How We Work

Leadership Development & Training

Since the earliest days of the Foundation, we have invested in developing leaders in the fields in which we work. We believe that leaders strengthen their chosen fields by building effective organizations, engaging in critical research and practice and mentoring their peers and the next generation. In particular, we support the development of a diverse set of leaders because we believe that organizations are most effective when diverse individuals have access to a wide range of roles and opportunities. Some of the leadership development and training we support includes:

Helping domestic Violence agencies better support their clients

Since Irving Harris initially partnered with the Mayor’s office to fund Chicago’s first domestic violence (DV) hotline in the 1990s, Irving Harris Foundation has been a leader in developing the capacity of the city’s DV support system.  The hotline has grown into the State of Illinois DV Hotline, a 24/7, toll-free, confidential line that serves more than 20,000 callers per year. At the same time, IHF’s support for organizations and professionals in the DV field has continued to evolve.

One key initiative the Foundation helped initiate and has supported for more than 10 years is the Domestic Violence & Mental Health Policy Initiative’s Child Trauma Capacity Building Project. The project delivers ongoing capacity building and training to DV agencies across Chicagoland, enabling them to provide high-quality services to children who witness DV. IHF’s funding has helped the organization expand its scope to become a national resource center, known as the National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma & Mental Health (NCDVTMH).  NCDVTMH has in turn become a leader in building capacity to promote accessible, culturally responsive, trauma-informed approaches to DV. It also works to improve mental health, reduce substance use and enhance child welfare service systems’ responses to the complex needs of DV survivors and their children.

NCDVTMH and its partners have developed, piloted and promoted training materials for advocates and clinicians that have been replicated and adapted in other states across the country. During the past five years, they have created three training curricula on child trauma and DV and other highly regarded resources that have reached more than 30 agencies in the Chicago area, enhancing the quality of care and support provided to clients. Several thousand DV and other community-based service providers and allied professionals across the country have benefited from its Online Training Resource Center. Through the trauma-informed care provided by NCDVTMH trainees in Chicago and throughout the country, tens of thousands of families are able to heal from DV.

Growing the next generation of Early childhood leaders

Studies by leading organizational development experts indicate there will be a major leadership transition in the non-profit sector due to retiring baby boomers in the next 10 years. Many of the current leaders are white women over the age of 55. While this data was being compiled and released, the Irving Harris Foundation and the Illinois Early Childhood Funders Network identified a need to develop a pipeline of diverse leaders with deep experience in early childhood policy and advocacy who could take leadership roles in Illinois’ advocacy agencies now and into the future. In 2009, six foundations (Irving Harris Foundation, Grand Victoria Foundation, the M.K. and J.B. Pritzker Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, McCormick Foundation and an anonymous foundation) partnered with Illinois’ leading advocacy organizations to develop and launch an intensive two-year fellowship program to recruit, train and advance the careers of diverse leaders in early childhood policy. The program also aimed to strengthen the capacity of early childhood organizations to develop and retain a diverse workforce.

The Illinois Early Childhood Fellows Program (IECFP) supported three cohorts between 2009 and 2015 and trained 15 fellows, the majority of whom have continued working in the early childhood policy and advocacy field. Erikson Institute expanded its involvement with the program in 2014 and worked with the philanthropic founders to transition IECFP into a mid-career fellowship program targeting professionals working in leadership roles within Illinois early childhood organizations. Now called the Barbara Bowman Leadership Fellows, the program is designed to enrich the perspective and enhance the capacity of diverse child advocates committed to ensuring early childhood policy leads to positive outcomes for young children and their families. The Fellows program is part of Erikson’s newly created Early Childhood Leadership Academy, which the Foundation also supports. The Academy is designed to provide knowledgeable leaders with dynamic, collective learning experiences to enhance their capacity to influence early childhood policy and includes a newly launched Board Training program and the McCormick Foundation Executive Fellows program.