What I Do

I have placed my consulting practice on hold while serving since 2021 as the Chief Climate Officer and Deputy Assistant Administrator at the US Agency for International Development (USAID). I expect to restart my consulting practice in early 2025.

I was appointed to these roles by the Biden Administration in August of 2021 and as Deputy Assistant Administrator I am responsible for oversight of technical teams advising missions in 80 countries worldwide in areas including climate, energy, infrastructure and engineering, ocean plastics pollution, environmental and social risk analysis, biodiversity and land resource and governance work at USAID. In my role as Chief Climate Officer, I led completion of the Climate Strategy for the Agency covering the period of 2022-2030 and am working to advance a "whole of Agency" response to the crisis to maximize the climate benefits of USAID's budget of more than $25 billion per year. I also serve as the lead USAID climate liaison with other federal agencies, the US Congress, NGOs, foreign governments and international and regional organizations.

When I am consulting, I specialize in providing strategic consulting to non-profits, foundations, universities, governments and impact oriented 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 Executive Directorship in two decades in 2019, I resumed my consulting practice and had the honor of working with over 70 non-profits, foundations, companies and the Obama White House. I have supported teams through strategic planning, retreat design and facilitation, transformational change, leadership transitions, organizational development and reorganization. I have also provided extensive individualized coaching to executives and other senior team members.

I chose to return to consulting after over 20 years in leadership because I wanted to focus my energy at a strategic  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  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 even greater impact. I have strong and extensive professional networks globally that 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:

Helped lead strategic planning, reorganization and retreats for multiple organizations across sectors
Coached Executive Directors through all aspects of start-up operations and leading mature organizations
Supported President Obama's White House Office for Public Engagement by assessing their relationships with civil society organizations across multiple sectors
Performed independent SWOT (Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats) analyses for NGOs to set the stage for long term planning work
Served as Producer/Engagement Manager for a documentary on money in politics that premiered at Sundance and had a nationwide theatrical release
Designed an outreach campaign and recruited distribution partners for a film aimed at helping end child slavery in the rug industry
Completed comprehensive 360 performance evaluations for Executive Directors on behalf of their Boards
Designed a philanthropic strategy on progressive global legal reform efforts
Worked as the lead advocacy specialist for a philanthropic consulting firm and helped a major foundation commit to adding advocacy oriented grants to their existing services oriented portfolio
Designed a participatory skills share for a global NGO to improve digital mobilization strategies
Shaped strategy for a newly formed global foundation, built and managed their grantee portfolio and recruited their new Foundation Manager
Chaired an Independent Commitee overseeing an investigation into misconduct by a CEO

My Qualifications


Dynamic and award-winning four-time CEO, senior government diplomat, campaigner, serial social entrepreneur, attorney and film maker experienced in advancing social justice and environmental campaigns in the United States and around the world. Fluent in English and proficient in Spanish.

Currently serving USAID's Chief Climate Officer and as Deputy Assistant Administrator (member of the Senior Management team of the Agency); Former CEO of Global Witness based in London; Former Campaign Director/Executive Director of 1 Sky (since merged with 350.org); Former Executive Director of WITNESS
Demonstrated success in government leadership and in managing all aspects of organizational growth, including building and managing senior teams, policy advocacy, online strategy and organizing, field operations, communications and multi-media production, outreach, operations, fundraising (more than $50 million raised to date), human resources and financial management.
Strong track record in strategic consulting, coaching and facilitation, and in conceiving and executing outcomes-driven strategic plans and communications strategies.

What Clients Are Saying

Clients to Date


Non-Profit Organizations and Movements: Arts on the Block (Maryland), Ashoka (Global), Avaaz (Global), Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids/Global Health Advocacy Incubator (Global), Canadian Civil Liberties Association (Canada), Center for Community Change (USA), Center for Progressive Leadership (USA), Center for Protest Law and Litigation (USA), Changemakers (Global), Color of Change (USA), Common Cause (USA), Crimes of War (Global), Data & Society (Global), EarthRights International (Global), Earthworks (Global), Global Witness (Global), Goodweave (Global), Greenpeace (Global), Headcount (USA), Lie Detectors (Europe), New Media Ventures (USA), Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse (Global), Parents for Future Global (Global), Parents Together (US), Plastic Pollution Coalition (Global), Publish What You Pay (Global), Rare (Global), Rebuild the Dream (USA), Sierra Club (USA), Stand.Earth (Global), streetfootballworld (Global), SumofUs (Global), Tahirih Justice Center (USA), The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (Global), Verite (Global), We Are Family Foundation (Global) Government and Multi-Lateral Institutions: The White House Office of Public Engagement (USA), The World Bank (Global) Foundations & Philanthropic Advisories Arabella Advisors (Global), Astra Foundation (Global), Bertha Philanthropies Services (Global), Fund for the Republic (now Issue One) (USA), James Beard Foundation (USA), Mertz Gilmore Foundation (USA), Oak Philanthropies Ltd. (Global), Open Society Foundation (Global), Public Welfare Foundation (Global), Purpose Foundation (Global), Robin Hood Foundation (New York City), Rockefeller Brothers Fund (Global), Rockefeller Family Fund/Equation Campaign (Global), Schooner Foundation (Global), Skoll Foundation (Global), True Costs Initiative (Global), Trust Africa (Global), Wallace Global Fund (Global), Zimbabwe Alliance (Global) Universities: African Leadership University (Africa), Johns Hopkins University (Global), MIT Media Lab (Global), Antioch University New England (USA) Film Outreach and Production Citizen Koch, Bayside Productions LLC (USA), EarthRights International (Global), WITNESS (Global), Working Films (USA) Corporations Arabella Advisors (Global), GrupoTotalCom/Starts With You (Latin America), Peers (Global), Reboot (Global), Witter Ventures (Global)

My Professional Biography


Gillian Caldwell has placed her consulting practice on hold since 2021 while she works full time on climate issues as a Biden Appointee in the US Government. She expects to restart her consulting practice in early 2025.

Gillian Caldwell was appointed by the Biden Administration in August of 2021 to serve in the US Agency for International Development (USAID). As the Chief Climate Officer and Deputy Assistant Administrator of USAID, she is responsible for the leadership of technical teams advising USAID offices in more than 80 countries worldwide in areas including climate, energy, infrastructure and engineering, ocean plastics pollution, environmental and social risk analysis, urban interventions, biodiversity and land resource and governance. In her role as Chief Climate Officer, she led completion of the most ambitious Climate Strategy ever for the Agency covering the period from 2022-2030 and is working to advance a "whole of Agency" response to the crisis to maximize the climate benefits of USAID's budget of more than $25 billion per year. She also serves as the lead USAID climate liaison with other federal agencies, the US Congress, NGOs, foreign governments and international and regional organizations.

From 2019-2021, Gillian was consulting with a focus on strategic planning, organizational development and executive coaching.

From 2015-2019, she served as Global Witness' London-based CEO, focusing on investigating natural resource extraction and associated environmental and human rights abuses in order to drive policy changes. During her tenure at Global Witness, the team generated numerous systems-changing impacts, reshaped their strategy to double down on the climate crisis, strengthened its governance, management team and communications capabilities, significantly increased its budget, financial reserves and staff size and opened a new office in Brussels to complement those already in place in London, Washington DC and Beijing.

From 2010-2015, Gillian was consulting full time based from the Washington DC area and Chiang Mai, Thailand. In her consulting practice, Gillian has served as a strategist helping non-profits, foundations, films universities and socially responsible corporations strengthen their organizational capacity, sharpen their strategy and increase their impact.

In 2010, Gillian completed three years as Campaign Director/Executive Director for 1Sky (now merged with 350.org), which she helped build from inception. As a start up short term campaign, 1Sky grew within two years to become the largest collaborative climate and energy campaign in the United States, and combined the force of over 640 allied organizations, a team of organizers in 23 states nationwide, more than 200,000 climate advocates and more than 4000 volunteer “Climate Precinct Captains” covering every state and Congressional District in the country.

Prior to launching the 1Sky campaign, Gillian served as the Executive Director of WITNESS, which was co-founded by musician Peter Gabriel and uses the power of video to open the eyes of the world to human rights abuses. Gillian led WITNESS' rapid expansion during her decade of leadership and helped produce over 30 documentary shorts and films for use in systems-changing advocacy campaigns in partnership with NGOs in dozens of countries around the world. During that time, she also worked with many well-known musicians and actors, including Angelina Jolie, Jackson Browne, Susan Sarandon, and Tim Robbins.

Before her 10 years of leadership at WITNESS, Gillian directed a global undercover investigation and global campaign on the Russian mafia’s involvement in trafficking women for forced prostitution, and produced and directed an influential documentary film which was televised internationally in multiple languages and helped spur policy changes worldwide.

Gillian is also co-editor and author of a book titled Video for Change: A Guide to Advocacy and Activism (Pluto Press, 2005). She received her magna cum laude BA from Harvard University and a cum laude J.D. from Georgetown University, where she was recognized as a Public Interest Law Scholar.

She is a recipient of numerous awards and honors for social entrepreneurship, including an Echoing Green fellowship, the Skoll Award, the Schwab Foundation Award and an Ashoka Award.  She was also honored as an MIT Directors Fellow and given a Next Generation Leadership Award by the Rockefeller Foundation. Gillian has benefited from several intensive leadership development programs, including Rockwood’s 'Art of Leadership' and their yearlong program 'Leading from the Inside Out' as well as a Master Class on the 'Art of Transformational Consulting' with Robert Gass.

Gillian has previously served on the Board of Directors for EarthRights International and the Purpose Foundation as well as on numerous Advisory Boards and Committees. She is an athlete and a mom who has lived and worked on four continents. She now resides in the Washington DC area. Her family includes her husband Louis Spitzer (the former Global Digital Director at the ONE campaign co-founded by musician Bono), their young adult children Tess and Finley, and two adopted mutts, Pip and Karma.

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