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The Burden of Brilliance

A Conversation with Acooa Ellis

Acooa Ellis took on the role of Senior Vice President of Community Impact at Greater Twin Cities United Way in May 2018. In this episode, Acooa and Chanda talk about recent changes at the United Way, the challenges and pressures they face as African American women of color, and their hopes for the future of philanthropy.

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About Our Guest

Acooa Ellis

Acooa directs United Way grantmaking, coalition engagement, systems change, public policy and the agency’s 2-1-1- resource helpline. A champion for equity, she has lobbied in multiple states and worked at the local level to advance critical business and civic objectives. Acooa currently co-chairs MinneMinds, a coalition focused on prioritizing investment in the education of Minnesota’s most vulnerable learners.

Acooa previously served as Director of Social Justice Advocacy for Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Prior to that, she managed government relations for the southern region of the country on behalf of Target Corporation. As legislative aide to former St. Paul city council member and current Mayor Melvin Carter, Acooa created the community development strategy for what later became the St. Paul Promise Neighborhood. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and sociology from the University of Iowa and and a master’s degree in public policy from University of Minnesota. Acooa is mom to her very own superhero, her 5-year-old son.