I specialize in providing strategic consulting to non-profits, foundations, universities, governments and businesses. Given my decades of experience as a social justice leader, I am uniquely positioned to support organizations through periods of growth, change and transition. I strive to bring honesty, fresh insight, energy, responsiveness, strategic smarts, operational know-how, integrity, and emotional intelligence to my work.
After stepping down from my fourth consecutive Executive Directorship mid-2019, I have resumed my consulting practice and had the honor of working with over 50 non-profits, foundations, companies and the Obama White House in the last ten years. I have supported teams through strategic planning, retreat design and facilitation, transformational change, leadership transitions, organizational development and reorganization. I have also provided individualized coaching to executives and other senior team members.
I have chosen to return to consulting once again after over 20 years in leadership because I want to focus my energy at a strategic rather than an operational level and to be sure that my skills and experience benefit the social justice sector more broadly. I also know from engaging consultants myself that all too often they lack the real world experience and insights that you gain from having managed all aspects of organizational growth and from implementing the programs you shape. I have had a breadth of exposure across issue areas and have lived and worked on four continents (Africa, Europe, Asia and North America) which gives me a unique perch from which to support and catalyze growth and change at organizations poised to leverage greater impact. I have strong and extensive professional networks globally that can benefit the teams I work with. And last but definitely not least, I really love consulting.
I am fortunate to have an entirely referral-based business. In considering whether to take on new work, I assess the possibilities in working with my client collaborators, my ability to deliver quality support, my passion for the mission, and the likely impact of my engagement. In the event that I don't have the bandwidth to take on new work or I don't feel your project is a good match for my skills and experience, I will do my best to identify someone else who can help you.
While I generally prefer to work independently with clients and am always the key point of contact throughout my engagements, I do have a range of colleagues that I collaborate with in order to increase capacity where needed or to address any budgetary constraints my clients may be facing.
Once we co-define our scope of work, I work on the basis of fixed price contracts, retainers or hourly billing as preferred.
By way of example, in my consulting practice I have:
“During my tenure as board member for Global Witness, I had the honor of having a front row seat to the brilliance of Gillian’s leadership as a CEO in action. Over the course of my nearly 20 years in the non-profit and advocacy sector I’ve never seen a leader that so seamlessly was able to integrate cutting edge strategic thinking, visionary campaign planning, and exponential fundraising capacity – all while building an organizational culture of inclusion and innovation. Gillian is a true force for change, who has the rare ability to lead on multiple dimensions of organizational growth. With a deep commitment to impact and accountability, and a boundless passion and commitment for the work, Gillian in my view sets the standard for true excellence in organizational leadership and development.”
Jessy Tolkan, Partner & Chief Campaigns Officer at Purpose and former Global Witness Board Member
“Gillian Caldwell is truly a rare talent. Her background, smarts, problem-solving skills, commitment to excellence, and, most of all, her understanding of people, makes her a major value-add in a number of leadership situations. Most people with such a big brain and depth of experience have trouble truly being in service of others. But Gillian thrives — leading with not only a big brain, but a big heart and commitment to helping leaders and organizations fulfill their mission and potential.”
James Rucker, Chair and Co-Founder of Color of Change
“Gillian embodies the term ‘high performer’. I’ve worked with few others who can simultaneously manage and drive a strategic vision as well as the details of execution. Gillian’s pursuit of excellence is contagious and ignites every team I’ve seen her lead to achieve bigger goals and better results. Gillian is a true partner who knows how to get her hands dirty and stand on the front lines with you if necessary.”
Michael Silberman, former Director, Mobilisation Lab, Greenpeace
“Gillian’s experience as a four-time executive director was exactly the kind of expertise we needed in a consultant. Her rigorous, thorough and thoughtful approach, as well as her commitment to delivering clear, concise materials on a tight deadline made her an absolute pleasure to work with on our strategic planning.”
Janet Haven, Executive Director, Data & Society
“Having known Gillian for years, I am continually impressed by her strategic vision and her ability to translate complex and systemic issues into action-oriented and impactful plans. I have also seen her ability to effectively transform and lead teams and appreciate her ability to coach other leaders.”
Sarah Pray, Director of Advocacy, Economic Justice Program, Open Society Foundations
“Gillian guided me through a tricky professional situation by actively listening, asking the difficult questions and ensuring I came out on the other side stronger. She is committed to coaching her clients to learn in a safe and respectful environment and provides lots of really helpful tools along the way. Her own senior leadership experience makes her fully attuned to the range of challenges one faces when heading organizations and she brings her whole mind and heart into supporting her clients to thrive as social change leaders.”
Executive Coaching Client
“This team retreat was the most useful way we could have spent two days. I was actually dreading the thought of it at this busy time. A lot of what we achieved is because of the great facilitation – you are very intuitive and know when to probe and stop. It was perfect!”
“Gillian worked with the Center for Community Change for over a year in many capacities – helping design and manage our process of strategic planning and organizational change, helping conceptualize and co-facilitate all-staff retreats, and evaluating our operations team and guiding them to craft a vision for a new approach to their work. She is a quick study, a skilled facilitator with the added and unique bonus of strategic insight and experience to offer, and she has keen intuitive abilities that are critical to shepherding processes of transformation in organizational cultures. She undoubtedly helped us go further and faster than we would have without her.”
Deepak Bhargava, former Executive Director, Center for Community Change
“Gillian is a dynamo. Her strategic smarts, political saavy, thoroughness and resourcefulness make her a fabulous collaborator and co-conspirator.”
Tia Lessin, Academy Award Nominated Director of Trouble the Water
“Gillian is unique in that she possesses unbelievably varied skill sets. Bertha Philanthropies asked her to work on a strategy to launch the Bertha Foundation’s work on legal reform. Being an attorney herself and a long-time social justice advocate worldwide, she was the ideal candidate to take that on. With her laser beam focus combined with an ability to see the big picture, you can be sure she will deliver a product of the highest quality.”
Rebecca Lichtenfeld, former Media Program Director, Bertha Philanthropies UK
“Gillian is one of those rare people who can hold forth big vision for the world and also make sure the work happens. A visionary and a planner. A strategist and manager. It’s a rare combination, and I learned a tremendous amount from working with her.”
Natalie Foster, Co-Founder and former Executive Director, Rebuild the Dream
“Gillian has a great deal of credibility as a consultant because she’s led highly successful organizations. She has a broad toolkit, and the personal experience to know when to use what approach; she helped us choose from a range of possible tools and approaches to the strategic planning we engaged her for. I found Gillian particularly sensitive to and enlightened on the human side of change: she intuitively understands that the work we do is hard and complicated and that planning of any kind often comes on top of existing commitments and a full schedule. She helped us anticipate and navigate obstacles, and served as a thoughtful coach for me. I really enjoyed the work we did together; Gillian has a great sense of humor, a palpable sense of commitment, vast stores of energy and the smarts to make these characteristics useful to others. Gillian’s work was invaluable in getting Verité to a place of alignment and transparency beyond any we’d achieved yet.”
Dan Viederman, former CEO, Verité
“Gillian is a force of nature. She facilitated our organization’s 5 year strategic planning and organizational restructuring process across four offices and also met a tight deadline to prepare corporate accountability video and training materials for campaigners and lawyers. Her vision, intuition and ability to stimulate energy and creativity were important for us.”
Daniel King, former Mekong Legal Director, EarthRights International
“Gillian’s professional experience and expertise enables her to focus both on the inside and outside of our organization. Her feedback and advice is candid, supportive, and always on point. Her contributions have been invaluable.”
Molly Murphy, Co-Director, Working Films