By Garrett Sheridan

Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood.  -Daniel H Burnham

On Friday, February 15, my colleague Aaron Sorensen and I attended an event hosted by Chicago CRED (Creating Real Economic Destiny).  CRED is a visionary and high-impact organization led by Arne Duncan, former U.S. Secretary of Education. CRED is laser focused on tackling one of Chicago’s greatest challenges: gun violence. The event was hosted at Harris Theater and was packed with people from many walks of life, including schoolchildren, community activists, not-for-profit representatives, local business leaders and many others who believe that gun violence in Chicago must be urgently addressed.

The facts provided by CRED speak for themselves:

  • In 2016, Chicago had a record 764 homicides (up 58% from 2015) and over 4,000 shootings. Both numbers are up by 50% over the past five years.
  • Chicago has more killings and shootings than New York City and Los Angeles combined—both in real numbers and on a per capita basis. Over the last five years in New York City, homicides are down 20% and shootings down 27%. In Los Angeles, homicides and shootings have remained low, with fewer than 294 homicides and 1,178 shootings last year.
  • In Chicago, only 26% of city homicides and only 5% of shootings ever resulted in arrests.
  • Over 71% of violent crime was confined to just 15 of Chicago’s 77 city neighborhoods. Nearly 80% of homicide victims are African American.
  • Chicago CRED further outlines the data and issues here.

At the event, both Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Governor JB Pritzker were in attendance. The former mayors of Philadelphia, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Washington DC and Minneapolis participated in a panel around the impact of gun violence and importantly, the strategies and tactics that can be deployed to make a difference in our community.

Leadership at CRED has a very clear vision and has set a challenging goal to reduce gun violence by 80%. CRED, rather than build out a full range of interventions and services to be deployed in communities ravaged by gun violence, has made an admirable strategic decision to build an ecosystem that brings together the best and the brightest, and aligns their efforts to make a difference.

The bold vision and ecosystem model being pursued by CRED reminded me of a parallel that I’ve seen in the corporate world — namely, setting a clear vision and pursuing it relentlessly, not necessarily by amassing all of the required resources to tackle the problem inside your own company or organization, but by partnering and collaborating with like-minded individuals that bring complementary skills, capabilities and expertise to the table. So often in business it is a collaborative efforts between companies, communities and even governments that create real and sustained impact. I’m reminded of the collaboration between Space X and the US government, for example. Nobody would have thought such a collaboration could occur 15 years ago.

We believe that visionary leaders like Arne Duncan and his colleagues at CRED and the Emerson Collective share a similar mindset to visionary leaders we hear about in the business press.  Here are some similarities that come to mind, in terms of how they think and operate:

  1. Set a bold vision with aspirational and inspirational goals, no matter how daunting they may seem.
  2. Consider the problem you are tackling holistically and systemically.
  3. Build an ecosystem of capabilities and expertise that represents the full spectrum of stakeholders that can benefit from the solution being pursued.
  4. Convene the leadership and stakeholders across the ecosystem to test ideas and learn from each other.
  5. Don’t wait for the perfect moment when all the stars align to begin the process of creating impact: start early, fail fast, learn and repeat.

Axiom Consulting Partners has worked with CRED to maximize the impact of their strategy and vision and we are deeply passionate and invested in the success of their mission.

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