About Gail Schechter

Gail Schechter is a pioneer in adapting grassroots organizing strategies that have typically been employed in disadvantaged neighborhoods to neighborhoods of all types. Whether individuals have needs of their own or moral needs on behalf of others, together theirs is a united voice for social justice.

Gail has a foot in diverse worlds, having been born and raised in several Brooklyn and Queens neighborhoods of New York City, and since 1990, raising her own family and working side by side with neighbors in the Chicago suburbs of Wilmette and Skokie.

Gail has been a leader in tenant and community organizing, fair and affordable housing advocacy, discrimination investigation, public school funding reform, and public policy research and development since 1984.

From 1993 to 2016, she served as Executive Director of Open Communities, the north suburban Chicago area’s premier housing, economic and social justice organization. Gail got her start as a tenant organizer and quickly ascending to Director of Organizing for a Brooklyn not-for- profit group, now called St. Nicks Alliance, and later co-founded the Chicago Mutual Housing Network while at the Center for Neighborhood Technology.

In 2012, she was appointed by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn to fill the “affordable housing advocate” seat on the newly constituted State Housing Appeals Board, the enforcement body for the Affordable Housing Planning and Appeal Act, legislation which she supported when it was drafted in 2003. She also serves on the Board of Directors of Chicago Area Peace Action.

She has taught graduate courses in public policy and civic engagement for Northwestern University’s School of Professional Studies. She is also an accomplished organizational developer, writer, and curriculum designer and trainer. She is a trained strategic planning facilitator through the Institute of Cultural Affairs. Most recently, she authored the definitive history of the North Shore Summer Project and its evolution to Open Communities for The Chicago Freedom Movement: Martin Luther King Jr. and Civil Rights Activism in the North (University of Kentucky Press), released in April 2016.

She is the recipient of numerous awards for her social justice advocacy including:

  • Faith In Action Award, St. Paul AME Church, Glencoe (King Day, 2016)
  • Community Service Award, Evanston-North Shore NAACP (2013)
  • Rayna and Marvin Miller Housing Justice Award, Open Communities (2013)
  • BridgeBuilder Award, Justice & Peace Committee of the Chicago Province of the Society of the Divine Word (2005)
  • Humanitarian of the Year, North Shore-Barrington Association of Realtors (2004)
  • Community Service Award, Evanston-North Shore NAACP (2003)
  • Champion of the Public Interest, Business and Professional People in the Public Interest (BPI) at their Annual Law Day Dinner, May 1, 2001
  • Golden Trowel Award, Housing Action Illinois, for her community organizing campaigns for fair and affordable housing in Morton Grove (1999) and Wilmette (2002)

Ms. Schechter holds a B.A. with Honors in History from Oberlin College and an M.A. in Urban and Environmental Policy from Tufts University. She lives in Skokie.

More detail is available on her LinkedIn page.