Chicago Women’s Assembly – October 18, 2014

Even a grassroots effort like the Chicago Women’s Assembly requires structure and support. We couldn’t have done it without the three Ps: Preparation, Process, and Partners. Read on to learn more…

And we’re just getting started. Click here to find out where things currently stand and where we go from here.


As a grassroots initiative, all women and organizations with a focus on women’s issues were invited to participate in creating and managing the Women’s Assembly, and determining the next steps for a Chicago Women’s Agenda.

Planning meetings were held during the late summer and early fall to hammer out details and make sure everything stayed on track. There was also a near-constant flurry of email activity as planners and other volunteers coordinated their daily efforts and folks reached out to their personal and professional networks to promote the event, recruit participants, and identify and invite partners. And of course social media was abuzz with a variety of tweets and status updates to spread the word and increase interest.

Although key elements were in place early on (e.g., the issue identification process, the location, the day’s agenda), there were still many smaller details that required attention both before and during the event. With can-do attitudes and a supportive “how can I help?” climate, dozens of women stepped up to do their parts and more, enabling the Assembly to go off practically without a hitch.


Using an online platform called UserVoice, individuals and representatives from organizations with a focus on issues that affect women posted areas of concern (aka planks) they thought should be part of a Chicago Women’s Agenda. They could also vote on potential planks posted by others.

A few days before the Assembly, the areas of concern were reduced to 18 draft planks, and initial statements were written for each. These draft statements were then distributed to all registered attendees to review and determine which plank(s) best reflected their own concerns and interests.

On the day of the Assembly, women gathered in small groups to discuss their focal planks and revise and extend the draft statements. They were specifically instructed to:

  • Define the issue or problem
  • Explain why the issue is important
  • Propose a fix or action
  • Discuss how we aim to attain that fix
  • Explain why that fix is the best solution

During an extended break the plank updates were consolidated and copies were distributed to pre-assigned groups that discussed ALL the planks. Then the large group reconvened to briefly discuss plank refinements and vote on whether each should be included as part of the final Women’s Agenda.

The Assembly ended with a brief presentation on next steps – and of course rounds of applause for everyone who participated in, volunteered for, and supported the event!


Organizations that supported the Women’s Assembly committed to bringing people, issues, volunteers and other resources to the day. They helped us publicize the event, solicited and submitted planks, and identified and recruited people to attend. Some also provided financial support to help defray the costs of the event (the requested contribution was $100).

We are grateful to the following organizations for partnering with us on the 2014 Women’s Assembly: