A new Chicago-based progressive think tank has launched and intends to be a "voice for working families and the middle class in the State of Illinois," according to the group.
Innovation Illinois, which formally launched Thursday, is led by Board Chairman Christopher G. Kennedy, son of former U.S. Sen. Robert "Bobby" Kennedy, and interim CEO Michelle R.B. Sadler, former secretary of the Illinois Department of Human Services.
"From the outset, Innovation Illinois will gather research on policies that support working and middle class people and seek to advance evidence-tested policies. The group will also study best practices from other states that have seen results and benefits for their residents," according to a press release announcing the group's launch.
Innovation Illinois has laid out seven areas of focus for their initial work:
- Entrepreneurship and Innovation
- Environment and Sustainability
- Healthcare and Human Services
- Justice and Human Rights
- Labor and Employment
"We believe that working families are the engine of our economy, and they should have every possible opportunity to advance and succeed," Kennedy said. "Innovation Illinois is more than a think tank - we are an organization that will inform policy creation and development, but will also actively engage with the entire field driving our leadership's decisions in Springfield."
The group plans to unveil a "comprehensive report and recommendations" from its recent policy summit in the next few weeks. Innovation Illinois will also make their thoughts known on Gov. Bruce Rauner's proposed budget.
In addition to Kennedy, Innovation Illinois' initial board will consist of:
- John Atkinson, Willis Group
- Barb Brown, former SIU professor
- John Kamis, Carpenter Lipps & Leland LLP
- Roger Myerson, University of Chicago / Nobel Prize winning economist
- Sunil Puri, First Rockford Group
- Jorge Ramirez, Chicago Federation of Labor
- Eileen Rhodes, East Lake Management
- Jay Rowell, Treasurer's Office
- Jesse Ruiz, Drinker, Biddle & Reath
- Leo Smith, Steans Family Foundation
- Todd Smith, Powers Rogers & Smith
- K Sujata, Chicago Foundation for Women
- Jim Sweeney, Operating Engineers Local 150