Skip to Content

Advice from the Windy City



The Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children (CLOCC) worked on childhood obesity before working on childhood obesity was cool.

Since 2002, CLOCC has brought the Windy City together to collaborate on efforts to reduce obesity rates in the city. More than 3,500 people and 1,200 organizations are now part of CLOCC’s network.

With a decade of experience behind them, the folks at CLOCC certainly have learned a thing or two about how to effect change in the field. We recently chatted with executive director Adam Becker to find out what CLOCC has learned over the past 10 years.

Becker tells The Inside Track that among the most important lessons learned was how to help advocates transition from helping individuals to effecting environments — that is, making policy changes that help an entire community, not just a handful of people.
The key is getting people to think bigger. CLOCC recently helped train a faith group on submitting grant proposals, teaching them to switch their focus from individual activities (such as nutritional efforts) to the environment (such as finding how a neighborhood  effects nutrition).
“Once people start doing it, they get it,” Becker says. “Most people have that lens about something in their lives.”

Becker’s other tips:
  • Get on the radar. Consortium officials worked hard from the start to let legislators and other officials know organizations were coordinating efforts on specific issues. That helped advance policy that might otherwise remain stalled.
  • Know your audience. CLOCC developed its website by interviewing the advocacy organizations it serves and understanding what they need. Such feedback prompted officials to include things such as job postings, volunteer opportunities, a calendar of events and fact sheets organizers can use when talking about obesity.
  • Understand your partners. Always expect the groups you work with to be who they are. “Don’t expect schools to act like police departments, and don’t expect corporations to act like nonprofits,” Becker says.
  • Be flexible. CLOCC constantly changed and opened itself up to new opportunities that weren’t in its original mission. “Had we narrowly defined ourselves early on, we would not have been able to be as helpful to as many people,” Becker says.
  • Pay attention to data. Too often, organizations fail to look at the evidence to find out what works and what doesn’t, Becker says. Using data to drive action is key for success.
  • Look to the future. CLOCC will mark its 10 year anniversary by really anticipating what the next 10 years might hold for the field, Becker says. Part of that will involve focused strategy. When the group started, it tried “to be all things to all people,” he recalls.  “We’re now mature enough to make strategic choices in terms of policies we’re advocating for,” he says.