Dr. Akilah Watkins is the Senior Advisor to the Board of Directors for the Center for Community Progress, America’s nonprofit leader for turning “Vacant Spaces into Vibrant Places.”
Prior to this role, Dr. Watkins served as President and Chief Executive Officer of the organization. A 25-year national thought leader, conference speaker, and nonprofit executive, Dr. Watkins’ work began at the age of 14 when she led efforts to convert a vacant lot and abandoned home into a community center in Roosevelt, New York.
Since then, she served as an executive leader for nonprofits and community development initiatives which includes work with NeighborWorks America, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Obama administration through the Center for the Study for Social Policy.
Her career’s work has focused on helping people, communities, and local and federal government drive impactful reform for key issues including land banking, property vacancy, childhood obesity, community health, and economic development.
Dr. Watkins is an alumna of the University of Illinois at Chicago where she received her Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology and a Master of Arts in Sociology. She is also a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University where she received two Master of Science degrees in Education and Community Economic Development. Dr. Watkins received her Bachelor of Science in Community and Human Services from the State University of New York, Empire State College.
Dr. Watkins’ work as an equity advocate included leading work in more than 300 communities in 48 states at Community Progress. Collaboratively, Community Progress works to grow strong, equitable communities where vacant, abandoned, and deteriorated properties are transformed into assets for neighbors and neighborhoods.
In addition to her work at Community Progress, Dr. Watkins serves as President for the Board of Directors of Grounded Solutions Network, Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors of Up for Growth Action, an Executive Committee member of the National Housing Conference’s Board of Governors, and a Board member for Common Future.