Our Mission And Story

The mission of the Funder Alliance is to collaborate with employers and other workforce stakeholders to increase employment, earnings and racial equity for underprepared workers in the Chicago region. The Alliance was launched in May 2012 by five founding workforce funders: the Chicago Community Trust, the Joyce Foundation, the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation and the Polk Bros. Foundation. Since its founding the Funder Alliance has engaged over 30 funders to advance its shared mission. The Funder Alliance has come to be seen as the region’s major convener of the philanthropic community interested in workforce development and employment. Through a combination of grant making and civic leadership the Funder Alliance has used this role to carve out a unique position at the complex intersection point of workforce development, social justice, education and economic development.

What is a Funder Collaborative?

Funder collaboratives bring together funders to align resources towards a common mission. The Funder Alliance is structured as a Donor Advised Fund at The Chicago Community Trust, and it focuses on collaboration between private funders: foundations and corporations. There are two types of funders supporting the Alliance. Leadership Funders grant resources to a common pool, which supports the Funder Alliance itself and some portion of every CWFA initiative. Project Funders grant resources that only support a specific CWFA initiative. Leadership Funders assign a delegate to the Funder Alliance Management Committee which acts as its board.

The Funder Alliance supports projects either through direct engagement with partners or through open procurements. It does not follow any set funding schedule. Please visit the CWFA Procurement page for currently open and past RFP or RFQs.

Management Committee/Pooled Funders

The Management Committee consists of a representative from each of the pooled funders.

National Fund for Workforce Solutions

CWFA is a collaborative partner of the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, a national network promoting equitable economic opportunity and prosperous communities through investment and innovation.  Based in Washington D.C., the National Fund partners with philanthropy, employers, workers, public and private community organizations and more than 30 regional collaboratives to invest in skills, improve systems and generate good jobs. The National Fund supports civic and business leaders in promoting evidence-based practices and policies that build shared prosperity. Learn more about the National Fund and its local partners at www.NationalFund.org.

CWFA STAFF

MATTHEW BRUCE

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Matt Bruce became the first Executive Director of the Chicagoland Workforce Funder Alliance in October 2012. 

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Under his leadership, the Funder Alliance has raised more than $6 million, grown from five to 25 funders and initiated a set of strategic initiatives focused on industry workforce partnerships, systems change and workforce innovation. He also has stewarded the creation of a new fund to support the region’s career pathway system, and a new commitment to fight wage theft and discrimination in low-wage occupations. Prior to moving back to Chicago to start the Funder Alliance, Matt was the Manager of Regional Sector Initiatives for the Boston Office of Jobs and Community Services. In this position with the City of Boston, he started sector workforce initiatives such as Green Jobs Boston and the Skilled Careers In Life Sciences initiative. Matt has a Master’s degree in Public Policy from the Harris School at the University of Chicago.

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312.616.8000 ext.108

ADRIAN ESQUIVEL

DEPUTY DIRECTOR

Adrian Esquivel is the Deputy Director for the Chicagoland Workforce Funder Alliance, working with the area’s stakeholders to advance the Alliance’s mission.

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He also serves as an advisor to World Business Chicago, the City of Chicago’s economic development agency, on its workforce development strategy in an effort to align the work of economic and workforce development. His work has united a wide variety of stakeholders to address and support employer demand, workers’ rights and realities, educational systems and public policy to better serve all. Before joining the Funder Alliance, Adrian worked for Enlace Chicago on community and economic development issues. He also has served as a board member of the Woodstock Institute and as a member of the City of Chicago’s Community Development Advisory Council. Adrian holds a bachelor’s degree in Social Science from the University of Michigan and a master’s degree in Urban Planning & Policy from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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312.616.8000 ext. 275

CYNDI SOLITRO

DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS AND REIMAGINE RETAIL

Cyndi Solitro is Director for Reimagine Retail Chicagoland, a joint project between Walmart Foundation and the Aspen Institute focused on exploring ways to enhance job quality and improve mobility for retail workers. 

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With over 20 years of marketing experience in retail and workforce development, Cyndi has developed marketing campaigns for Walgreens, Nike, and LaSalle Bank/Bank of America as well as created a new brand identity for Jewish Vocational Services in Chicago. Cyndi believes strong collaboration between businesses and non-profits is essential to enabling our workers to flourish and to build our economy. In addition to her extensive marketing experience, Cyndi has been a reading and writing tutor for elementary school children for over 10 years and is a child advocate with CASA of Cook County.

Cyndi holds a Bachelor’s degree in speech communications from Syracuse University.

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312.616.8000 ext. 277

NADINE FIELDS

OFFICE ASSISTANT

Nadine Fields is the Office Assistant for the Chicago Workforce Funder Alliance. Nadine graduated with honors from Harold Washington College.

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She grew up on Chicago’s South Side in Roseland and now calls Uptown her home. She is affiliated with various scholar programs, such as, Chicago Scholars and One Million Degrees. Her professional aspiration is to become a clinical psychologist were she can aid people in navigating their mental and emotional challenges. She also aspires to a rich life full of wholesome experiences. When she’s not at work she attends concerts, dances off-beat, writes, reads insightful books, and enjoys spending time with friends and family.

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312.616.8000 ext. 241

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