A Profile in Partnership: Communities In Schools of Chicago & Ingenuity

By Savannah Turner, Partnerships & Professional Learning Intern

As another budget-challenged school year approaches for Chicago Public Schools, the arts education community can find strength in partnership sustainability. Partnerships and their respective attributes vary depending on organizational values, but there are some qualities we see as fundamental to success: collaboration, communication, and flexibility. These qualities are evident in the relationship between Communities In Schools of Chicago and Ingenuity, a partnership that has proven to be responsive to the needs of arts partners, and in turn, beneficial to CPS students.

Communities In Schools (CIS), a national dropout prevention organization, offers a unique approach in Chicago—its community partnership strategies emphasize the importance of resource sharing in relation to student achievement, and provide free programming to partner schools across the city. Like Ingenuity, CIS of Chicago views collaboration as an anchor of their work.

“One thing I am particularly passionate about is collaborating with arts organizations,” says Robin Koelsch, Arts Partnership Specialist at CIS of Chicago.

She mentions Ingenuity’s 2016-2017 Partnership and Professional Learning Directory as a perfect example of resource sharing. “We are all trying to reach a common goal and we can do it so much more effectively together. When I think about the CIS and Ingenuity partnership, we are modeling that,” Koelsch says.

The Directory, which offers a comprehensive list of upcoming professional development opportunities, serves as a resource for the CIS of Chicago team when scheduling the organization’s events. Some may perceive this as a small detail of the CIS of Chicago and Ingenuity relationship. But Koelsch notes that the strength of the partnership depends on using information-sharing like this “to not duplicate, but rather inform” each other’s work.

Further sharing includes Koelsch’s recent work to create a Creative Schools Fund resource guide for the CIS of Chicago blog. “It’s great that Ingenuity’s Partnerships and Professional Learning team hosted an informational event about the Creative Schools Fund, specifically from the arts partners’ perspective,” she says.

The Chicago Cultural Center played host to the more than 35 participants who attended the session focused on the role of the arts partner in the grant writing process. Koelsch’s blog brings this resource to CIS of Chicago and others who were unable to attend the session, which Ingenuity was pleased to support.

Koelsch acknowledges the difficulties ahead for CIS of Chicago and Ingenuity with the state and District budget stress. But as both organizations look to expand their reach and grow partnerships, the same common goal remains—to meet student need in and through the arts. “We realize that pooling our resource and having these conversations is only going to further benefit the arts in Chicago.”

Communities In Schools of Chicago will work with 134 school partners during the 2016-2017 school year to bring more programs to more Chicago public school students.

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