About Chicago Foundation for Women

Chicago Foundation for Women (CFW) is a public foundation working to advance gender equity, which we believe to be inherently interconnected with racial, economic and health equity. CFW envisions a world in which all women and girls, transgender, and gender non-binary people have the opportunity to thrive in safe, just and healthy communities. We celebrate the spectrum of identities and experiences of women and girls, uplift their leadership and center the voices of community to achieve true equity.

CFW looks at the broad spectrum of needs of all women. We support the areas of freedom from violence, economic security and access to health, which we see as integrally related and are paths forward toward an equitable society.

About the Opportunity

The Program Officer (PO) provides facilitation, coordination and community building for the Women’s Leadership Development programs of the Foundation. Chicago Foundation for Women believes that in order to achieve gender equity, the Foundation must also address all other intersections of identity, including race, gender expression, sexual orientation, ability, and ethnicity. Further, this portfolio has a unique opportunity to help inform organizational awareness of the complex issues impacting women, girls, and gender-expansive individuals of color and to apply these lessons throughout the fabric of the Foundation.

The Program Officer is responsible for the Willie’s Warriors Black Women’s Leadership program, Cultivate: Women of Color Leadership program, and Board Member Boot Camp and Boot Camp Express. The successful candidate will build connections in the community to promote a shared understanding of community needs in order to equip participants as leaders in embedding equity in their social groups and institutions city-wide. This position includes working closely with other program staff to identify and build relationships, and to enhance the leadership development programs with community and participant input.  Additional program activities include ongoing evaluation and building collaborative initiatives.  The Program officer works closely with the Foundation’s President and Senior Program Officer.

Click here to view the full position description, essential qualifications, and application instructions.

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About Chicago Foundation for Women

Chicago Foundation for Women (CFW) invests in women and girls as catalysts, building strong communities for all. CFW funds organizations working to solve the biggest problems facing women and girls: economic insecurity, violence, and lack of access to health care and information. In addition to grantmaking, CFW invests in developing women leaders and advocates, and brings together diverse coalitions to collaborate, share resources and develop solutions. Since its founding in 1985, CFW has invested over $40 million in organizations supporting women, girls, trans, and gender non-binary people across the Chicago metropolitan region.

About the Opportunity

The Manager of Corporate and Foundation Relations will support institutional fundraising efforts, which currently represent approximately $1 million of CFW’s $4 million budget with plans to grow. The Manager of Corporate and Foundation Relations is responsible for planning and executing strategies to secure financial support from foundation, corporate, business, and organizational donors to advance Chicago Foundation for Women’s mission. The Manager is a core part of the development team, and partners closely with staff throughout the organization to translate program goals and objectives into revenue-driving concepts. The Manager of Corporate and Foundation Relations partners with the Chief Development Officer (CDO) to develop cultivation, solicitation and stewardship strategies to grow revenue in support of the health, safety and economic security of Chicago-area women and girls.

Click here to view the full position description, essential qualifications, and application instructions.

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About Chicago Foundation for Women

Chicago Foundation for Women (CFW) invests in women and girls as catalysts, building strong communities for all. CFW funds organizations working to solve the biggest problems facing women and girls: economic insecurity, violence, and lack of access to health care and information. In addition to grantmaking, CFW invests in developing women leaders and advocates, and brings together diverse coalitions to collaborate, share resources and develop solutions. Since its founding in 1985, CFW has invested over $40 million in organizations supporting women, girls, trans, and gender non-binary people across the Chicago metropolitan region.

About the Opportunity

The Human Resources (HR) Manager contributes to the success of Chicago Foundation for Women by providing a full range of professional-level HR operations, support, and change management for the organization. In addition, the HR Manager will provide support to select members of CFW’s grantee community, providing coaching and hands-on assistance when appropriate.  The HR Manager will help both CFW and grantee partners embed a deeper gender and racial equity framework within their respective HR functions.

The ideal candidate will be a strategic and thoughtful problem solver, an adaptable change-agent and collaborator, and a respectful coach-like leader. The Human Resources Manager will have the unique opportunity to build the HR function and along with the management team, assist in providing people strategies and solutions for the organization in a time of rapid change during the pandemic and in the post-pandemic environment. The Human Resources Manager reports to the Foundation’s President.

Click here to view the full position description, essential qualifications, and application instructions.

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About Young Chicago Authors

With a history spanning more than three decades, Young Chicago Authors (YCA) is focused on cultivating artistic development, social and emotional learning, and academic success in Chicago’s youth. Young Chicago Authors helps young people from all backgrounds to understand the importance of their own stories and those of others, so that they can pursue the path they choose and work to make their communities more just and equitable.

About the Opportunity

The Board of Directors seeks an Executive Director who is a visionary leader with a passion for arts education, creative learning, racial equity, and radical inclusion through arts practice and participation. The successful candidate will utilize their high-level management and development skills to lead the execution of YCA’s strategic vision. The Executive Director will build on the organization’s strong legacy of poetry, spoken word, creative writing, and MC programming. The Executive Director will partner with the Artistic Director to continue, among other things, to shape YCA’s strategic direction, its programming, culture, and community engagement.

The next ED will have the ability to understand and speak to a broad array of programs, and to engage with stakeholders ranging from communities of young people, artists, educators, clients, institutional funders, sponsors, and individual donors. The ideal candidate will have an inspiring management style, inclusive of engaging staff input as a process for effective decision making. In addition, they will implement an equitable and inclusive culture across the organization. They must evidence commitment to the mission of the organization and the communities it serves. As a senior public face of YCA, they must convey with passion and authenticity the work and vision across programs both internally and externally.

Click here to view the full position description, essential qualifications, and application instructions.

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About Free Spirit Media

Free Spirit Media (FSM) provides youth and young adults on Chicago’s West and South sides with a comprehensive foundation in media literacy/production through digital media arts, journalism, and creative workforce development programs. It transforms media and society by providing opportunities for emerging creators, primarily from communities of color, to produce and distribute original content and to pursue artistic, personal and professional aspirations. FSM pursues this mission by providing an engaging learning environment that stimulates meaningful media creation, fosters an entrepreneurial and visionary culture, and understands that social transformation is most viable when individuals promote and practice equity, inclusion, and solidarity.

About the Opportunity

Free Spirit Media is seeking a visionary, passionate, and strategic leader as its next Executive Director. The Executive Director drives the strategic, programmatic, and fundraising vision for Free Spirit Media, directing and managing the organization toward its strategic goals under the oversight of the Board of Directors. Representing the organization to both internal and external audiences, the Executive Director ensures that FSM’s activities and programs are mission-driven and youth-centered. The ideal new Executive Director will have deep familiarity with the communities and young people that Free Spirit Media serves. The Board seeks candidates who have experience and/or understanding of positive youth development and career pathways, as well as the creative sector (arts, performance, media, journalism, communications, etc.).

Click here to view the full position description, essential qualifications, and application instructions.

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Article written by NBC correspondent Derrick Clifton

The Trump administration announced two moves last week that target diversity training at federal agencies and public school lessons about American slavery. Experts in civil rights history and diversity consulting say the actions serve as an appeal to President Donald Trump’s base, while further stoking racial divisions that have been called into focus by recent protests.

The Office of Management and Budget issued a directive prohibiting departments from using federal funds to administer diversity training for executive branch staff that incorporates teachings about critical race theory and white privilege. Trump himself also threatened to cut off funding from schools that teach The New York Times Magazine’s 1619 Project, a Pulitzer Prize-winning effort released last year to coincide with the anniversary of slaves being brought to the Virginia colony 400 years ago.

In the executive memo issued by OMB, department director Russell Vought claimed that diversity trainings “run counter to the fundamental beliefs for which our Nation has stood since its inception” and also “engender division and resentment within the Federal workforce.” He specifically cited elements of some training sessions that highlight how white people benefit from racism and may contribute to racial discrimination.

Mary Morten, president of the national consulting firm Morten Group, said federal agencies may become ineffective in serving the public without giving employees the benefit of training that incorporates lessons about diversity, inclusion and equity (or DEI).

“If government agencies are prohibited from doing DEI training, they’re missing an opportunity to build a unified workforce, to include groups of people who are underrepresented … and to bring these voices forward to effectuate real change.” said Morten, whose firm conducts training sessions with government offices, nonprofits and companies. “If people aren’t able to do it at the highest level of government, there will be a trickle-down effect. It means government policies from the federal level won’t be inclusive.”

Morten said her firm conducts a needs assessment before making recommendations on the types of sessions or training they offer to an organization. Then the organization drafts a long-term action plan based on its training to bolster inclusion.

“People realize this is an opportunity to make a difference,” Morten said, adding that the work of inclusion is an ongoing process. “Race is still the primary indicator of someone’s success in this country, and it’s important that we uplift race in our discussions of equity. Some organizations get concerned that centering race means we won’t include other areas of oppression. If we don’t address race, we won’t have equity in these other areas either. There’s no way around it.”

‘Divisive, un-American propaganda’

While diversity training is primarily informed by academic fields such as sociology, history and ethnic studies, the source material draws heavily from critical race theory, a legal framework that emerged from the work of scholars like Derrick Bell, who was the first tenured Black professor at Harvard Law School. Critical race theory posits that race is socially constructed, and that it is not exceptional but an ordinary and routine occurrence. It also examines how white supremacy and racial discrimination are written into and maintained by the law.

“Critical race theory is important because it’s in the family of critical thinking, which means you must look at something with an eye towards identifying flaws, truths and opening up different ways of thinking,” said Erika George, a professor of law at the University of Utah. George added that critical race theory may highlight ways in which laws and public policies may not explicitly name race as part of its language, but that the measures can still bear racial implications. “It’s about getting us to a place of understanding where we are by understanding where we’ve come from, and why it is that things are the way they are.”

In Vought’s executive memo, both the terms “diversity training” and “critical race theory” were offset in quotation marks in some instances, an apparent signifier that the teachings are considered inferior or illegitimate.

“The President has directed me to ensure that Federal agencies cease and desist from using taxpayer dollars to fund these divisive, un-American propaganda training sessions,” Vought wrote. He continued, “The divisive, false, and demeaning propaganda of the critical race theory movement is contrary to all we stand for as Americans and should have no place in the federal government.”

The phrasing Vought used echoes government actions from decades past that criminalized or scrutinized elements of academic study, political thought and activism purportedly carried out in the service of communism and treason. The scare tactic, otherwise known as McCarthyism after Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s notorious efforts, was used to target elements of the emerging civil rights movement and bears historical implications for present day, said Theodore Foster, an assistant professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette who focuses on African-American history, civil rights memory and Black studies.

“If we think about what is being labeled propaganda, it’s a diversion. It’s a spectacle that’s familiar for this administration, but it’s also part of conservative rhetoric,” Foster said. “‘PC culture’ is a conservative phrase that’s become common in our political language [and] diminishes the demands of critical race theory and Black studies in their call for recognition of anti-Blackness in society.”

Through her work at an international human rights organization, George said governments that were headed toward authoritarian rule often openly harassed and policed academics.

“When ideas are under assault, that’s usually dangerous ground that you’re treading on,” George said, adding that she and her colleagues were concerned “with the academics because it was a free thinking space that needed protection for other groups to be protected.”

The 1619 Project in public schools

Trump’s skepticism about ideas and teachings on race extends to The 1619 Project, which has gained popularity among educators seeking to supplement their lessons about slavery with the project’s meditations on how the slave trade influenced American democracy and has continued to carry implications for the civil rights of Black people. The work recently came under fire from Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark.

In an interview with The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Cotton discussed his proposed bill to block funding from public schools that teach The 1619 Project, and described slavery as a “necessary evil” upon which the union was built.

“The 1619 Project is left-wing propaganda. It’s revisionist history at its worst,” Cotton told The Democrat-Gazette. “Curriculum is a matter for local decisions and if local left-wing school boards want to fill their children’s heads with anti-American rot, that’s their regrettable choice. But they ought not to benefit from federal tax dollars to teach America’s children to hate America.”

Foster said that while there are valid debates about the presentation of The 1619 Project, teaching the Times’ work could benefit students who might otherwise receive watered-down lessons from textbooks about the trans-Atlantic slave trade or the Middle Passage.

“To call it un-American is to take conversations about power dynamics and relations off the table,” Foster said. “There’s a lot of criminalization of diversity going on here, [which] goes hand in hand with a criminalization of Black protest and the Black Lives Matter movement, which has demanded an ongoing recognition of anti-Blackness. In this moment, close to the election, it caters to an us-versus-them narrative that’s about the spectacle and not the substance.”

The apparent disconnect from Trump and his allies on diversity training and The 1619 Project may also signal an investment in maintaining any existing misinformation on the nature of race and racism. George noted that Derrick Bell’s approach to critical race theory suggested that there will be no progress unless there’s an “interest convergence” between white people in power and racially marginalized people.

“Critical race theory doesn’t even say that [white] people are inherently racist or evil. … It does say that people can be complicit in racist action,” George said. “I do think this is a play to the fear of displacement from what has been a relatively privileged perch in American society.”

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About Jane Addams Senior Caucus

Jane Addams Senior Caucus (JASC) is a multiracial, grassroots organization led by conscious seniors in the Chicago metropolitan area. It crosses neighborhood, racial, religious and socio-economic lines to find common ground upon which to act on its values. Through leadership development, organizing and popular education, JASC uses the power of its collective voice to work for economic, social, and racial justice for all seniors and our communities.

About Jane Addams Seniors in Action

Jane Addams Seniors in Action (JASIA) is incorporated in Illinois as a 501 (c)(4) nonprofit organization. Its mission is to unite the power of seniors and their allies in an active grassroots organization, which works to build racial, social, and economic justice. Its activities include community organizing, coalition building, issue campaigns, referenda efforts, educating voters, direct lobbying, and candidate electoral endorsements.

About the Opportunity

JASC and JASIA is seeking a highly-qualified, visionary candidate who can both lead and accompany the organization into its next phase. The Executive Director gives direction and leadership to fulfill the organization’s missions and provides guidance to staff. The ideal candidate is an exceptional listener, someone who will work in close collaboration with the staff, both Boards, and the organization’s members. JASC and JASIA are committed to social, racial, and economic justice and seek a director willing to join in building collective power for long-term structural change.

Click here to view the full position description, essential qualifications, and application instructions.

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Thirty-five years ago, organizations that were geared toward women and girls were only receiving 3% of all philanthropic dollars – which meant that programs addressing domestic violence, reproductive health, economic equality, and other issues critical to the well-being of women and girls were often underfunded. Four women in 1984 set out to change that when they founded Chicago Foundation for Women (CFW).

Mary Morten is excited to help celebrate an organization that she has supported for many years, and is very proud to have been the first Black person and first out lesbian to serve as Chairperson of the CFW Board.

Gathering Ground is celebrating CFW’s 35th Anniversary by recording a special episode, lifting up where the Foundation has been, where it is now, and where it’s going, live on September 15, from 4:00 p.m. – 5:15 p.m.

We’ll be hearing from people like Felicia Davis, Sunny Fischer, Iris Krieg, and just a few of the many people who have been touched by CFW over the past 35 years – you don’t want to miss it!

Continue scrolling to secure your spot at this special event, see some photos from CFW’s past, and meet the individuals who will be joining Mary for this exciting virtual event.

Contact Gathering Ground Producer Vince Pagán at vince@mortengroup.com with any questions!



Sunny Fischer

Sunny served most recently as the Interim President for Chicago Foundation for Women prior to Felicia Davis’s appointment. Prior to this role, Sunny was the Executive Director of The Richard Driehaus Foundation. Sunny is currently the founding Board Chair of the National Public Housing Museum.

As founding executive director of one of the first private women’s foundations in the country, The Sophia Fund, she was also the co-founder of the Chicago Foundation for Women. She served as the co-chair of Chicago Women in Philanthropy and chaired the first study, called Shortchanged, of foundations’ contributions to women’s organizations. As a consultant, she has worked with several women’s funds on start-up, program development, and growth.

Iris Krieg_result

Iris Krieg

Iris has more than thirty-five years of experience in philanthropy. Before establishing her consulting firm, Iris Krieg and Associates, in 1991, she was the executive director of a family foundation and a corporate giving program. Prior to that, she was a senior staff associate at a major community foundation. She began her career in philanthropy by serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Brazil.

Iris is one of the co-founders of the Chicago Foundation for Women and served as its first board chair. Currently, her volunteer efforts include active participation in associations of donors and nonprofit organizations’ boards. She is often called upon to moderate or participate in panels, workshops and seminars and has received awards and other commendations for her service.

Feilicia Davis

Felicia Davis
President and CEO

Felicia Davis, hailing from the City’s southside, is deeply committed to community through inclusive service to others. As President and CEO of Chicago Foundation for Women, she leads the Foundation’s strategic efforts in investing in women and girls as catalysts, building stronger communities for all.

Felicia is passionate about transforming lives and serves as an educator and mentor through a variety of networks, participating on numerous boards and committees.

Felicia exemplifies leadership in all she sets out to do. She is a Leadership Greater Chicago Fellow and a founding member of Chicago Foundation for Women’s South Side Giving Circle, where she has blazed a trail for supporting Black women and girls through philanthropy and collective giving.


Kelly Smith-Haley
Board Chair

Kelly is passionate about issues affecting women and girls in Chicago, and is honored to serve as the Chair of the Chicago Foundation for Women’s Board of Directors.

As a partner in Fox, Swibel, Levin & Carroll’s Employment Law Group, Kelly Smith-Haley provides both preventive counseling and litigation services. Kelly offers preventive counseling to employers on a wide range of issues affecting the employment relationship, including EEO issues, employee handbooks and personnel policies, employment agreements, hiring and background checks, and strategies for employee discipline and termination. As part of her preventive counseling, Kelly provides live, interactive training (that is tailored to the employer’s industry) on how to avoid and navigate issues of harassment and discrimination in the workplace. Kelly’s goal is to help employers comply with local, state and federal laws, and thereby avoid litigation.

Kelly loves writing and presenting on topics relating to employment law and issues of equity for women and girls.


Lauren Birchlove
Chair, LBTQ Giving Council

Lauren Birchlove is Co-Chair of the LBTQ Giving Council of Chicago Foundation for Women. Her career in philanthropy began at Moneythink, a nonprofit focused on providing financial coaching via mobile technology for college-bound youth. She currently serves as Institutional Giving Manager for Cara, a nonprofit workforce development agency that has placed more than 6,800 people into more than 10,600 jobs at one-year, same-company retention rates of 70% or better for permanent placements, catalyzing families to stop the transfer of poverty from one generation to the next.

As an active member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Lauren is engaged with the LGBTQ+ Affinity Group, was a 2018 Chicago Chapter Fellow, and received the 2020 Chamberlain Scholar award. She holds a B.S. in Nonprofit Leadership and Management with a certificate in Women and Gender Studies from Arizona State University.

Venita Griffin

Venita Griffin
Co-chair, Women United Giving Council

Venita Griffin is the current Co-chair of the Women United Giving Council, a 2019 Fellow of CFW’s Willie’s Warriors Leadership Initiative in addition to being a member of the South Side Giving Circle, which mobilizes women on Chicago’s South Side and in the South Suburbs to invest in the economic, social, and political power of black women and girls in Chicago.

Venita currently serves as a Managing Director at H/Co, overseeing advocacy campaigns, digital activations, and multicultural engagement. Venita’s past advocacy work includes leading the digital engagement and fundraising strategies for a national voter engagement campaign, a cross-movement civil rights organization, and a think tank focused on LGBT equality. She has also provided strategic counsel and digital strategy oversight for a national campaign focused on raising awareness around metastatic breast cancer and was part of the team that worked to secure a raise for direct support professionals in a year when similar services were being cut from the Illinois budget.


Jo Moore
Past Board Chair

Jo Moore has been involved in the nonprofit world for nearly 40 years and has served in various capacities as a volunteer, donor and consultant. She is a co-founder of the Evanston Shelter for Battered Women, and served as a board chair to Chicago Foundation for Women where she was extensively involved in the creation and implementation of fundraising strategies to reach individuals and specific communities and served as co-chair of an endowment campaign.

Jo has served as a consultant to over 65 nonprofits including various emerging foundations, social service and environmental nonprofits in the areas of resource development as well as organizational growth and board development. She has worked with EMILY’s List; Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law; and the Belden Fund for which she trained over 100 environmentalists to fundraise nationally.


(Currently in formation – check back for updates!)

Gwen Cohen

Past Board Member

Chris Grumm

Past Executive Director

Mae Hong

Past Board Chair

Suzanne Musikantow

Past Board Chair

Marianne Philbin

First Executive Director

Hannah Rosenthal

Past Executive Director

Jane Saks

Past Board Member

Radhika Sharma

Past Board Member

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Morten Group is pleased to present our first ever READI Symposium on November 10, 2020!

Registration for the READI Symposium is now open!

To register for the event, please visit bit.ly/MG_READI.

All ticket proceeds will go toward Affinity Community Services and IC Stars, two of Chicago’s most vital organizations.

You can find out more about our programming, guest speakers, and beneficiaries below – check back soon for more information!

For questions about accessibility or to request accommodations please contact Vince Pagán at vince@mortengroup.com or (407) 547-0802.


Session 1: Centering Diversity, Racial Equity, and Inclusion (DREI) at Your Organization: A Process Discussion to Get You READI

What does being READI mean? Defining ways to understand and expand access within DREI work is critical from a cultural, economic, physical, and technological lens (as well as others). DREI is not “achieved” at any given moment, but working to center it can make it the cultural mainstay for your organization. Where do you begin? What happens if you get stuck or hit a bump in the road?

In this session, we hear from several colleagues who will share how they are centering DREI in their organizations and discuss Morten Group’s customized process to center DREI and address your questions about building a culture of equity. Come prepared to share your thoughts as the definitions of true access continue to expand.


Session 2: Microaggressions: What Are They and What Can We Do About Them?

Microaggressions are subtle and often unconscious, unintentional manifestations of oppression expressed in comments and actions. Microaggressions harm the targets, the perpetrators, and relationships at work and home. In this READI session, we provide an opportunity for participants to build their skills at responding to microaggressions they experience in their lives, whether they are targets, witnesses, or responding to someone else’s experience after the fact.


Culminating Roundtable – READI, Set, Go: Turning Insight Into Action

Morten Group, LLC President Mary Morten will moderate this afternoon roundtable discussion that begins with remarks from Pamela Newkirk (author of Diversity, Inc.), and Sean Thomas-Breitfeld (co-Director of Building Movement Project, creators of the Race to Lead initiative). This conversation gives attendees a chance to hear from prominent visionary leaders about the challenges and rewards of READI-focused leadership.

Panelists will also respond to questions about the nuts and bolts of their experiences implementing READI at their respective organizations; the difficulties, surprises, and joys of transforming organizational cultures; and what ongoing access for all looks like in a post-COVID-19 world. Following the panel, participants will have the opportunity to ask their own questions as well.


Pamela Newkirk

Pamela Newkirk

Pamela Newkirk is an award-winning journalist and a professor of journalism at New York University who has written extensively about diversity in the news media and art world. She is the author of Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga, which won the NAACP Image Award, and Within the Veil: Black Journalists, White Media, which won the National Press Club Award for media criticism, as well as the editor of Letters from Black America. Her articles and reviews are regularly published in major media, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Guardian, The Nation, and The Chronicle of Higher Education. She lives in New York City.

In Diversity, Inc., Pamela shines a bright light on the diversity industry, asking the tough questions about what has been effective–and why progress has been so slow. She highlights the rare success stories, sharing valuable lessons about how other industries can match those gains. But as she argues, despite decades of handwringing, costly initiatives, and uncomfortable conversations, organizations have, apart from a few exceptions, fallen far short of their goals.


Sean Thomas-Breitfeld

Sean Thomas-Breitfeld is Co-Director of Building Movement Project, an organization whose mission is to develop research, tools, training materials and opportunities for partnership that bolster nonprofit organizations’ ability to support the voice and power of the people they serve.

Prior to joining the organization, Sean spent a decade working in various roles at the Center for Community Change, where he developed training programs for grassroots leaders, coordinated online and grassroots advocacy efforts, and lobbied on a range of issues, including immigration reform, transportation equity and anti-poverty programs.

Before joining the Center, Sean worked as a Policy Analyst at the National Council of La Raza, where he focused on employment and income security issues. Sean holds a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service and a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work and Multicultural Studies from St. Olaf College in Minnesota.


Michelle Morales

Michelle Morales is the President of the Woods Fund Chicago, the first foundation in the city that explicitly committed itself to centering racial equity in its work and grantmaking.  Prior to Woods Fund, she led the Chicago chapter of the Mikva Challenge, an organization that leads the civic field in training teachers and developing youth councils for civic institutions. Michelle’s background has been in the field of alternative education & positive youth development, as a teacher at an alternative high school in Chicago’s Humboldt Park community, and then as Associate Director at the Alternative Schools Network. From 1997-2012, Michelle participated in intensive community organizing in the Humboldt Park area.  Michelle is a fellow of Leadership Greater Chicago and participated in the inaugural cohort of Cultivate.


Rahnee Patrick

Rahnee Patrick is Director of the Division of Rehabilitation Services at the Illinois Department of Human Services. Born in South Bend, Indiana and raised in the nearby town of North Liberty (population 800), her father is an Air Force veteran who met her mother, a native of Thailand, during the Viet Nam Conflict. She graduated in 1996 from Indiana University at South Bend, where she co-founded Students Together Active and Respected (STAAR), a group of students with disabilities. Shortly after graduating, she became involved in the independent living and disability rights movements, primarily through the direct action group ADAPT. In 2007, the Governor appointed her to the Illinois State Advisory Council on the Education of Children with Disabilities and later served as the Chair of the Illinois Statewide Rehabilitation Council, another gubernatorial appointment. She is also an award-winning writer. In 2008, the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) awarded Rahnee the Paul Hearne Award, as an emerging national leader. Subsequently, she served for two years on AAPD’s board of directors.


Audra Wilson

Audra Wilson has been a champion for racial and economic justice for more than 20 years as a public interest lawyer and teacher, policy shaper, community mobilizer, and experienced executive manager who was recently appointed as Shiver Center on Poverty Law’s CEO. Throughout her career, Audra has focused on the voices and experiences of communities of color and communities most impacted by injustice. Audra began her legal career as a Welfare Advocacy Staff Attorney with the Shriver Center on Poverty Law, where she focused on welfare reform implementation and food security issues in Illinois. She was then tapped by then-state-Senator Barack Obama to serve as the Deputy Press and Policy Director on his U.S. Senate campaign and went on to serve as Director of Diversity Education and Outreach and Adjunct Professor at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law and Deputy staff for US Congresswoman Robin Kelly.

Audra served as Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of Illinois, and in October 2019 was appointed as Chair of Cook County Commission on Women’s Issues before joining Shriver Center on Poverty Law as their new CEO this past May.


ACS 25th Logo

Affinity Community Services

Affinity is a social justice organization that works with and on behalf of black LGBT communities, queer youth, and allies to identify emergent needs, create safe spaces, develop leaders, and bridge communities through collective analysis and action for social justice, freedom, and human rights. Affinity envisions a society where being your authentic self is not a liability and differences are fully embraced.

Affinity’s work centers on health and wellness, civic engagement, immigrant rights, and leadership development. Because their work has always been intersectional, building bridges across communities is a key component of everything they do.

Find out more about Affinity and the celebration of their 25th anniversary at www.affinity95.org.


i.c.stars works to activate a technology community of change agents to power social and economic freedom.

Building on their experiences in education and workforce development, the founders of i.c.stars developed a technology-based curriculum that combined project-based training with a broader perspective on community impact and “bigger than you” sense of accountability.

Since 1999, i.c.stars has been identifying, training, and jump-starting technology careers for low-income young adults who, although lacking access to education and employment, demonstrate extraordinary potential for success in the business world and for impact in their communities.

i.c. stars believes that when young adults focus their talent on both technology services and community impact, their success in both increases significantly.

Find out more about i.c.stars at www.icstars.org.

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