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The Chicago Benchmarking Collaborative (CBC) is a partnership of seven well-established education and human services agencies that capitalize on each other’s strengths to make data-informed program improvements and tangibly improve outcomes for the 12,000 low-income individuals and families they serve. Established in 2009, the CBC is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year—and launching a how-to guide to help other nonprofits increase their mission impact through collaboration.

“We initially launched the Chicago Benchmarking Collaborative in 2009 to bring together top nonprofits serving children and families in some of Chicago’s most high-need neighborhoods,” said Lori Baas, CEO of Christopher House, which facilitates the CBC. “By sharing data for comparative insights and learning, each partner has effectively enhanced our programs and increased our mission impact”

Collaborating partners track a set of common outcomes in areas of early childhood, after school, youth and parent engagement to improve program effectiveness and create efficiencies for each organization. Among the partner organizations, 73 percent have seen an increase in results through the CBC’s sharing of data and best practices. 77% of data-driven goals set by the agencies were met or exceeded. Each agency set goals to improve scores (or maintain scores).

The seven partner organizations currently within the CBC that have committed to implementing data-informed program improvements include:

  • Christopher House (Project Manager)
  • Chicago Commons Association
  • Chicago Youth Centers (CYC)
  • Chinese American Service League (CASL)
  • Erie Neighborhood House
  • Gads Hill Center
  • Marillac St. Vincent Family Services

“Prior to forming the Chicago Benchmarking Collaborative 10 years ago, we were limited to measuring impact solely against our own agency outcomes,” said Kirstin Chernawsky, Executive Director of Erie Neighborhood House. “Now, through transparent idea- and data-sharing across CBC organizations, we’re able to tap into more meaningful comparative insights, identify areas of improvement and enhance our programs.”

For example, as a result of comparing data, the CBC agencies identified early math as an area for improvement across all organizations. To improve math scores, Christopher House organized and led a six-month math professional development cohort for teachers from all CBC agencies. As a result, the average math score across all collaborating organizations increased by nearly 25 percent.

The efforts of the CBC have attracted the attention of funders and established the group as a model for other collaborative efforts. In fact, Boeing Global Engagement awarded the CBC a grant to develop a how-to guide that shares CBC methodology and infrastructure to help other organizations effectively collaborate.

“The term ‘collaborative learning’ is frequently stated but rarely executed effectively,” said Laura Samson, Enterprise Strategy Lead, Boeing Global Engagement. “The Chicago Benchmarking Collaborative is truly unique in its ability to implement a collaborative learning model that positively impacts children and families. By supporting the CBC in sharing its best practices and strategies, our hope is that other organizations can replicate this successful model to increase their own impact.”

The CBC’s newly published guide, titled Increasing Mission Impact through Collaborative Learning, serves as a toolkit for the nonprofit sector. Written and coordinated by Christopher House Director of Quality Assurance, Traci Stanley, the publication details the work and key components involved at each stage of building a data-driven culture of collaborative learning. The guide includes processes for collaboration as well as how to use data for learning and improvement in new projects and established initiatives.

“The cornerstone of our model stems from sharing best practices for the greater good, so the publication of this guide is a natural extension of the Chicago Benchmarking Collaborative’s mission and a fitting celebration of our 10th anniversary,” said Stanley. “The practices shared are a mix of lessons learned from years of CBC partners benchmarking data, as well as research and insights leveraged by the group. We are deeply grateful to Boeing for making this publication possible and hope that it aids other organizations in cultivating a common vocabulary to reach—and increase—their intended impact.”

Increasing Mission Impact through Collaborative Learning is now available for purchase at

Last modified on Monday, 29 April 2019
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