Robert Weissbourd manages RW Ventures, LLC, an economic development firm specializing in technical analysis of urban assets and markets, and in creating the products and enterprises necessary to successfully grow urban and regional economies. He was a lead developer of the New Growth Innovation Network (NGIN), for which he currently serves as interim CEO, and of the Greater Chatham Initiative, TREND, Chicagoland Food and Beverage Network, the Center for Financial Services Innovation, MetroEdge and the Metropolitan Business Planning Initiative, which he co-managed with the Brookings Institution. He previously served for ten years in executive positions at Shorebank Corporation, designing, delivering and managing comprehensive development finance initiatives to invest in distressed communities. He brings over thirty years of experience leading economic development work in dozens of cities and scores of neighborhoods.
Bob served as Chair of the Obama Campaign Urban Policy Committee, on the Obama Transition HUD Agency Review Team, as a nonresident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Center and as adjunct professor at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy. He also serves or served as President or Vice-President of the Boards of City Colleges of Chicago, Crossroads Fund, Elevate Energy, the Center for Neighborhood Technology, BPI and PROCAN, as well as on the Executive Committee of mHub, the Visiting Committee of the University of Chicago Law School, the Board of Equal Measure, and the Advisory Committees for the Institute for Comprehensive Community Development, Mayor’s Technology Advisory Committee, Brookings Metropolitan Economy Project and the Urban Markets Initiative.
Bob is a frequent public speaker and author on a broad range of urban and regional economic growth issues, including business, finance, housing, clean energy, human capital and innovation dynamics. He has also testified on these issues before federal, state and local legislatures. Before joining Shorebank, Bob was a partner at Hartunian, Futterman & Howard, leading complex civil rights and other constitutional litigation, and representing governments, non-profit organizations and community leaders. He clerked for federal Judge George Leighton, after receiving a J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School and a B.A. from Yale University.
Matt joined RW Ventures in June 2014, bringing expertise in data analysis, urban planning, and economic development policy. Through his work with the firm, Matt has employed sophisticated data analytics to craft neighborhood and regional development strategies, managed the organization and launch of the Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network, and developed expertise in economic development topics such as next economy development institutions, public asset management, and inclusive cluster-based growth initiatives.
Prior to joining RW Ventures, Matt worked as a Senior Consultant for MAXIMUS Consulting, Inc., where he conducted management and financial consulting projects for city and county government clients, and as a Litigation Support Analyst for Debevoise & Plimpton LLP. He has also interned with leading organizations in the sustainable urban development field, such as the Center for Neighborhood Technology and the Coalition for Smarter Growth in Washington, D.C., where he researched and analyzed affordable housing and cargo-oriented development issues. Before turning to economic development, Matt spent five years as a New York-based actor, appearing in over 30 stage and film productions and gaining union membership in Actors’ Equity. Matt has a B.A. in Political Science and a Masters degree in Public Policy, both from Duke University.
Alaina Harkness is a community and economic development expert with special interests in inclusive growth, governance, and civic technology. As managing director, her work with the firm has included launching a new national innovation network for inclusive growth practitioners and developing inclusive growth strategies for cities and metropolitan regions. She is a nonresident fellow in the Global Cities program at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, and has published research and commentary for the Brookings Institution, the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank, and CityLab. Prior to joining RW Ventures, Alaina was a Fellow at the Brookings Institution, Senior Program Officer for Cities for the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and program officer for two philanthropic collaboratives: The Partnership for New Communities, which supported the people and neighborhoods affected by Chicago’s public housing transformation; and the 2016 Fund for Chicago Neighborhoods, a public-private partnership to support Chicago’s bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics. Alaina holds a B.A. in political science and art history from the University of Rochester, and Masters degrees in Public Policy and Latin American Studies from the University of Chicago. She lives in Chicago and serves on the boards of the CityTech Collaborative, Urban Initiatives, and Margaret’s Village. She is a fellow of Leadership Greater Chicago. @harknessa
Jay Readey is a lawyer and social entrepreneur focused on issues of racial and socioeconomic equity, with experience in real estate, community and economic development. He serves as the day-to-day project manager for the South Suburban Economic Growth Initiative. Jay is a longtime resident of Chicago’s South Suburbs, and as also manages The MetroAlliance, a social venture supporting the creation and growth of small businesses and nonprofit organizations. Jay practices law with Ginsberg Jacobs LLC, focusing on complex community development finance, and teaches as an adjunct professor of housing and community development law at DePaul University School of Law. He was a 2012 Fellow of Leadership Greater Chicago and a member of the inaugural 2015 class of Presidential Leadership Scholars through the Bush and Clinton Presidential Libraries and Foundations. Jay received a JD from Yale Law School and an MBA from the Yale School of Management in 2004, and graduated in 1994 from Yale College with majors in African-American Studies and American Studies.
Zachary Addy brings a background in finance and business along with a commitment to inclusive economic development. He undertakes market research and analysis, financial modeling and initiative development for neighborhood, regional and industry cluster projects, as well as for TREND. Prior to joining RW Ventures, Zach worked as a finance professional for PNC Bank N.A. During his tenure at PNC Bank, Zach progressed from Analyst to Senior Associate, and performed financial statement analysis, industry research, credit underwriting and sales, and financial modeling. Originally from Chicago, IL, Zach graduated magna cum laude from the School of Business and Industry and received his B.S. in Business Administration from Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University. He received his MBA from Harvard Business School.
Ashley brings expertise in strategic urban planning, with special interests in social and environmental sustainability. She conducts research and data analysis to inform inclusive growth strategies, and plays a lead role in scaling up NGIN, a membership network dedicated to inventing tools, products, and enterprises to drive a more inclusive, prosperous economy. Prior to joining RW Ventures, she conducted academic research on complex “urban questions” with a goal of working towards just cities – specifically focusing on intersections between urban design/planning with inequality and segregation. Research projects included how open data can be used to address historic inequities in urban planning, impacts of the gig economy on urban policy, and using urban big data to support land-use and transport planning. Her focus on equitable development first began with an environmental lens; during her 5 years in Washington DC she worked for GreenShape, LLC and Gensler as a sustainability consultant. There, she led design and construction teams to deliver sustainable master plans on education/corporate campuses and achieve LEED certification in new construction projects. Ashley has a BSA in Mathematics and Architecture from Carnegie Mellon University and a Master of Urban Development and Design from UNSW Sydney. @ashleybakelmun
Charu Gupta brings expertise in public policy and finance, with special interests in community and economic development. She works on a range of topics to inform growth in the next economy: innovation strategies, the role of anchor institutions, neighborhood economic development, and retail gentrification. Prior to joining RW Ventures, Charu was a Research, Development, and Outreach Associate at the University of Chicago, where she managed collaborative efforts with schools, policymakers, and community partners. As Assistant City Treasurer for the Chicago Treasurer's Office, Charu worked closely with public and private partners to improve the financial stability of city residents. She has also worked for the San Francisco Office of Financial Empowerment, U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and Illinois Governor's Office of Management and Budget. Charu earned a Master’s in Public Policy from the University of California-Berkeley and a Bachelor’s in Finance from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.