Press Release: 2021 Leadership in Democracy Cohort Announced


The Robert R. McCormick Foundation, GCR Consulting and the Executive Service Corps' Leadership in Democracy Program strives to develop high-capacity civic leaders, representative of the communities they serve, who invite constituent participation and advocate for and implement inclusive policies. 


“We are thrilled to expand our program through partnerships with Executive Service Corps with one-on-one coaching from seasoned executives, GCR Consulting to develop a shared cohort learning experience, and the ‘Managing to Change the World’ training through the Management Center to further support capacity-building with our leaders,” said Sonia Mathew, program officer at the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.


The McCormick Foundation works with communities in Chicagoland and across Illinois to develop educated, informed, and engaged citizens, offering assistance to communities, strengthening democracy, and helping to ensure that all families and children have the opportunities they need to flourish. 


By investing in senior leaders within leading Foundation grantee organizations, prioritizing leaders of color, and connecting them with executive coaching and other management training and supports, these leaders can enhance inclusiveness and impact at their organizations and contribute to a more robust pipeline of civic leadership talent in the region. 


“We at the Executive Service Corps have been fulfilling our mission of helping make nonprofits successful by providing consulting and executive coaching services to nonprofits for over 40 years’” said Rachelle Jervis Chopra, President and CEO of Executive Service Corps, expressed the organization’s honor in partnering with the McCormick Foundation on this Program. “The Foundation’s leadership in support of our democracy is inspiring, particularly during these challenging times. Our executive coaches are delighted to work with the incredible members of the 2021 Leadership in Democracy cohort who lead a wide range of critical community institutions dedicated to improving our democracy.” 


The Executive Service Corps’ mission is helping make nonprofits successful. To achieve the Executive Service Corps' mission, it provides consulting, coaching, and professional services to other nonprofit organizations impacting 1.2 million people annually.

“The work of the Democracy grantees in civic education, journalism, and invigorating public institutions is more important than ever. I am excited to work with the cohort to co-create a learning experience that equips these leaders with the tools and strategies that will enable their organizations to thrive,” added Genita C. Robinson, Principal, GCR Consulting.


Adeshina Emmanuel, Editor in Chief, Injustice Watch

Adeshina Emmanuel is the editor-in-chief at Injustice Watch, a nonprofit investigative newsroom based in Chicago. His work over the past decade has spanned hyperlocal and national reporting with a focus on race, class, and institutional injustice. Adeshina is also a former education reporter at Chalkbeat, a former investigative reporter at the Chicago Reporter, and a former neighborhood reporter at DNAinfo Chicago who worked on the breaking news wire at the Chicago Sun-Times before interning at the New York Times in 2012 at the start of his career. He was born and raised in the Uptown neighborhood on Chicago's North Side by an African American mother and Nigerian father and studied journalism at Loyola University Chicago. 

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Alisa Kaplan, Executive Director, Reform for Illinois 

Alisa joined Reform for Illinois in 2018, drawn to the organization’s long history of fighting for campaign finance reform and against systemic corruption. As Executive Director, she leads RFI’s policy development, advocacy, and educational initiatives and overseas operations. A Yale graduate with a J.D. and Ph.D. in Political Science from Northwestern University, Alisa brings expertise in law and the political process and a background in community organizing, grassroots activism, and nonprofit administration. She has been a Faculty Lecturer in Constitutional Law, Civil Rights, and Law and Politics at Northwestern, and is co-president of the Board of Open Communities, a Chicago-area civil rights and housing justice organization. In her role at RFI, Alisa feels fortunate to be able to spend every day fighting for a more ethical and equitable Illinois government that works not just for the wealthy and well-connected, but for everyone.

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Anwulika Anigbo, Director of Development, Invisible institute

Anwulika Anigbo is the development director at the Invisible Institute, a journalism production company on the South Side of Chicago working to enhance the capacity of citizens to hold public institutions accountable.

Anwulika joins the Invisible Institute after years of working in fundraising and communications, devoting her career to developing a fundraising and communication style rooted in black queer feminist principles, critical race theory, and Elinor Ostrom’s paradigm-shifting, Nobel Prize-winning work examining the use of trust, collective action and collaboration to manage common resources. Her practice is rooted in genuine and indiscriminate care as a viable approach to widespread social change.

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Bessie Alcantara, Executive Director, Alternatives, Inc.

Bessie Alcantara is the Executive Director of Alternatives, a Chicago nonprofit providing behavioral health services and restorative justice programming to youth in Chicago. Alcantara earned her Master’s in Social Work from Loyola University and has been working for youth-serving organizations in Chicago for more than a decade. Alcantara is passionate about youth advocacy and racial equity and believes that our young people cannot succeed until we dismantle systemic inequity. Alternatives’ mission is to facilitate personal development, strengthen family relationships, and enhance the community’s well-being.  

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Eliza Bryant, Director of Academic Programs and Enrichment, Big Shoulders Fund

Eliza Bryant is the director of academics and enrichment at Big Shoulders Fund, an independent non-profit that supports Catholic schools in Chicago and Northwest Indiana which serve under-resourced communities. With nearly 15 years of experience in education, Bryant brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to her role overseeing a wide range of programs with the goal of increasing capacity in school personnel. Her aim is to ensure every school has access to quality, research-based curricular materials, engages in ongoing and comprehensive professional development, and participates in collaborative practices both internally and across the network. In addition, Bryant coordinates a life-changing student enrichment STEM camp that takes burgeoning middle school scientists to a ranch in Wyoming for six days. Under her leadership, this program has grown from under 100 participants each year to over 350, and it has expanded to include additional programming for camp alumni to return to the ranch in other capacities once in high school. Bryant is passionately committed to ensuring every child has unfettered and equitable access to a quality education.

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Erica Hodgin, Associate Director, Civic Engagement Research Group, UC Riverside

Erica Hodgin is the Co-Director of the Civic Engagement Research Group (CERG) at the University of California, Riverside. CERG partners with educational leaders and key stakeholders on district-wide reform efforts that seek to Leverage Equity and Access to Democratic Education (LEADE). Erica’s research focuses on the distribution, quality, and influence of youth civic learning and digital civic learning opportunities. She has authored articles in Social Education, Theory and Research in Social Education, and the Journal of Digital and Media Literacy as well as book chapters in Fake News: What is it, why it is problematic, and what educators can do about it; Digital Equity and Educational Opportunity; and #youthaction: Becoming Political in the Digital Age. Erica received her Ed.D. in Educational Leadership from Mills College and completed her dissertation on the ways cultural humility can enable teachers to build effective relationships with students across racial and cultural differences. Before joining CERG, Erica taught English and Social Studies and served as an instructional coach at the middle