Kelly Bates


As president, Kelly (she/her) leads the strategic direction of IISC and supports its dynamic and diverse team of consultants and trainers to meet the organization’s highest aspirations for social change and racial equity.

Kelly is a social changer, nonprofit civic leader, and lawyer who for more than twenty-five years has led advocacy, organizing, racial justice, and women’s organizations promoting collaboration, equity, and civic engagement, both locally and nationally. She strives each day to develop and embody the heart, skills, and mindset of a facilitative leader and civic innovator for progressive movement building across the country and in communities.

In both personal and professional settings, Kelly is known for her passionate belief in everyone’s potential and power, the ability of leaders to transcend barriers through shared leadership, and for organizations to do the work of justice. 

An experienced consultant, facilitator, and trainer with an approach that is creative, accessible, welcoming, focused and direct, Kelly is known for her unique skills in supporting leaders and high-conflict teams to become more collaborative. She has consulted to nonprofits, foundations, academic institutions, corporations, and businesses to help them navigate through times of challenge to more transformative, equitable and resilient futures. 

Prior to her work at IISC, Kelly was the founding executive director of the Elma Lewis Center for Civic Engagement, Learning, and Research at Emerson College. She also served as the executive director of Access Strategies Fund, a social justice foundation supporting organizations to expand democracy in communities of color and low-income communities. And she led a consulting and training practice working with social change organizations and other institutions in the United States around issues of power, oppression, difference, and organizational development before “DEI” was part of our national lexicon.

Kelly graduated from the State University of New York at Albany in 1991 with a background in African-American Studies, and from Boston University Law School in 1994. She served as adjunct faculty at Northeastern Law School and at Tufts University in the areas of civil rights law and social welfare policy. 

Kelly is a resident of Boston, and was raised in the vibrant and diverse neighborhood of Washington Heights, New York City.  She’s a #coolmom, fitness enthusiast and cycling instructor, and poet. She’s working on her first novel that takes readers through the twists and turns of a woman of color’s journey to public office, romance, and redemption, reminiscent of the pace and storylines of the TV series Scandal and House of Cards.

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