the first time, Chicago was seeing a large-scale partnership between antiviolence community groups, city, county and state leaders, with an understanding with police. The groups on the ground were building an effective network that leveraged their intellectual and human capital and professionalizing what is known as street outreach through The Peace Academy. This approach was building into a comprehensive engagement and addressing the root causes of violence through trauma-informed strategies.

Simultaneously, we worked to build the internal and external “brand of CP4P” so that the organizations that comprised the coalition began to self-identify as CP4P with external audiences through media relations, marketing and advocacy efforts.

Meanwhile, Thinkinc. worked behind the scenes to encourage CP4P and two established complementary programs — CRED which is led by former US Sec. of Education Arne Duncan and READI Chicago, a program of Heartland Alliance that was also funded by PSPC and had a head start of CP4P in building its own profile— to show how their efforts together were reducing gun violence in Chicago. We spread the message far and wide, drawing interest from editorial boards in Philadelphia and Dallas, who highlighted the efforts in Chicago as an example of violence reduction methods their own cities should examine. Thinkinc. secured local and national coverage, while coaching CP4P spokespeople and refining talking points that got the message across.

Building Toward an Unprecedented Event

With this united front, Thinkinc. in early 2020 helped CP4P envision Peace Chicago, an unprecedented citywide program of networking, peace-related events and community involvement. Thinkinc. poured countless hours into writing the detailed plan, garnering support from the Mayor’s Office and others at City Hall, engaging a creative branding team from the Leo Burnett ad agency and making sure CP4P leaders were involved at every step.

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic put all of those plans on hold. But our work with PSPC demonstrates how Thinkinc. is a strategic communications firm that puts the work into executing grand visions that build power and influence for our clients. For more insights, see our Work Highlights & Full Client Roster.

Amplifying the Voices of Youth

Representative Client: Communities United

Communities United and VOYCE have been longtime clients. We continue to represent both groups in their efforts to raise the voices of youth leaders on equity, racial justice, trauma-informed solutions that would foster safe communities and schools and ensure access to health care.

Going back to the beginning, Thinkinc. was there to amplify the message when CU formally launched VOYCE in 2007, with Chicago Public Schools then-CEO Arne Duncan at Spertus College with several hundred community leaders and activists in attendance. The event served to strongly position the organization for its future work.

In early 2020, when the student leaders wanted to speak out on the systemic inequality of people of color in communities that are financially challenged we provided support for CU/VOYCE to raise their voices in the public space and media around equity, policing, public safety and health.

Thinkinc. partnered with staff to back student efforts aimed at removing police from Chicago Public Schools. We were able to position the organizations’ leadership with elected officials and keep their message in the media — both traditional and social. Tragically, one of their key youth leaders was killed in the summer of 2020 and we worked again with staff to elevate the memory of Caleb Reed and to ensure his legacy of love was heard throughout the nation. For more insights, see our Work Highlights & Full Client Roster.

Launching & Positioning a Coalition Effort

Representative Client: Voter Equity Project

A coalition facilitated by Chicago United for Equity wanted to make the city’s 2019 municipal election a referendum on reimagining Chicago as a place where the mayor and City Council were committed to reinvesting in communities of color.

Thinkinc. was hired in mid-November 2018 to help build a base of voters who would provide input for a voter equity report card that would serve as a guide for becoming an Equity Voter. We then consulted on launching the Report Card/Guide in the run-up to the March 2019 election.

We were able to encourage voter-participation in the development of the VOTER Equity guide and then to launch the Racial Equity Report Card/Guide for this coalition effort prior to the March 2019 election. We encouraged media outlets to feature the guide, worked to get mayoral candidates to fill out the questionnaire for the guide and got ample media coverage — ensuring different members of the coalition received coverage. For more insights, see our Work Highlights & Full Client Roster.

Positioning a New Player in Education

Representative Client: Chalkbeat

When the national education news outlet Chalkbeat launched its Chicago bureau in 2018, Thinkinc. helped get the new player positioned in Chicago’s education community.

We developed a grassroots, community-based convening strategy that both introduced the publication to the local communities as well as assisted the publication in understanding their local audiences.

As the bureau built its staff, we were able to use the hiring of a local journalist to raise the non-profit’s profile. And in the thick of the upcoming mayoral election, we helped behind-the scenes to assist in pulling together and publicizing a forum on the intersection between the city’s next mayor and the future of public schools. For more insights, see our Work Highlights & Full Client Roster.

Crisis Communications

Representative Client: Chicago Alderman Michael D. Rodriguez

Thinkinc. was contacted by Ald. Mike Rodriguez, a longtime ally who was seeking crisis communications and strategy, after a deal cut by his predecessor literally imploded, creating a crisis in his home community.

On Mother’s Day weekend, 2020, a corporate developer botched a demolition project, sending up a cloud of dust that then descended upon Little Village, a predominantly Latinx Chicago neighborhood that continues to serve as a portal to immigrants newly arriving in the United States. The developer, Hilco, which had already violated the terms of its city-issued permit, was taking down the stack of a former coal-fired power-generating plant. It had gained permission to use an implosion technique by promising there would be no dust spread beyond the property’s perimeter. The area had received little warning and the residents were incensed as the dust, of unknown composition, permeated their homes, yards and vehicles.

Coming on top of the COVID-19 pandemic, which was itself creating tragedy in a community filled with so-called essential workers, the dust storm was one more hit to residents already buffeted by the ongoing health consequences of environmental racism.

The alderman was facing this multi-pronged crisis, which included holding a company with a history of bad implosions accountable, sorting out what culpability the city had in allowing the demolition to go forward and identifying ways to prevent a similar recurrence.

Our goal was to ensure that the community’s voice was heard, while ensuring that the blame did not fall on this new alderman, who would not have chosen this company or approved this project, while balancing the needs of the community to revitalize this site and create jobs for his community. We had to put the alderman in position to pursue his primary objective of moving toward a more healthy future for community residents.

Thinkinc., with the aldermen and his team, successfully navigated a number of challenges between local community groups, government agencies, the company and the city. For more insights, see our Work Highlights & Full Client Roster.

Issue Framing & Public Education Campaigns

Representative Client: Alternative Schools Network (ASN)

Our clients’ success is crucial to our continued work. We don’t just work with our clients, we partner with them. We have worked with Jack Wuest, executive director, the Alternative Schools Network (ASN) for more than 20 years.

These schools are for out-of-school youths who are former dropouts or who for one reason or another aren’t succeeding in the public-school system.

2017 is representative of our work. From January to June that year, Thinkinc.’s strategic thinking kept the media’s attention on ASN’s important report about Illinois’ disconnected Black and Brown youth who were out of school and out of work. Read our in-depth case study on how Thinkinc. helped generate big viewership and nearly $250,000 in publicity value, even on a very tight deadline.

We work with ASN as overall strategists to build power, develop connections with key stakeholders and raise funding through enhanced visibility and relationship building.

Over the years, funding for youth employment programs, which highly correlate with success in finishing high school, finding work with a living wage, moving forward to college and playing a positive role in their home communities, had begun to fall. To combat this trend, we helped conceptualize, design and then release a series of reports about youth employment, and unemployment, in the city.

Using media relations and social media, we have gained widespread attention for these reports, timing the release with large convenings of policy makers and former out of school youth. In the process we also forged an alliance between ASN and the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Great Cities Institute, another client, which then was commissioned to do several of the youth-employment reports.

The release convenings directly engaged the voices of the youth and shaped perceptions, in understanding and in language. We have thus raised the sense of urgency in addressing dropout issues and built political will to support legislative change and funding.

An example of the coverage coming from one release event of a GCI report: Chicago Tribune column, a Tribune business story. For more insights, see our Work Highlights & Full Client Roster.

Creating a Narrative

Representative Client: Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability (GAPA)

In the ongoing battle to reform the Chicago Police Department, the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability has been a strong advocate for civilian oversight as a key component of that effort.

Using traditional and social media, Thinkinc. was able to help position the coalition in its efforts to pass an ordinance that would institutionalize that concept, creating a citywide, democratically chosen civilian commission and an elected civilian council in each police district.

That effort has not yet come to fruition, but the narrative Thinkinc. helped create, about why such a structure was needed and how it would help, has made the GAPA ordinance a front runner, with a commitment from the mayor to put civilian oversight in place. For more insights, see our Work Highlights & Full Client Roster.

Creating a Framework for Action

Representative Client: The Woods Fund

The Woods Fund was seeking a way to build, and then build upon, its Restorative Justice Initiative. As part of our work to bring a discussion of this work into the public square, Thinkinc. helped the Fund as it created a coalition of the leading organizations doing restorative justice work around the city. In the process, we worked with the Foundation in creating a name that the coalition took on: Right On Justice. We also assisted in creating a framework for their first virtual Annual Report and in creating strategies for various initiatives related to equity and restorative justice. For more insights, see our Work Highlights & Full Client Roster.

Preparing to Relaunch

Representative Client: Great Cities Institute

In 2013, Thinkinc. worked closely with senior leadership of the UIC Great Cities Institute (GCI) to raise the profile of the program. Using strategic communications and strategic partnerships Thinkinc. worked to position the organization as a leader in workforce development and other key issues. We built the GCI website, created a new tagline and helped develop a range of programs, including with the French Consulate in Chicago, and a range of disconnected-youth reports with the Alternative Schools Network. In 2018, Thinkinc. secured coverage in the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times as GCI hosted a program with the last surviving member of the landmark Kerner Commission. Thinkinc. helped inform the future vision, mission and organizational design of GCI. For more insights, see our Work Highlights & Full Client Roster.

Board Development

Representative Client: Metropolitan Tenants Organization

Thinkinc. worked with the Metropolitan Tenants Organization (MTO) through a comprehensive strategic planning process beginning in Fall 2007 to build organizational capacity, broaden outreach activities, enhance its ability to take the lead on relevant policy issues, and empower the ability to organize among key constituencies. Thinkinc. managed, and in some instances hosted, numerous pre-planning and strategic/SWOT meetings with the MTO board. We also facilitated confidential discussions with MTO’s stakeholders, peer organizations, and interested local officials, to determine the current positioning of the organization. As part of the MTO repositioning process, Thinkinc. worked in conjunction with senior leadership and staff to release the first State of the Renter report at a convening held at The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago in June 2009. We also worked with MTO for the first half of 2010 to develop a positioning strategy for the organization based on its initial strategic plan. For more insights, see our Work Highlights & Full Client Roster.

Resource Development

Representative Client: Instituto del Progreso

For Instituto del Progreso Latino Thinkinc. created an awareness program entitled, Latinas On The Rise, to raise the profile of the work of Instituto with at-risk women in its community. The program, held at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, raised the profile of the organization and engaged numerous stakeholders, leading to increased funding and partnerships. For more insights, see our Work Highlights & Full Client Roster.

Coalition Management

Representative Client: One Chicago, One Nation

Thinkinc.’s work to launch of One Chicago, One Nation, focused on bridging cultural divides and engaging a representation of the Chicago area’s 400,000 Muslims with other culturally diverse residents. Thinkinc. facilitated the collaboration of the initiative partners: One Nation, The Chicago Community Trust, Link TV, Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC), and Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN), to strategize, build and launch the program while also bringing together neighbors, businesses, community and government leaders, to break down barriers and encourage interfaith and intercultural understanding and relationships. For more insights, see our Work Highlights & Full Client Roster.

To discuss how Thinkinc. can get your organization to the next level, contact us now at lrglenn@thinkincstrategy.com.