Fighting to Deliver on the Promise of Opportunity for All

Independent Sector is proud to announce that it will honor Angela Glover Blackwell, founder of PolicyLink, with the 2018 John W. Gardner Leadership Award.

Angela founded PolicyLink in 1999 to drive policy solutions that address equity. In nearly two decades at the organization’s helm, her methods and vision for achieving equity have touched thousands of individuals and radically altered how organizations pursue equitable outcomes for the nation’s most vulnerable communities.

Independent Sector’s John W. Gardner Leadership Award recognizes an American visionary whose body of work has empowered constituencies, strengthened participation, inspired movements, and improved the quality of life on our planet. It is named for the founding chairman of IS, John W. Gardner, a cabinet member in the Johnson Administration and a champion of the charitable sector’s role in driving social change.

“For many years now, Angela Glover Blackwell has been at the forefront of solutions for social and economic equity in our nation,” said Daniel J. Cardinali, president and CEO of Independent Sector. “Though there is much work ahead in rectifying systemic injustice, Angela had the foresight to recognize the transformative role public policy could play in expanding access and opportunity to historically underserved and low-income populations. She inspires us to think beyond existing limitations and focus our efforts to improve lives and strengthen our communities on the biggest attainable scale.”

Prior to founding PolicyLink, Angela served as a senior vice president at the Rockefeller Foundation, overseeing the foundation’s Domestic and Cultural Divisions between 1995 and 1998. Angela’s three-year tenure coincided with a $900 million growth in the foundation’s endowment. In that time, she also developed Rockefeller’s Next Generation Leadership and Building Democracy programs.

Angela is a lawyer by training and worked as a partner for nationally known public interest law firm Public Advocates between 1977 and 1987. In 1987, she gained national recognition when she founded Urban Strategies Council in Oakland, California. She is a sought-after voice on equity issues broadly, and how such issues affect communities of color and low-income communities in particular. She contributes regularly to major news publications like the New York Times, Washington Post, and Salon on equity issues, and was featured in conversation with Henry Louis Gates in the final segment of a PBS series that premiered in 2013 called The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross. Angela’s most recent thought leadership on issues of equity, “Civil Society and Authentic Engagement in a Diverse Nation,” was one of four articles used by Independent Sector and the Stanford Social Innovation Review to launch a new series on civil society in the 21st century.

Angela is noted for her investment in young leaders and dedication to creating pipelines to sustain work over time.

“Angela’s commitment to equity comes with a long-term vision,” said Fred Ali, president and CEO of the Weingart Foundation and chair of the 2018 John W. Gardner Leadership Award Committee. “She is incredibly intentional about guiding and inspiring a pipeline of leaders—and young leaders of color, in particular—who will continue well into the future to work for a fair, inclusive nation that delivers on the promise of opportunity for all.”

Angela recently handed over the chief executive reins at PolicyLink to one such leader she has mentored, Michael McAfee. McAfee, currently an IS board member, joined PolicyLink in 2011.

“Angela’s legacy of service is grounded in her passionate belief in the wisdom, voice, and experience of local leaders,” McAfee said. “She instills that passion in others by lifting up the work being done on the ground throughout the nation and translating it into enduring systems changes and policy wins. Her unremitting focus on racial and economic equity inspires equity advocates to chart their own course toward achieving equity—just and fair inclusion into a society in which all can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential.”

Angela will accept the Gardner Leadership Award at Upswell, an annual gathering of changemakers powered by Independent Sector, this November 14-16 in Los Angeles, California. Learn more at

Types: Blog
Global Topics: Civil Rights, IS Member, Leadership Development, Public Policy, Race, Equity, and Inclusion, Upswell