For 50 years, BPI has served the Chicago region as an independent public interest law and policy center addressing compelling issues of social justice, racial equity and quality of life. Considered one of Chicago’s most tenacious and versatile advocates for the public interest, BPI uses a unique mix of advocacy, organizing, litigation, legal and policy research, and collaboration with nonprofit, business, community and governmental organizations to accomplish its mission. With national recognition as a recipient of the MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions, BPI is a leader in the areas of justice reform and police accountability, affordable and public housing, racial and economic desegregation, education and early learning, and political reform.
Since its first days in 1969, BPI has been at the front lines of social justice in the Chicago region. Founded by visionary corporate leader Gordon Sherman, CEO of the Midas Muffler Company, to fight for the public interest “against all inequities,” BPI’s voice has never been muffled. While its broad mission has allowed BPI to tackle a diverse array of issues over the years, BPI’s commitment to systemic change that delivers equity and increases opportunity for Chicago-region families and individuals remains true to the spirit of justice and social responsibility that motivated its founders to create BPI amid the backdrop of the civil rights movement and war in Vietnam.
Under the direction of its first Executive Director, attorney and activist Marshall Patner, BPI gained notice for a number of initiatives, including a media campaign opposing the City’s now unthinkable plan to create a new airport in Lake Michigan. The campaign’s provocative theme—”Don’t Do It in the Lake”— ignited a highly successful effort to defeat the City’s ill-conceived plan.
In 1970, Alex Polikoff joined BPI as Executive Director, bringing with him Gautreaux v. CHA, a civil rights case he had pursued on a pro-bono basis as an ACLU volunteer. Fueled by BPI’s landmark U.S. Supreme Court victory in 1976, Gautreaux became one of the leading civil rights cases of our time, improving life opportunities for thousands of public housing families and continuing to protect the rights of public housing residents around the country today.
Former BPI Board President and current Executive Director Hoy McConnell succeeded Alex in 1999, bringing not only his executive management and leadership acumen honed over a long professional career in advertising, but a deep engagement in BPI’s issues acquired through many years of service as a BPI Board member.
Guided by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s statement—“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice”—BPI recently adopted a new tagline, “For a Just Society.” Those four words succinctly sum up its 50-year history of advocacy and action for social justice—just as they define BPI’s future. Today, BPI lawyers and policy specialists continue to develop innovative policies and programs, advance effective strategies, litigate impactful issues, catalyze strong coalitions, and help advance progress toward its overarching goal of helping to create a just society.
For more information on BPI, please visit bpichicago.org.
BPI is seeking an ambitious, talented, and visionary leader to chart its future course and take the organization to new heights in this next chapter, building on the strong track record and successes of the last 50 years.
The new Executive Director (“ED”) will work with the Board of Directors and staff to articulate the future vision for the organization while remaining focused on and committed to BPI’s mission and impact.
Reporting to the Board of Directors, the ED will have overall strategic, operational, financial and managerial responsibility for BPI. S/he will: diversify and expand funding streams and revenues; lead and manage teams; promote professional staff development; promote a diverse, inclusive, creative, entrepreneurial and results-focused organizational culture; evaluate programs; understand, prepare and manage budgets; understand and drive strategic plans; elevate BPI’s brand; and cultivate relationships with other organizations and leaders in Chicago as well as at the regional and national level.
S/he will spend substantial time on ambassadorship and fundraising initiatives, including spreading the word about BPI’s work and impact, meeting with and cultivating a diverse range of donors, attending professional and social events where new supporters can be found and being the agency spokesperson at site visits and donor-sponsored forums.
The ideal candidate will have the following personal competencies, qualities and characteristics:
Commitment to the Mission
Fully embracing with enthusiasm and pride the values and goals of BPI, the ED will be passionate about fulfilling BPI’s mission and have a personal commitment to those who BPI serves. S/he will be energized by identifying and taking on meaningful issues and driving toward solutions. This executive will exude a commitment to, and interest in, social justice and will be focused on building and leading an organization that reflects its values and produces results. S/he must have the follow-through to remain dedicated to BPI’s existing programs and patience to commit to initiatives that achieve meaningful progress only after long-term engagement, while demonstrating the flexibility to analyze the present civil and political environment to take on new programs that keep BPI at the forefront of the most pressing social justice issues locally as well as nationally. This leader must have a demonstrated commitment to racial equity and social justice and should recognize the value of BPI’s various strategies in accomplishing its goals.
A Skilled and Strategic Leader
The ED will be a strategic, nimble and results-oriented leader who, in partnership with the Board and staff, will set and articulate a vision for BPI’s next chapter. An inspiring and engaged leader, s/he will have experience cultivating and retaining diverse teams with a broad set of ideas and skills and achieving organizational impact by recognizing and leveraging individual strengths and teamwork. This executive will be successful at orchestrating strategic processes and leading a passionate team to execute on organizational goals and to ensure accountability and high standards for staff deliverables, while providing staff with a mission-driven work environment and professional growth opportunities. Serving as an internal champion, s/he will foster a positive environment for participation, collaboration and innovation with the goal of advancing BPI’s mission and impact. S/he will have strong financial and operational experience. S/he will be an individual of unquestioned integrity, ethics and values; someone who can be trusted without reservation.
A Dynamic Ambassador
The ED will be an energetic and enthusiastic leader who will serve as an ‘Ambassador’ for BPI. S/he will be a confident public speaker who inherently enjoys the external side of the role. S/he will be a demonstrated or emergent leader in the field of development. S/he will embrace the current funding landscape and will enthusiastically work to expand and diversify BPI’s funding sources and develop the next generation of BPI supporters, leveraging technology along the way. S/he will represent BPI in legal, civic, philanthropic and advocacy arenas and will utilize brand and marketing strategies to elevate BPI’s recognition, while maintaining strong, trust-based relationships with BPI’s constituent communities. The ED will be confident yet humble, ambitious to accomplish great outcomes while sharing the credit broadly with all involved, and able to command respect and have the gravitas to work across the diverse spectrum of current and future stakeholders including the staff, Board of Directors, donors, clients, program partners, elected officials and community leaders. S/he will have an inspirational approach to building collaboration and buy-in and generating support from all stakeholders. S/he has exceptional verbal and written communication skills.
Champion for and Advocate of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
The ED will come to BPI with expertise and proven results in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and a rich understanding of strategies that support cultural evolution on these issues. S/he will help BPI develop tools to promote diversity, inclusion and engagement both internally and externally. This leader will have a thoughtful, empathic approach to DEI and will be known as an active listener and responsive leader throughout the organization and the broader community. The ED will have the ability to motivate others to action in support of a more diverse, equitable and inclusive environment. S/he will be energized by the prospect of leading efforts to develop awareness, comfort and confidence to address equity.
Koya Leadership Partners has been exclusively retained for this search. Cheryl Stevens, Domino Gehred-O’Connell, Allison Dunne and Alison P. Ranney are leading the engagement. To express interest in this role please email BPI@koyapartners.com. All inquiries and discussions will be considered strictly confidential.
BPI is an equal opportunity employer and strongly encourages applications from people of color, persons with disabilities, women and LGBTQ+ applicants.
About Koya Leadership Partners
Koya Leadership Partners is a retained executive search and human capital consulting firm that partners exclusively with mission-driven clients, institutions of higher education and social enterprises. We deliver measurable results, finding exceptionally talented people who truly fit the unique culture of our clients and ensuring they have the strategies to support them. For more information about Koya Leadership Partners, visit www.koyapartners.com.