Advocate Connie Rice with 2013 John W. Gardner Leadership Award

(WASHINGTON, June 18, 2013)— Independent Sector is pleased to announce that Constance L. “Connie” Rice will be named the 2013 John W. Gardner Leadership Award recipient at the IS National Conference on Monday, September 30 in New York City.

Connie is being recognized for her outstanding and innovative leadership in changing the national field of violence prevention and fighting for civil rights. By bringing together former gang members, law enforcement officials, nonprofit service organizations, families, and communities, Connie became the indispensable architect of the transformation of the City of Los Angeles’ approach both to policing and to its longstanding gang epidemic. The comprehensive violence reduction strategy that has been so transformational in Los Angeles is now serving as a model for Columbus, Ohio, Memphis, Tenn., Seattle, Wash., and other cities in the nation.

“Connie’s background, her vision, and her passion make her an ideal recipient for Independent Sector’s most prestigious award,” said Bernard J. Milano, president and trustee of KPMG Foundation and chair of the 2013 John W. Gardner Leadership Award Committee. “Her unconventional, outside-of-the-box thinking, coupled with her desire to collaborate with key partners, has illustrated that solving our toughest societal problems requires a multi-faceted approach.”

Connie is the co-founder of Advancement Project, a public policy organization that works to engineer large-scale systems change to remedy inequality, expand opportunity, and open paths to upward mobility. A multi-sector team led by Advancement Project conducted a landmark assessment of the City of Los Angeles’ anti-gang programs and produced the seminal report on gang violence in the city. This 2007 report, “A Call to Action,” served as a blueprint to improve safety through a comprehensive community-based strategy that targeted the underlying reasons for violence.

Five years after the study’s publication, the city now has a centralized accountability structure around achieving community safety through its Office of Gang Reduction and Youth Development; more public sector resources are being invested in the highest need communities; suppression-only strategies towards gang violence have been tempered by efforts to build prevention and intervention resources; and law enforcement has become more open to partnering with community stakeholders, including gang intervention workers. Los Angeles’ homicide rate is at its lowest levels since the 1960’s, gang violence in the city has been reduced by 15 percent, and her initiatives continue to be recognized as a national model for violence reduction.

Connie is also a former civil rights litigation lawyer for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund (LDF). While at the LDF, she spearheaded lawsuits challenging the police abuse that led to the deadliest riots in Los Angeles history.

“It is a distinct honor to present this award to Connie Rice,” said Diana Aviv, president and CEO of Independent Sector. “Her transformative leadership is a powerful example of how one person’s vision and passion can create systemic change. She serves as an inspiration to those working in the nonprofit and philanthropic sector.”

Connie cites her proudest achievement as the building of 147 new schools in low-income Los Angeles communities. “Before these schools were built, children were sitting on the floor and the windowsills. The bathrooms were so unsanitary that kids waited until they got home,” she said. “It’s amazing what you can do when you get the military community to sit down with the public sector, and the school board, together with families and communities. We raised $40 billion in new school construction bonds. And my proudest moment came when, on a visit to one of these brand new schools, a Mexican-American child stopped me and said, ‘You know, they really do care about us. I used to think they didn’t.’”

Connie is a graduate of Harvard College and the New York University School of Law.

The award is named after John W. Gardner, the founding chair of Independent Sector. An advisor to six presidents and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Gardner was an active and distinguished participant in America’s educational, philanthropic, and political life, and his many achievements demonstrate the ideals this award celebrates. The award is generously supported by the William Randolph Hearst Foundations and includes a replica of an original bust of John Gardner by the late sculptor Frederick Hart.

Learn more about the John W. Gardner Award.


Independent Sector is a leadership network of approximately 600 nonprofits, foundations, and corporate giving programs committed to advancing the common good. Our nonpartisan coalition leads, strengthens, and mobilizes the sector; we advocate for public policies that fortify our communities; and we create unparalleled resources so staff, boards, and volunteers can further their missions and increase their impact.

Types: Press Release
Global Topics: Leadership Development, Upswell