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NICNE’s CollabLab offers fresh solutions to difficult social problems

The Northern Illinois Center for Nonprofit Excellence (NICNE) is officially launching its proven strategy for collaboration and innovation that identifies and implements solutions to the Rock River Valley’s social challenges.

The NICNE Social Innovation and Collaboration Laboratory, known as CollabLab, breaks barriers to collaboration and leverages the collective power of cross-sector partners from nonprofits, business, government, academia, and the community at large to solve social problems. The CollabLab is a toolbox of resources to enhance innovation and collaboration for social change. 

NICNE has assisted several collaborative initiatives in recent years and is now celebrating those successes with CollabLab’s official launch at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 14, in the Conference Center at the Embassy Suites by Hilton at 416 S. Main St. in Rockford. The event is open to news organizations and the public.

“No one individual, organization or sector alone can solve our most complex social issues,” said Pam Clark Reidenbach, NICNE president and CEO. “Committing to work together to accomplish a shared vision is our greatest opportunity for lasting results. Focusing on social innovation commits to seeking new solutions to existing entrenched issues.”

Several NICNE-supported collaborative initiatives are underway in the region:

Youth Mental Health System of Care, a coalition of health care and social services providers, advocates, schools and others that formed in 2018 to create coordinated, comprehensive system of care for young people challenged by mental illness.

Rockford Area Case Management Initiative, a collaboration of human services organizations created in 2016, that provides a community-wide approach to case management to deliver support services to individuals who face challenges like poverty, mental illness or barriers to literacy to help them achieve self-sufficiency.

Sustain Rockford, a collaboration of individuals representing government, businesses, nonprofits, and the community at large who have come together to develop environmental sustainability plans for the Rockford region with a focus on education and advocacy for practices that protect the community’s air, land and water for the benefit of all. 

Belonging Begins With Us – Rockford, a group of businesses, nonprofits, schools and government agencies working together since 2019 to ensure all Rockford residents experience a sense of belonging, which is linked to better individual health, reduced violence and the overall health of a community. 

Ready to Learn, a collaborative led by Alignment Rockford consisting of businesses, educators, nonprofits and other organizations whose aim is to ensure that all Rockford children are prepared to succeed once they enter kindergarten.

Childhood literacy project, a coalition of 24 entities led by United Way of Rock River Valley including school districts, libraries, day care providers and the Literacy Council that is using a collective impact process to develop evidence-based solutions to attack Winnebago County’s low childhood literacy rate. Just 35% of children in the county currently read at or above grade level.

NICNE, founded in 2004, provides capacity building, training, leadership development, technical assistance and resource support to organizations within northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin. NICNE joined Northern Illinois University in July 2019 as part of the Department of Outreach, Engagement and Regional Development.  CollabLab represents NICNE’s and NIU’s commitment to deepening their work by helping nonprofits identify potential collaborative partners, convening stakeholders around innovative solutions to specific social issues, and developing tools and resources to grow collaboration and take action. Learn more at niu.edu/nicne.