Made in Chicago for fall 2018 shares the underlying mission of the Made in USA series within the IPRO offering — that is to advance conscientious purchasing among American consumers. The term “locally-made” encompasses a broad tent and is currently difficult to decipher in ways that help consumers understand where materials are sourced. This IPRO project will look at de-coding these ambiguities in order to equip American consumers with reliable information about their locally-made purchasing decision.
In the larger context, even as the number of Americans embracing a Made-in-USA mindset grows, it is still rather difficult for consumers to practice a lifestyle that tries to support American products and companies. Manufacturing has the largest multiplying effect in the US economy compared to all other sectors, creating more than seven additional jobs per one manufacturing job (http://www.themanufacturinginstitute.org). Companies are beginning to reconsider their manufacturing locations and how that influences bottom line and quality. Creating greater demand through conscientious purchasing can potentially accelerate this shift in some industries. It is estimated that if about 90 percent of Americans reallocated one dollar per day, spending one dollar less on foreign-made goods, and one dollar more on American-made goods, after a year, this could add $109.5 billion to the American economy, which equates to about 2,737,500 new jobs paying $40,000 per year (http://www.madeinusa.org)
The purchasing region the team will focus our efforts on for the fall is the City of Chicago, which offers itself as a prime opportunity for better connecting consumers to locally-made products. The goal is to design an outcome that will empower a Chicagoan or visitor to (1) more easily connect to products that are locally-made in Chicago and (2) trust the information provided to them about these products. The IPRO team will establish criteria in order to vet many locally made items in the Chicago area. The team will also design and build a prototype web platform that will include the opportunity to crowd-source information about locally-made products.
In the initial weeks, team members will develop a broad view of current locally-made spending activity and understand trends in American jobs in various sectors along with the environmental impact associated with where products are made and purchased. Students will also look at current strategies and tactics for informing consumers about which products are locally-made and how such designations, labeling, etc., if any, are determined and by which organizations. Concurrently (around Week 4), the IPRO team will prototype concepts to validate how they might better support consumer decision making and behavior that connects consumers with Chicago products and companies.