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A conversation with Forefront's New CEO, Monique Jones, LCSW

Updated: Feb 25, 2021

by Jerome' Holston

Like many Chicago nonprofits, the YNPN Chicago board chatted with excitement when we learned that Monique Jones, LCSW had been selected to serve as the new President & CEO of Forefront. Many of us had come to know of Monique through her most recent role as President & CEO of the Evanston Community Foundation (ECF), making her the second CEO and first African American since its founding in 1986. During her time at ECF, Monique was successful in diversifying the board, staff, and community investments to reflect the voices of the community.

Now in her role at Forefront since January 2021, Monique is leading the organization forward in their mission to build a vibrant social impact sector for all the people of Illinois. Forefront currently has over 1,100 members, with nonprofit members serving over 26 issue areas. Bringing these unique voices together is a challenge that Monique is prepared to handle. With over 20 years of experience in her career, her civic interests span the intersections where the lives of those most vulnerable fall victim to structural oppression and inequity.

We are excited for you to get to Monique in a short Q&A where she shares some professional and personal insights to help us get to know her better.

When you are tasked with stepping out of your comfort zone on issues or projects in the workplace, how do you approach the situation?

My first order of business is to increase my knowledge about the issue or project, so I am as informed as possible. I have found that the more information I have about the issue at hand the easier it is to engage in conversation or problem solving. Secondly, I have found using the RACI model helpful in all situations. Simply put, the RACI model helps me identify who is Responsible, Accountable, Consulted and Informed about the issue; from there, I move forward assuring that all parties who need to be engaged are included. Finally, when bringing the project or issue to a close I just want to make sure I am clear with my communications. For my own sake I want to document my steps and decisions. I can then mark this event as something that is no longer out of my comfort zone!

If you were a fictional movie or book character, who would you be and why?

My family calls me Olivia Pope from the long-running Shonda Rhimes series, Scandal. I’d like to think it’s because of her style, but, ultimately, I think it’s because of my facial expressions and demeanor when I’m addressing challenges. I’ll go with that.

Based on your current and past experiences, what should one do within the first 90 days of a new nonprofit role?

Listen. Learn. Document. Share. Being a new leader in a nonprofit role, any role actually, is an iterative process. Organizations don’t look the same from day to day and the needs of the staff working for nonprofits are fluid. I’ve always found it best to communicate with the intention of learning everything I can to inform my leadership role moving forward. Within all organizations, change is required. Being new to a nonprofit role, you’re likely to be tasked with making some tough decisions. It’s always best to listen, learn, document and share your thoughts with your stakeholders as you make change.

What "normal" thing are you ready to do again?

This is very simple. I’m ready to smile at people again. I’ll take the little things. A head nod and a smile go a long way. Of course, I’m ready to do bigger things, but I’ll settle for those things we did every day without a second thought—smiles, handshakes, hugs, high fives.

White Sox or Cubs?

Bears 😊

Previous to ECF Monique served as Director of Programs for the Chicago Foundation for Women, Director of Violence Prevention for the Cook County Department of Public Health, and Clinical Director for the Jane Addams Hull House Association. Monique is a graduate of The University of Arkansas at Fayetteville with a B.A in Social Work and The University of Texas at Austin with a M.S. in Social Work. She completed the Strategic Perspectives in Nonprofit Management executive program at the Harvard School of Business.

In her self-care moments, she enjoys running with her Peloton Tread family, golfing, sewing, and showing appreciation for life with her husband, daughter, and Yorkie in Chicago. Feel free to connect with Monique via LinkedIn.

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