About our LeadershipSix Internship Program

In 2019, Common Cause Illinois (CCIL) embarked on an ambitious plan to train and empower the next generation of leaders in Illinois. The core and unique philosophy behind our flagship LeadershipSix Internship program is that it is not enough to educate interns about policy alone. To become true agents of change -- to run for office, lead community organizations, and be effective advocates -- these young leaders must be able to link this knowledge with access and opportunity. As such, we paired policy training with unparalleled leadership training to create a one-of-its kind program.

Why we created it

Illinois cries out for leadership. Across all levels of government, our communities demand and deserve effective leaders to tackle seemingly intractable problems. Our LeadershipSix Internship Program seeks to address this by informing, empowering, and elevating traditionally disregarded or discarded voices. The program equips young leaders with the knowledge and skillset needed to repair broken systems, including criminal justice, education, and more. Ultimately, we intend to serve as a central resource in Illinois for the current and next generation of leaders who will transform our state for the better. Exhaustive research shows that the levers of power in society -- the leaders in government, think tanks, policy organizations, and top-tier campaigns -- skew wealthy, white, old, and male. Even the most brilliant policy student from Pullman or a first generation immigrant from Rogers Park can lack access to the requisite networks to compete for these positions of influence. The LeadershipSix Internship Program aims to remedy this by coupling intense policy training with comprehensive personal branding and leadership development, elevating the profile of leaders that continue to be denied a seat at the table of influence.

What makes it different

Nowhere in the state does there exist a program that weds rigorous policy training akin to a college or graduate level course with the type of comprehensive leadership development typically offered to corporate boardroom executives. Beyond PowerPoints, our sessions use the Socratic method, breakout groups, and multimedia to offer unparalleled training in areas eschewed by other internship programs, including rhetoric, media appearances, and personal branding. Amidst the other laudable internship programs offered by organizations across Illinois, only the LeadershipSix program is explicitly built upon the interplay between education and opportunity, and only the LeadershipSix program equips its interns to take advantage of both. There’s no question that the program is intense: interns learn each issue area beyond the introductory 101 level, and gain fluency in the nuances of policy and process typical of an advocate with years of experience in the arena. The leadership training requires discipline, self-reflection, practice, and evaluation. This process, though rigorous, produces outstanding results. We have found that our interns welcome the challenges and enjoy tackling problems with their teams. Indeed, over the course of the twelve weeks, the interns and staff form a camaraderie of common purpose: working together, even on the toughest of problems, to advance true change. The LeadershipSix Program is notable not just for content and curriculum but for its bold scope and size. Each year, 24 new civic leaders graduate from the program, with the previous classes maintaining a relationship with CCIL as mentors, volunteers, and network resources. In just five years, 120 young leaders will have completed our program and be in positions to make meaningful impacts across Illinois.

What we've accomplished so far

Our LeadershipSix interns have successfully had their opinions and arguments incorporated on critical policy issues published in newspapers and blogs. They have interviewed elected officials before an audience of thousands, and have highlighted issues like protecting voting rights, the importance of the census, and the need to end prison gerrymandering. They also have directly engaged with thousands of members of the community to encourage self-response to the census.