Austin Coming Together (ACT)
Darnell Shields is the Executive Director at Austin Coming Together (ACT), a nonprofit organization located on Chicago’s Westside. A passionate builder of relationships and innovative developments, Darnell is a lifelong Austin resident and co-owner of HairTech the Salon, a local business he started with his wife.
In 2010, Darnell joined Austin Coming Together as a volunteer, helping the organization improve their technology and business operations. It wasn’t long after that he was offered a full time position moving him from IT to Director of Operations and in 2016, the board nominated him to become the Executive Director of ACT. Throughout his time at ACT, Darnell has been able to galvanize hundreds of organizations and community leaders to take on Austin’s challenges with passion and commitment.
Under his leadership, ACT has helped the Austin community become a United Way Neighborhood Network, where ACT leads a community hub initiative to develop a referral network of service providers that will help maximize social supports for Austin residents. ACT has also led an unprecedented effort in partnership with Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC Chicago) to bring together over 400 Austin community stakeholders to design and publish the Austin community’s first-ever Quality of Life Plan (QLP). The plan is a five year comprehensive strategy comprised of 23 strategies and 80+ actions to address seven issues areas identified by the community. The QLP issue areas are Community Narrative, Economic Development, Education, Housing, Public Safety, Youth Empowerment, and Civic Engagement.
Since publishing the plan, ACT has garnered over $2.6 million in new investments to implement the plan and has been recognized by the Metropolitan Planning Council with the Burnham Award for Excellence in Planning.
Darnell holds two Associate degrees from Wilbur Wright-City Colleges of Chicago (Applied Sciences & Liberal Arts) and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Entrepreneurship from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Darnell was named a 2015 Fellow of the Civic Leadership Academy at the University of Chicago. In addition to this distinction, Darnell received the Community Leadership Award in 2017 from the United Way of Metro Chicago, is a recipient of the Martin Luther King – Keepers Of The Dream Award in 2019 from the Leaders Network, and was included on the Axelson Center for Nonprofit Management’s 2019 list of the top 20 nonprofit executives who demonstrate outstanding work, service, and leadership in the nonprofit sector. Recently, he was chosen as Co-Chair of Mayor Lightfoot’s Business, Economic and Neighborhood Development Transition Committee. He currently serves as Vice Chairman on the board of directors of the Jane Addams Resource Corporation and is a board member of Friends of the Children’s Chicago chapter based in the Austin community.