Throughout the course of 2015-16, the Council convened leading global voices, influenced the discourse on critical global issues, and engaged the public to explore ideas that will shape our global future.

Issues > Ideas > Impact

This report reflects on highlights from the past year and the work that led us to the transformative moment when we opened our new state-of-the-art Conference Center in Chicago's iconic Prudential Plaza. 


Highlighting the accelerating expansion and quality of our work, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs was ranked the #1 “Think Tank to Watch” worldwide by the prestigious 2015 Global Go To Think Tank Index. The Council appeared in 10 categories overall – many for the first time in the institution’s history. View other awards by clicking on the ribbons below.


We spent much of 2015-16 preparing for the move to Prudential Plaza and updating our brand identity. Both convey the Council’s shift to a dynamic, influential global affairs organization that offers a unique perspective from Chicago, a top global city in America’s heartland.


Over the past year, the Council drove critical dialogue and offered policy-relevant analysis and solutions on a range of global issues by bringing together leaders in business, government, education, and the arts for international forums and task forces.

Cities are driving news cycles – from suffering terrorist attacks and to hosting major events and from addressing the effects of financial crises to coping with increased urban violence. The 2016 Chicago Forum on Global Cities, hosted June 1 through 3 by the Council on Global Affairs in partnership with the Financial Times, tackled these and other issues such as climate change, inequality, and disruptive technologies head-on.

The forum convened not only government leaders but also CEOs, artists, and scholars – including Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi, Ambassador Chan Heng Chee, Dan Doctoroff, Tessa Jowell, Henry M. Paulson, and Arne Quinze – for a cross-sector dialogue about the power and limitations of cities to shape global economic, political, and social policies.

In its second year, we extended the forum’s international reach and engagement by partnering with leading organizations from across the globe such as C40 cities collation on climate change, the London School of Economics Cities Programme, Emirates Policy Center, the Hague Institute for Global Justice, Japan's Mori Memorial Foundation, and Fundação Getulio Vargas in Brazil.

The Chicago Forum stands as the Council’s signature event for advancing our core mission to provide insight – and influence the public discourse – on critical global issues.

It demonstrates not only the influential role global cities play in our world but also that delegates and influencers from these cities are eager to convene and connect with each other to exchange ideas and offer solutions to critical problems.

Global Food Security Symposium


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By 2050, two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities, creating a staggering demand for nutritious, safe, and sustainable food. At our 2016 Global Food Security Symposium in Washington, DC, in April, more than 35 thought leaders – including visionary entrepreneur and philanthropist Tony Elumelu, former US Secretary of Agriculture Ann M. Veneman, and former head of USAID Raj Shah – convened to discuss transformations to the global food system.



Global Food Security Symposium

More than 500 multidisciplinary stakeholders explored ideas to facilitate business investments and economic opportunities that can benefit small-scale farmers and urban consumers alike. At the symposium, the Council on Global Affairs also released a major report, Growing Food for Growing Cities: Transforming Food Systems in an Urbanizing World, recommending specific actions that the US government can take to advance food security in an urban world.

Global Leadership


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More than 470 of Chicago’s civic, corporate, and philanthropic leaders convened at our 2016 Global Leadership Awards Dinner in April to honor Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, Oscar-winning Pakistani journalist and filmmaker, and Samuel C. Scott III, Chicago civic leader and Council board member. The Council honored them for their dedication to reason and tolerance as they elevate their communities in today’s divisive political environment and unstable global landscape. Both of this year’s distinguished honorees gave impassioned speeches.


Global Leadership Awards

In his remarks, which were later adapted for a Crain’s Chicago Business op-ed, Scott urged Chicago’s business, civic, and educational institutions to work together to tackle pressing challenges facing Chicago’s African-American community. Following the event, the Council and its board worked with Scott to convene a group of Chicago civic leaders to turn his call to action into a coordinated effort to address some of the intractable issues facing and limiting the progress of African-American women, children, and men across Chicago. The Council continues to provide support for the development of this critical initiative and emerging organization – which is focused on coordinated and comprehensive solutions to tackle violence, education, economic development, family development, community development, and health challenges afflicting Chicago’s African American community.

Global Health


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The 2016 International Women’s Day Global Health Symposium in March explored the health of the next generation. Public health professionals, athletes, activists, and educators such as Katayoun Khosrowyar, former captain of the Iranian Women’s National Soccer Team; Caryl M. Stern, president and CEO of US Fund for UNICEF; and Alexis Glick, CEO of the GENYOUth Foundation, convened at the half-day event.




Global Health Symposium

Through a series of keynotes and breakout sessions, participants explored crucial and timely topics including gender based violence, women and girls in crisis zones, and health and childhood education. We partnered with 30 regional, national, and international partners such as the American Red Cross, CARE, Rotary, and USAID to increase the reach of the symposium, and more than 350 attended, including more than 150 students.


This past year has been wrought with complex and intractable global challenges. In an increasingly complex world, a commitment to conducting independent analysis and research to bring clarity and offer solutions to global challenges and policies is central to the Council’s mission. Twenty-four new nonresident fellows joined our team of experts who go beyond traditional thinking on international affairs to make new connections for policymakers and the public on issues such as global food and agriculture, global cities, the global economy, energy, immigration, and global security. The report we published on Ukraine in collaboration with the Brookings Institution and Atlantic Council was named the #1 US policy study-report by the Global Go To Think Tank Index. Throughout 2015-16, the Council on Global Affairs provided insight and influenced the public discourse on the following topics.

US Foreign Policy
and the 2016 Elections

The Iran Nuclear Deal
Putin's Russia
ISIS and Terrorism
Syria and the Refugee Crisis
Energy and Climate Change

Brexit and Transatlantic Relations

Trade and
the Global Economy


Global Food Security

Global Cities

Engaging the Public

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs is committed to broadening the public discourse on global issues and providing a platform for the public to engage directly with world leaders, policymakers, business executives, journalists, and other leading policy experts. Through more than 200 events, we reached an in-person audience of more than 29,000 and a digital audience of nearly 170,000 via live streaming and on-demand videos.

  • »Next Generation

  • »Digital Audiences

  • »Media

Next Generation

One of our top priorities is to position the next generation – from high school students and young professionals to emerging leaders – to become involved in the Council and take a global leadership role.

Through the new Koldyke Global Teachers Program, we are investing in the professional development of Chicago-area high school teachers so they can enhance and enrich the classroom experience for students by sharing the global knowledge they will acquire through the program. We selected four teachers to participate in the pilot program, which included an international travel and study experience this summer.

Our Young Professional (YP) members are increasingly engaged with our work, and our YP Ambassadors group – those who are most engaged – hosted its first fundraising event this past year. YPs purchased over 5,660 tickets for Council programs total (that is YP and Council programs of all formats) in 2015-16.

The Council selected and announced its eighth class of Emerging Leaders this summer. The cohort of leaders from around Chicago, chosen by an independent selection committee from a highly competitive pool of applicants, will spend one year examining key issues that affect the world and impact the global city of Chicago. They will hear from experts on issues such as the global economy, international diplomacy, energy and the environment, including on an intensive trip to Washington DC to meet with senior government leaders. They will meet as a class and also work on individual projects with Council experts to examine key global challenges.

Digital Audiences

We have made substantial progress in leveraging digital channels to extend our reach. We live streamed more than 42 programs this past year, which increased our total event audience by more than 30 percent. The leading-edge technology in our new conference center will further enhance our ability to reach and engage digital audiences via live streaming and on-demand video.

New digital experiences such as interactive infographics have enhanced engagement with our content from any device. We launched a new blog and created a weekly email newsletter to showcase original content from our fellows and experts. We also increased our visibility and expanded our digital reach by contributing content to online publishing platforms such as Medium, Reddit, and Newsy.

Our social media following grew significantly this past year. On Twitter alone, we generated more than 33 million impressions by encouraging audiences to interact with our content using hashtags and submitting questions for speakers during events. More than 1,300 tuned into the live stream of our 2016 Global Food Security Symposium and the hashtag was a trending item in Washington, DC, on April 26. The hashtag for our 2016 Chicago Forum on Global Cities also trended locally and earned nearly 6 million impressions over the three days of the forum in June. 


Media coverage of the Council’s research, experts, and events lived up to the expectations set by its #1 "Think Tank to Watch" worldwide ranking this year. Journalists from The New York Times, Financial Times, NPR, The Guardian, BBC, The Wall Street Journal, PBS NewsHour, and The Washington Post, among others, sought our expertise throughout the year, which, along with op-eds placed by our experts, allowed us to directly impact and influence the public discourse on critical global issues.

In addition, events such as those on Syria, Iran, and the global economy that spoke clearly to the news of the day earned interest from Bloomberg, Reuters, The Wall Street Journal, and the Chicago Tribune. The Council’s annual survey of American attitudes on foreign policy and our launch event were featured in POLITICO and in a series of op-eds in Foreign Policy, and our annual global food security report earned a prominent place in The Los Angeles Times.

In the coming year, we expect our presence in all multimedia platforms will continue to grow as the Council builds new in-house capabilities through its studio, allowing it to better serve and influence media around the world.



Research Reports

  • 6 Global Food and Agriculture
  • 4 Global Cities
  • 1 Global Economy
  • 1 Global Energy
  • 3 Global Immigration
  • 1 Global Security
  • 10 Public Opinion


New Fellows

24 Nonresident Fellows

  • 4 Asia
  • 1 Global Energy
  • 4 Global Agriculture
  • 8 Global Cities
  • 6 Public Opinion
  • 1 Global Security

3 Resident Fellows

  • 1 Global Water
  • 2 Global Cities



  • 92 Board Members
  • 1,117 Leadership Circle Members
  • 1,847 Corporate Members
  • 1,511 Young Professionals
  • 396 Student Members
  • 40 Emerging Leaders
  • 3,019 General Members


Event Attendees

200+ Events


Social Media Followers

  • 20,035 Twitter Followers
  • 17,729 Facebook Followers
  • 3,832 LinkedIn Followers


Video Views

  • 42 Live Streamed Events
  • 4,667 Live Stream Viewers


Website Engagement

  • 1,279,586 Page Views
  • 251,149 Users
  • 215 Number of Countries

2015-16 Support

Generous support from our members and donors make it possible for the Council on Global Affairs to convene leading global voices for international forums and task forces, conduct independent research to influence important policy debates, and engage the public in thoughtful discussions of critical global issues.

In 2015-16, individuals provided $5.5 million in total support, corporations $5.5 million, and foundations $2.8 million. Generous supporters contributed a total of $1.4 million to the Global Leadership Awards Dinner, the Council's signature fundraising event, which this April honored Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, Oscar-winning Pakistani journalist and filmmaker, and Samuel C. Scott III, Chicago civic leader and Council board member. 







Looking Forward

For nearly a century, the Council has been responsible for fostering dialogue on how and why America should remain engaged in the world. The need for this conversation is as clear and urgent as it was when the Council on Global Affairs was founded 94 years ago.

2016-17 Activities and Events

Driving the Discourse on Election 2016

Over the next few months, the Council on Global Affairs will bring together decision makers and thought leaders with diverse viewpoints to examine some of the most critical issues confronting the United States today as it prepares to elect the 45th President of the United States: how to respond to the humanitarian disaster in Syria and the refugees that are engulfing the region; whether immigration reform can enhance national security; how trade policies can regain bipartisan support; what to do about rising extremism and terrorism; how America should address the challenges posed by Russia and China.

Examining Public Opinion and US Foreign Policy

We also will release the results of our latest survey of public attitudes on America’s role in the world in advance of the presidential debate on foreign policy, and we are already partnering with the Washington Post to publicize the results—which show that Americans as a whole continue to support an active American role in the world. As a new administration takes office, the Council on Global Affairs will offer policy-relevant analysis and research on a range of issues the next president will face—including on trade policy, Russia and Ukraine, and ensuring global food security.

Expanding Our Research Portfolio

These efforts align with the Council’s overall commitment to expand the breadth and depth of our exploration of the issues that transcend borders and are transforming how people, business, and governments engage the world. Central to this work is further enhancing our independent research – from the scope of issues we examine to the expertise we bring to the discourse. This includes expanding our work on global energy and water, building on our critical work on the rising role and influence of global cities, and convening key actors, such as international business leaders and the foreign policy establishment, in dialogue to help solve global challenges.

Welcoming New Fellows and Experts

We also are investing in and attracting the expertise that will grow our research portfolio. Our established visiting fellowship programs continue to serve as important bridges between the Council and eminent leaders from Latin America, China, and Asia. And we are expanding our burgeoning partnership with the US department of state and the US military to bring senior experts to the Council as year-long resident fellows.

Leveraging Leading-edge Technologies

Finally, leveraging leading-edge technologies in our new Conference Center, we will engage a wide and diverse digital audience – including the public, decision makers, our own experts, and other thought-leaders – in all of these activities. Content related to our events and studies, and additional new, original digital-first multimedia content will be easily accessible from anywhere at any time.


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