Michael Davidson serves as the President and CEO of Openlands. Davidson is an acclaimed leader with over 25 years of experience in mission-driven organizations, most recently as the Senior Director of Community Impact at The Chicago Community Trust. During his 12 years at the Trust, he supported the transformation of the community foundation from a traditional grant-making institution to a dynamically engaged civic and community leader with a focus on closing the region’s racial and ethnic wealth gap. Since 2019, Davidson led the Trust’s strategy to invest $100MM to improve built and natural environments in partnership with disinvested Black and Latinx neighborhoods. He was instrumental in the founding and success of bold initiatives such as Elevated Chicago, Community Desk Chicago, We Rise Together: For an Equitable and Just Recovery, Food:Land:Opportunity – Localizing the Chicago Foodshed, Illinois Agri-Food Alliance, Proofing Station, an impact-first fund to capitalize local food system enterprises, and the Trust’s own Pre-Development Fund, which provides grant capital to Black and Latinx real estate developers.
Davidson first worked with Openlands as part of the Campaign for Sensible Growth in the 2000s. Collaborating with the public, nonprofit, and private sectors, the coalition achieved pivotal legislative victories to curb urban sprawl in northeastern Illinois –notably, the establishment of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. Later, Davidson would serve as program officer for the Great Lakes Protection Fund before moving over to the Trust to create and lead the foundation’s sustainable development funding priority, which helped launch the Next Century Conservation Plan, the first master plan of the Forest Preserves of Cook County, and Our Great Rivers, the first comprehensive vision for the entirety of Chicago’s river system. Davidson and his team invested over $5MM in projects and initiatives to make the system healthier and more accessible in underinvested Chicago neighborhoods.
Davidson was the founder of the Prairie State Local Government Sustainability Network and is a founding member of the Sustainable Communities Division of the American Planning Association. He earned a graduate degree from DePaul University’s School of Public Service and has authored and produced over 30 articles and technical reports on contemporary planning issues.
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