Photo: Women’s Global Education Project


Our mission: We connect the international community in Chicago for greater global development impact.

Our vision: Chicago as a hub for internationally focused nonprofit organizations, partners, and supporters collaborating to realize positive change in the world.


What is the Simmons Center?

Our Core Values

  • We embrace the power of community.

    Chicago hosts a vast community of international development professionals engaged in critical work across the globe. At the Simmons Center, we value this essential work and support positive change around the world. We connect nonprofit global activists with each other and with other stakeholders across Chicago. The Simmons Center shines a spotlight on the accomplishments of these talented and dedicated development experts, providing a forum to showcase Chicago’s richness, diversity, and reach in the field of international development.

  • We aspire for greater impact.

    At the Simmons Center, we increase the impact of individual efforts by uniting a community of global professionals. We value grassroots and indigenous solutions and encourage paradigm shifts within the Chicago global development community to increase reach and effectiveness. Through collective action and sharing of best practices, we inspire creativity and innovation, create opportunities and relationships, build capacity and expertise, and strengthen individual entities. The Simmons Center’s offerings unleash resources for programmatic impact, inspiring effective work to reach more people and prioritize the most vulnerable.

  • We confront the challenges of our time.

    We acknowledge that the field of international development reflects a complicated past. Historically, it has caused harm and exacerbated inequality. By challenging ourselves to examine the history of ethnocentric practices and neocolonial biases, we strive to dismantle this painful legacy. The Simmons Center provides unique opportunities for development experts to unite with urgency around this work, in alignment with the ambitious UN Sustainable Development Goals.

  • We promote the protection of human rights.

    We believe all people are entitled to respect, opportunity, equity, and dignity. At the Simmons Center, we seek to create an environment that engages in anti-racism practices and fosters transparency, inclusion, diversity, accountability, and equal participation. We reject discrimination based on religious beliefs, sexual orientation, gender identity, nationality, race, age, or ability. The Simmons Center welcomes members and partners on an equal footing, thus inspiring collaboration and relationship building, and embracing cultural diversity so we can become our most authentic and engaged selves.

Our Story

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

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

Several groups in Chicago support the global infrastructure, but none specifically addresses and connects the global nonprofit community. The Simmons Center for Global Chicago complements existing organizations and highlights Chicago as a global city while amplifying the work of the global nonprofit community. 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. 

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

  • In 1999, under Adele Simmons’ leadership, the MacArthur Foundation commissioned a report on Global Chicago to highlight Chicago’s assets and opportunities as a global city.
  • A Global Cities entity was created and became part of the The Chicago Council on Global Affairs (CCGA). This project broadened to research and connect global cities worldwide, with the first CCGA Global Cities Forum taking place in 2015, and annually thereafter, including virtually in 2020.
  • From 2003-2010, the Chicago Global Donors Network (CGDN) served as a national model for connecting globally engaged funders. Donors came together to successfully 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 (now Forefront). It was a useful tool but logistically could not be maintained as a collaborative project.
  • For 25 years, WBEZ’s Worldview radio program and Global Activism series featured weekly highlights of locally- and regionally-based nonprofits and individuals in the global development space, raising their profile to a broader audience. For a few years, the show connected groups with each other and the public through a popular annual Global Activism Expo.

Recognizing this history and the current gap for nonprofits in the sector, a 2019 Chicago Council on Global Affairs global strategy stakeholder report called for creating a hub to connect the globally-focused nonprofit sector and provide an effective means to capitalize on and amplify the benefits that these groups and their partners bring to the city.

The Simmons Center for Global Chicago meets this challenge by making it easier for locally-based, globally-minded individuals and groups to connect, and 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.