Kelly Bates


As president, Kelly 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 years has led advocacy, organizing, racial justice, and women’s organizations promoting collaboration, equity, and civic engagement, both locally and nationally. She seeks each day to develop the heart, skills, and mindset to be 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 people, social movements, and inclusive politics. An experienced trainer and facilitator with an approach that is creative, accessible, welcoming, focused and direct, Kelly is known for her unique skills in supporting high conflict teams to become more collaborative. She has consulted with nonprofits, foundations, academic institutions, corporations, and businesses to help them navigate planning, equity, and organizational challenges.

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 funding organizations to expand democracy in communities of color and low-income communities. For ten years, Kelly led a consulting and training practice working with social change organizations and other institutions in the United States around issues of power, diversity, and organizational development.

Kelly graduated from the State University of New York at Albany in 1991, 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 mom, an avid runner, a cycling instructor, and a closeted poet.

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