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Strategic Framework


This framework outlines Northwestern University’s strategic approach to expanding opportunities and strengthening our partnerships with diverse businesses.  Through this effort, Northwestern strives to become a national model for procurement diversity in terms of strengthening local businesses and contributing to a vibrant city and region.

At Northwestern, we define diverse businesses as those that are typically local, small, minority-owned, and/or women-owned.  These suppliers and partners are an integral part of our local economy – their strength is our communities’ strength.


Northwestern University is committed to strengthening businesses through a holistic approach.  Our mission will ultimately impact the communities where we live by fostering job opportunities and contributing to sustaining a vibrant economy.  We aspire to have the following impact on the Evanston, Chicago, and Northwestern community through our work:

 Demonstrate good economic citizenship, which creates jobs and sustains the community’s economic viability;

Collectively leveraging the University’s Board of Trustees, faculty, staff, students, and alumni, as well as our civic and community leaders, our business diversity strategy will focus on what we Buy, who we Develop, and how we Engage.

Three Pillars

1.  Buy - Northwestern University is an anchor institution in Evanston and Chicago with a substantial impact on the local economy. Through our purchasing processes, we support diverse businesses and leverage our position to encourage other supplier partners to do the same.

2.  Engage – Partner with and support the sustainability and growth of other advocacy and community based organizations in Evanston and Chicago.

3.  Develop – The University works to build our neighborhoods and communities by supporting local businesses and their growth. We will invest in resources and training to increase their capacity and expand their network of opportunities, thus making our economy and community stronger.

Each pillar will be supported by the development of an annual action plan.

Pillar 1 – Buy

Strategic Goal
  • Increase our annual spend with diverse businesses through purchasing opportunities.
We will strategically align suppliers to growth opportunities within Northwestern and with our contracted preferred suppliers.  Northwestern will create a solid baseline, strategically grow our direct spend, and significantly impact tier 2 spend throughout our supplier network. We will work closely with University leaders to increase the utilization of diverse businesses through strategic sourcing efforts and the establishment of prequalified supplier lists for professional services.

Key Initiatives
  • Increase access to purchasing opportunities: Northwestern will increase transparency by publishing bid opportunities, updating evaluation criteria in Northwestern purchasing documents, and continue to prioritize outreach to diverse suppliers.  Procurement and Payment Services will specifically:
    • Develop an annual sourcing plan of upcoming Invitation to Bid opportunities.
    • Include all known local, minority owned, and woman owned businesses in Invitations to Bid being handled centrally on behalf of Northwestern.
    • Establish and maintain pre-qualified lists of construction contractors and professional service providers with an emphasis on including local, minority owned, and woman owned businesses.
    • Identify opportunities specifically for diverse suppliers.  Procurement and Payment Services will identify goods and services categories with high concentrations of diverse businesses.  The University may solicit proposal or negotiate specifically with diverse businesses for certain categories in an effort to increase procurement with diverse businesses.
  • Develop specific annual targets: The University will establish and focus on annual targets for direct and tier 2 spend.
    • Contractor Reporting – The University currently requires that contractors report diverse business utilization. Our contractors will continue to work collaboratively with Northwestern to identify suppliers to fulfill requirements for new and existing projects.
  • Increased direct and tier 2 supplier involvement in construction projects is also a priority.
  • Procurement and Payment Services will also pursue inclusion of a catalog in our iBuyNU electronic marketplace that highlights goods available from local vendors.
  • Build the Reporting Infrastructure.  Create reporting standards and procedures that allow us to efficiently and accurately report spend with diversity businesses.

Pillar 2 – Engage

Strategic Goal

  • Expand our involvement with other local advocacy organizations.
We will leverage our partnerships with local organizations and consortiums that further business diversity efforts to identify best practices, diverse suppliers, and innovative procurement strategies.

Key Initiatives
  • Enhance our involvement with advocacy organizations:  Strengthen partnerships with advocacy organization initiatives, such as:
    • Chicago Anchors for a Strong Economy (CASE)
    • Chicago United
    • Women’s Business Development Council (WBDC)
    • Chicago Minority Supplier Development Council (CMSDC)
    • Evanston Chamber of Commerce
    • City of Evanston
    • City of Chicago
    • Northwestern University Black Alumni Association
  • Participate in external advocacy organization events:  Regularly attend events and workshops sponsored advocacy organizations.  Examples are as follows:
    • CASE Meetings – Representatives from the University meet with area business owners and anchor institutions. These quarterly meetings allow us to benchmark with peers, meet new suppliers for bid opportunities, and receive updates on how we can take a leadership role in Chicago’s economic development.
    • Chicago United Symposiums and Events – Northwestern representatives attend a host of events held by Chicago United. The objective of this organization is to promote diversity at all levels of organizations and encourage the use of Minority Businesses. Northwestern supports the Annual Bridge Awards Dinner, leadership events, and the annual meeting.
    • Evanston Chamber of Commerce – Procurement and Payment Services represents Northwestern on the Board, in order to facilitate meeting local businesses to identify potential partnership opportunities.
    • WBDC annual event – Northwestern representatives attend a week-long celebration of women owned businesses in Chicago.  The week includes a tradeshow, workshops and a dinner awards gala.
    • CMSDC annual event – Procurement and Payment Services represents Northwestern during the regional tradeshow and business development matchmaker held annually. The group also attends the annual awards dinner and gala.
    • City of Evanston Procurement 101 Event – Procurement and Payment Services participates in this annual event, in order to meet local businesses for future partnership opportunities.

Pillar 3 - Develop

Strategic Goal
  • Establish a regular annual rotation of strategic partnership and development opportunities for diverse businesses, as well as assist businesses in connecting to opportunities with other anchor organizations.
Northwestern will be considered a strong advocate of businesses that are seeking to build capacity. Events will include targeted matchmaking, small business development seminars, construction-related events, and professional services symposiums.  Northwestern will be seen as a leader in business diversity, creating lasting partnerships with suppliers and University decision makers in alignment with Northwestern’s overall commitment to diversity.

Key Initiatives
  • Continuous engagement on best practices.  We will continue to participate in local, regional, and national conferences to learn about and share strategies for building capacity as well as leveraging expertise from peer institutions and other organizations.
  • Establish annual supplier symposium events.  Introduce opportunities for suppliers to work with Northwestern through targeted matchmaking, small business development seminars, construction related events, and professional services symposiums.
  • Provide programming that will enhance business acumen and result in greater opportunities for small businesses.  Many small Businesses lack the historical and social business insights of large businesses.  Northwestern will use University resources (schools and departments) to provide leading programming around finance, law, marketing, procurement and strategic planning.
  • Act as internal liaison between diverse business and key stakeholders at Northwestern.  Northwestern can be a complex place to navigate when a business is trying to connect with a department or schools that may need their products or services.  Procurement will act as the internal entity that can help connect diverse businesses with the right people within Northwestern, when appropriate.
  • Establish an internal communication strategy for key stakeholders and senior leadership within Northwestern.  This will allow Procurement to reinforce how Northwestern will make a social impact on Evanston and Chicago based small businesses through local purchasing.  Expectations are as follows:
    • Be an advocate for diverse businesses throughout schools and departments
    • Attend internal Northwestern University events and solicit others from the University to attend supplier fairs, on-site conferences, and events hosted by Business Diversity
    • Represent the University at external events, conferences and dinners when necessary
    • Become knowledgeable about the Strategic Framework
    • Help identify diverse business procurement opportunities
    • Present ideas to Procurement that will help grow our efforts with diverse businesses
  • Specific outcomes include:
    • Establish list of key stakeholders to reach out to regarding procurement diversity
    • Establish an annual calendar of events will be established to highlight Northwestern Business Diversity events, external events, and events hosted by advocacy organizations
    • Include diversity updates in the Procurement newsletter
    • Include updates on the Procurement diversity web site

Overall Impact

Northwestern’s procurement diversity strategic framework will guide our work as we aim to make a meaningful impact on our community and become recognized as a leader in the development of local and diverse businesses.  As we implement and deliver on our goals, we hope to achieve the following:


Northwestern is a major anchor institution that is part of both the Evanston and Chicago communities.  Our procurement diversity strategic framework builds upon a strong commitment to work closely with diverse businesses to help them grow, which contributes to the economic strength and stability of both communities.