Live Case – Project

Recommend Strategies for Increasing Retention in Voluntary Community Programs

A Collaboration Between

Project Synopsis

Challenge: We need to adopt more effective strategies to increase retention in our various programs.

Over past year, we have been making changes to and growing a number of our programs. We’ve also moved from mostly serving a core, highly engaged audience – some obligated to participate as part of a judicial or other agreement, to including those who voluntarily attend and have no formal participation requirements. The programs we offer are free-of-charge, and we’ve been challenged to retain participants for the duration of the program. Data from surveys and RSVP’s indicate that the programs add value for people, and that people are interested in participating. We need to better understand the perceptions on the cost/benefit of participation to our target audience, any blockages that increase the likelihood of attrition, and potential interventions (e.g. incentives, resources/support) to promote their commitment and engagement over the duration of the program. This is a top challenge for our organization, and we are looking to you to make research-driven recommendations for increasing program retention among participants. We are interested in learning what other successful programs do to effectively bring about strong retention outcomes, and looking to you for recommendations for increasing retention in voluntary community programs with different target audiences and objectives.

The milestones and activities for this project are grounded in a design thinking approach. To learn more about design thinking and how it works, check out these online resources:

HBR, Why Design Thinking Works. 

MIT, Design Thinking Explained. 

IDEO, Design Thinking.

Project Topics

Growth Strategy

Research & Development

Company Information

CompanyParents for Peace & Justice
HQChicago, IL
StagePre-Revenue Startup
Hiring PotentialN/A

Company Overview

Parents for Peace and Justice (PPJ) was formed in 2013 by co-founders Elizabeth Ramirez, who lost her own son in an unsolved killing, and Robert Torres, who was touched and inspired by Elizabeth’s story -- and by her tireless passion to help others who suffered a similar fate.  PPJ, headquartered in Belmont Cragin, serves families affected by gun violence in the predominantly Latino neighborhoods of the Northwest side of Chicago: Humboldt Park, Belmont Cragin, Hermosa, and Logan Square. PPJ’s approach is three-pronged:
  1. Violence Prevention: addressing the violence before it happens through activity-focused youth programming 
  2. Healing Support: helping families cope with the enormous loss that results from violence
  3. Victim Advocacy: advocating for justice through vigils, media campaigns, and legislative advocacy
In recent years, Chicago’s crime rates have been making national headlines. Between 2015 and 2017, Chicago homicides surged by 58%, driving America’s overall spike in homicides. 2020 was been a particularly violent year in Chicago, with murders up by more than 37%. Violent crime remains disturbingly high in socio-economically disadvantaged areas of the cities, meaning the impact is felt most sharply in the city’s most marginalized communities. The immense grief caused by violence compounds with every new act, leaving a hurting community in desperate need of resources and relief. While local and state authorities work to address the issue at the policy level, Parents for Peace and Justice works on a grassroots level to fill in the gaps and help meet the community’s most immediate and urgent everyday needs. PPJ’s signature programs serve hundreds of children and adults in LatinX communities across Chicago. We provide:
  1. Mental health resources, including support groups, counseling, retreats, and workshops for mothers, fathers and siblings who lost a loved one to violence,
  2. Athletic camps and career workshops for children affected by gun violence, with mentorship from professional athletes and business leaders,
  3. Advocacy training for families learning to use their voices for positive change.

Experiential Learning Program Details

SchoolNorthern Illinois University (NIU)
Engagement FormatLive Case - Think "Hackathon" or Case Competition with a whole class of students! This learning format allows educators to deliver experiential learning to students at scale. Students are often split into groups to work on a live case (or a series of cases) from a real host company that directly relates to key learning objectives.
CourseBusiness in Action, Spring 2022 (Doughty) – Parents for Peace & Justice
  • All Undergraduate
Students Enrolled40
Meeting Day & TimeTues/Thurs
Student Time Commitment4-7 Hours Per Week
Company Time Commitment1 Hour
Duration13.14 Weeks

Program Timeline

Touchpoints & Assignments Due Date Type
Project Reveal

Project Reveal

Students are introduced the the project topics
February 2nd, 2022 Event na
Students Submit Project Preferences

Students Submit Project Preferences

Use this process to  elect your preferences and be assigned to project teams. [INSERT LINK]
February 2nd, 2022 Event na
STUDENTS! Take the Project Kick-off Survey!

STUDENTS! Take the Project Kick-off Survey!

Take a few moments to complete this KICKOFF SURVEY before the project begins!
February 9th, 2022 Evaluation evaluation
Project Launch

Project Launch

[NEED TO COORDINATE with organization to schedule videoconferencing meeting with class]
February 21st, 2022 Event na
Milestone Deliverable 1 Due Milestone Deliverable 1 Due
Please upload your deliverable using the link above.
March 7th, 2022 Submission Required submission-required
STUDENTS! Let us know how you are doing!

STUDENTS! Let us know how you are doing!

Please take a few minutes to let us know how the project is going for you using this TEMPERATURE CHECK SURVEY
March 9th, 2022 Evaluation evaluation
Milestone 2 Deliverable Due Milestone 2 Deliverable Due
Please upload your deliverable using the link above
April 6th, 2022 Submission Required submission-required
STUDENTS! Let us know how the project is going!

STUDENTS! Let us know how the project is going!

Take this short survey to let us know how the project is going for you! [INSERT TEMP CHECK LINK]
April 11th, 2022 Evaluation evaluation
Milestone 3 Deliverable Due Milestone 3 Deliverable Due
Please upload your deliverable using the link above
May 2nd, 2022 Submission Required submission-required
STUDENTS! Take a short survey on YOUR learning experience!

STUDENTS! Take a short survey on YOUR learning experience!

Please take a few minutes to complete this SELF ASSESSMENT SURVEY on your learning experience with this project!
May 4th, 2022 Evaluation evaluation
STUDENTS! Let us know about your observations and experiences working with YOUR PEERS on this project!

STUDENTS! Let us know about your observations and experiences working with YOUR PEERS on this project!

Please take a few minutes to complete this PEER EVALUATION SURVEY!
May 4th, 2022 Evaluation evaluation
Official Project End!

Official Project End!

Note: Schedule a time for student final virtual presentations to industry partners.
May 4th, 2022 Event na

Key Project Milestones

  • March 7, 2022 - Define the Organization and their Current Challenge

    • What is the organization’s history, mission, vision and goals?
    • What is the organization’s relationship to the community? What geographic area, subpopulations, etc. are served by the organization? Who is the target population?
    • What community, group, and individual needs does the organization meet, and how? How are their programs and services defined and organized?
    • The current challenge focuses on program retention. How is program retention and/or attrition defined and measured? What are the current and benchmark retention goals for each program? 
    • What does a successful project look like?

    Suggested Deliverable:

    Infographic overview of the organization and current challenge (internal); questions for industry mentor

  • April 6, 2022 - Define the problem in human-centered terms and brainstorm to address unmet needs

    • Gather existing information (data, documentation, input from stakeholders) that are to be the subject of your evaluation and improvement.
    • How can you better understand why participants are not retained throughout the duration of each of the programs?
      • Who are the different target audiences for each program whose perspectives you seek to understand?
      • What method(s) will you use to learn about the perspective of these audiences? To learn about their barriers, wants and needs?
        • Secondary research?
        • Primary research on other successful programs with similar audiences and objectives?
        • Other?
      • How will you come to understand and define the status quo?
      • What tools will you use to organize and analyze the information you gather, and why?
      • What patterns and themes emerge from your analysis? What are the most prominent and/or high impact issues, challenges, opportunities that are likely impacting program retention?
    • Brainstorm/ideate
      • What sources of information will you consult to aid your understanding and analysis of the issues, challenges, opportunities?
        • Secondary research (e.g. online, databases, etc.)?
        • Primary research (program directors/coordinators/administrators of successful programs)?
        • Other (focus groups)?
      • What concepts, frameworks, and models from the field are applicable and useful for informing retention strategies?
      • Considering the range of ideas that emerge as opportunities to increase retention; what are some realistic, possible solutions for increasing retention that rise to the top and are relevant to this case?

    Suggested Deliverable:

    Problem/challenge and solution matrix with references and curated resources. Presentation to obtain feedback from industry mentor.

  • May 4, 2022 - Present Prototype & Recommendations

    • Work to produce prototypes, examples of how you integrate the content you curated and annotated in the previous step into the subject program. For instance:
      • If your research indicates incentives would be an effective strategy for increasing retention, what particular types of incentives would you suggest and why? What schedule would these follow, which audiences would they apply to, and so on?
    • What form will your prototype take? What do you want to demonstrate to the client with your prototype; what are your goals for the prototype?
      • How will you structure the information you want to share? What is the best strategy for organizing, visualizing, and sharing your ideas?
    • Why would your suggestions likely be effective for producing the desired outcome? How do you come to these conclusions?
    • Are there any flaws or constraints that need to be addressed?

    Suggested Deliverable:

    Prototypes; Annotated resources with index/directory; Presentation

Academic Mentors



[email protected]


Jason Gorham

[email protected]


Scott Rosenfelder

[email protected]


Neil Doughty

[email protected]


Elois Joseph 

[email protected]


Jenny Redisi 

[email protected]

Assigned Students

There are currently no students assigned.