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Tue, Aug 09



Members Event: Coffee with an Executive Director

Join YNPN Chicago for our Coffee with an Executive Director event. We will be chatting with Darnell Shields, Executive Director at Austin Coming Together. Register now and save your spot!

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Members Event: Coffee with an Executive Director
Members Event: Coffee with an Executive Director

Time & Location

Aug 09, 2022, 8:00 AM – 9:00 AM



About the event

Please join YNPN Chicago for our Members Only event series - Coffee with the C-Suite! This is a new program for members to learn more from leaders in the field of the nonprofit and philanthropic world. 

On August 9th, we will chat with Darnell Shields, the Executive Director at Austin Coming Together (ACT). Darnell will share his journey from being a Marketing Specialist at L'Oréal to the Executive Director of an organization that aims to improve education and economic development outcomes for the Austin community in Chicago.   

ACT received the award for 2022 Nonprofit Organization of the Year at YNPN Chicago’s Celebration awards! We’re thrilled to learn more about this organization at this event.  

Our Coffee with the C-Suite events aim to give YNPN Chicago members access to industry leaders who will share their journey to moving up the leadership ranks. We hope to see you there!

About Darnell:

Darnell Shields is the Executive Director at Austin Coming Together (ACT), a nonprofit

organization located on Chicago's Westside. A passionate builder of relationships and

innovative developments, Darnell is a lifelong Austin resident and co-owner of HairTech the

Salon, a local business he started with his wife.

In 2010, Darnell joined Austin Coming Together as a volunteer, helping the organization

improve their technology and business operations. It wasn’t long after that he was offered a full

time position moving him from IT to Director of Operations and in 2016, the board nominated

him to become the Executive Director of ACT. Throughout his time at ACT, Darnell has been

able to galvanize hundreds of organizations and community leaders to take on Austin’s

challenges with passion and commitment. In 2022, ACT was named Nonprofit Of The Year by

the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of Chicago as a result of ACT’s excellence,

accomplishments, leadership, and community impact.

Under his leadership, ACT has helped the Austin community become a United Way

Neighborhood Network, where ACT leads a community hub initiative to develop a referral

network of service providers that will help maximize social supports for Austin residents. ACT

has also led an unprecedented effort in partnership with Local Initiatives Support Corporation

(LISC Chicago) to bring together over 500 Austin community stakeholders to design and publish

‘Austin Forward. Together.’ (AFT) the Austin community’s first-ever quality-of-life plan. The plan

is a five year comprehensive strategy comprised of 23 strategies and 80+ actions to address

seven issue areas identified by the community: Community Narrative, Economic Development,

Education, Housing, Public Safety, Youth Empowerment, and Civic Engagement.

Since publishing the plan, ACT has received four awards for excellence in planning and

attracted over $100 million in new investments towards its implementation in just under 4 years.

Darnell holds two Associate degrees from Wilbur Wright-City Colleges of Chicago (Applied

Sciences & Liberal Arts) and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Entrepreneurship from the

University of Illinois at Chicago. He was named an inaugural Fellow of the Civic Leadership

Academy at Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago in 2015. In addition to

this distinction, Darnell has received the following awards: the Community Leadership Award in

2017 from the United Way of Metro Chicago, the Martin Luther King - Keepers Of The Dream

Award in 2019 from the Leaders Network, the 2019 Community Service Award by the Austin

African American Business Networking Association and was named one of the top 20 nonprofit

executives in 2019 who demonstrates outstanding work, service, and leadership in the nonprofit

sector by the Axelson Center for Nonprofit Management. He was also designated as Co-Chair

of Mayor Lightfoot’s Business, Economic and Neighborhood Development Transition Committee

and honored with the Mayor’s Medal Of Honor in recognition of his leadership as a founding

member of the city's Racial Equity Rapid Response Team.

Darnell currently serves as Vice Chairman on the board of directors of the Jane Addams

Resource Corporation and is a board member of several other organizations including Friends

of the Children’s Chicago chapter, AMPT, The Austin Renaissance Council, and Growing

Community Media.


  • Members: Registration only

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  • Non-members: Registration +$5

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