What I Do

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:

Helped lead strategic planning and team retreats for multiple organizations across sectors
Guided two long-time colleagues through a process of repairing their working relationship
Coached Executive Directors through all aspects of start-up operations and leading mature organizations
Designed a philanthropic strategy on progressive global legal reform efforts
Designed an outreach campaign and recruited distribution partners for a short film aimed at helping end child slavery in the rug industry
Served as Producer/Engagement Manager for a documentary on money in politics that premiered at Sundance and had a nationwide theatrical release
Performed independent SWOT (Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats) analyses for NGOs to set the stage for long term planning work
Completed comprehensive 360 performance evaluations for Executive Directors on behalf of their Boards
Did an analysis for President Obama's White House Office for Public Engagement to assess their working relationships with civil society across sectors
Shaped the program for a corporate-sponsored sustainability music festival
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

My Qualifications

Dynamic and award-winning four-time CEO, 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.
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 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.

What Clients Are Saying

“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!”

Retreat Participant


“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

My Past and Current Clients

Non-Profit Organizations: African Leadership University (Africa), Arts on the Block (Maryland), Ashoka (Global), Canadian Civil Liberties Association (Canada), Center for Community Change (USA), Center for Progressive Leadership (USA), Changemakers (Global), Color of Change (USA), Common Cause (USA), Crimes of War (Global), Data & Society (Global), EarthRights International (Global), Global Witness (Global), Goodweave (Global), Greenpeace (Global), Headcount (USA), Plastic Pollution Coalition (Global), Publish What You Pay (Global), Rare (Global), Rebuild the Dream (USA), Sierra Club (USA), streetfootballworld (Global), SumofUs (Global), The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (Global), Verite (Global), We Are Family Foundation (Global) Government: The White House Office of Public Engagement (USA), The World Bank (Global) Foundations & Philanthropic Advisories Arabella Advisors (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), Schooner Foundation (Global), Skoll Foundation (Global), Trust Africa (Global), Wallace Global Fund (Global), Zimbabwe Alliance (Global) Universities: 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), Witter Ventures (Global)

My Professional Biography


In July of 2019, Gillian Caldwell stepped down after serving for four years as Global Witness' London-based CEO and returned to the United States with her family to reopen her consulting practice. During her tenure at Global Witness from 2015-2019, the team generated numerous systems-changing impacts, reshaped 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 increase their impact. Her areas of expertise in the US and global contexts include strategic planning, organizational development, retreat design and facilitation, and executive coaching.

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 at the height of the 2009 Congressional debate, 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 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 currently serves on the board of EarthRights International and the Purpose Foundation. 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 children, Tess and Finley, and a mutt they adopted in Thailand named Trixie who looks like a black fox. She wishes she was better at playing the guitar and she really likes to sing.

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