Multi-sector Collaboration in Complex Policy Environments: The Case of the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership

Julie Langer, MPA and Mary K. Feeney, PhD
Rutgers University's Cases and Simulations Portal
On October 20, 2011, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced a collaborative effort between Chicago and Cook County to reform the region’s $60 million dollar workforce development system. As a result of these collaborative efforts, the city and county determined that all government agencies and nonprofit organizations in the region, acting as fiscal agents for the implementation of federal Workforce Investment Act (WIA) funding, should merge, with operations continuing on under a newly created 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization called the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership (The Partnership).
Understanding that integrated policy networks are the best mechanism for addressing complex social problems such as joblessness, The Partnership manages a diverse system of public, private, and nonprofit organizations, in order to confront the multifaceted and ultra-complex policy issues affecting unemployment such as poverty, education, and homelessness. The Partnership’s operations model, the largest of its kind in the nation, emphasizes structural innovation and devolution, collaboration, intergovernmental negotiation, and the meaningful use of big data, all critical components of the successful modern day policy network.
This case study looks closely at the distinct operations model developed by the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership. In addition to the written case materials, it provides supplementary readings, multimedia links, discussion questions, and class room activities that can be used to enhance classroom learning on a variety of topics pertinent to both public and nonprofit management including, devolution, policy and issue networks, cross sector collaboration, intergovernmental negotiations, and data driven decision making.
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