Senior Program Officer for Michigan Initiatives
Janell O’Keefe is the Senior Program Officer for Michigan Initiatives at Community Progress, America’s nonprofit leader for turning “Vacant Spaces into Vibrant Places.”
O’Keefe supports the organization’s technical assistance, leadership and education, research, and policy work throughout Michigan. Through this place-based program, she helps communities across the state better understand their vacancy challenges and develop new approaches to address and prevent vacant and deteriorated properties.
O’Keefe also spearheads the organization’s emerging research and education work on vacant land stewardship. Through this work, Community Progress aims to inspire and foster the necessary systems-level policy changes to support long-term, large-scale reuse of vacant land that will build healthier, more resilient communities across the nation.
This work follows on O’Keefe’s experience as co-founder of Keep Growing Detroit (KGD), an organization dedicated to fostering food sovereignty. While there, O’Keefe led internal program evaluation efforts and provided gardeners and farmers with land acquisition and ordinance compliance technical assistance, along with supporting the organization with a variety of planning and policy related initiatives.
O’Keefe also worked at the University of Michigan School of Social Work Technical Assistance Center, where she piloted the successful Real Estate Essentials program (now known as “Better Buildings, Better Blocks”), which equips Detroit residents with the basics of real estate development and empowers them to become neighborhood-based real estate developers. The program was a 2017 Knight Cities Challenge Winner.
O’Keefe earned a Master of Urban Planning degree, Master of Social Work degree, and Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthropology and Psychology from the University of Michigan. She is a licensed residential real estate agent in the state of Michigan.