Photo: Women’s Global Education Project

Who We Are

The Simmons Center for Global Chicago creates strategic pathways for interaction and collaboration among nonprofit organizations in the global development sector. We foster connections between these nonprofit groups and the wider international landscape in the greater Chicago region.

Prioritizing and amplifying the work of international NGOs, we complement the work of peer organizations, enhancing the profile of Chicago as a global city. Naming the Center in honor of Adele Simmons is a fitting tribute to acknowledge and celebrate Adele’s commitment to the City of Chicago, the philanthropic and nonprofit sector, and the Global Chicago concept.

What is the Simmons Center?

Our Story

Chicago houses a vibrant mosaic of internationally engaged nonprofits, civic groups, cultural organizations, higher education institutions, philanthropists, residents, and businesses. This globally active community connects people worldwide and promotes strategies designed to make the world a better place.

The concept of highlighting Chicago as a global city is not new.


In 1999, under Adele Simmons’ leadership, the MacArthur Foundation commissioneto highlight Chicago’s assets and opportunities as a global city.

From 2003-2010, the Chicago Global Donors Network (CGDN) served as a national model for connecting globally engaged funders to learn from each other and the groups they supported.


In 2007, a searchable database for locally-based, globally-focused nonprofit organizations was created. Primarily a tool for funders and housed on the CCGA’s “Global Chicago” website, the database was created in collaboration with CCGA, CGDN, the Chicago Community Trust, WBEZ’s global activism series, and the Donors Forum. It was a useful tool but logistically could not be maintained as a collaborative project.


In 2015 a Global Cities project was created and became part of ‍

For 25 years, WBEZ’s Worldview radio program and Global Activism series featured weekly highlights of locally- and regionally-based nonprofits working global development. The show connected groups with each other and the public through a popular annual Global Activism Expo.

The Simmons Center for Global Chicago makes it easier for locally-based, globally-minded individuals and groups to connect, by providing information for the nonprofit community, donors, activists, job seekers, and academics looking for collaboration and networking. The Simmons Center provides the platform for these connections to flourish.

Adele Simmons

Meet Adele Simmons

The Simmons Center is named in honor of Adele Smith Simmons, a global philanthropist active in Chicago civic affairs.

Born and raised in the Chicago area, Adele graduated from Harvard University and received her doctorate from Oxford University in African studies.

Adele’s career included several academic posts:

  • Dean of Jackson College at Tufts University,
  • Dean of Students and Assistant Professor of History at Princeton University, where she was the first woman to be appointed as a dean. 
  • President of Hampshire College, its first woman president.

She returned to Chicago to become President of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation serving for ten years overseeing global grants of over $175 million a year.

As founder and president of Global Philanthropy Partnership, Adele works to strengthen the infrastructure that supports global donors and sustainable cities, including Chicago. She is a founder of Global Chicago and served as co-chair of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs studies.

Adele led the region-wide centennial marking the 100th Anniversary of the 1909 Daniel Burnham and Edward Bennett Plan of Chicago and was the Vice-Chair of the regional planning group, Chicago Metropolis 2020.

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