Greater Twin Cities United Way announced government and policy executive Acooa Ellis will be joining the organization on May 21 as senior vice president of Community Impact.
In her role she will work to find community solutions around education, jobs and safety-net services to support people living in poverty. Specifically, she will oversee grant making, coalition engagement, systems change, public policy and United Way’s 2-1-1 resource helpline.
“Acooa’s nonprofit, public and private sector experience is outstanding,” said Sarah Caruso, president and CEO, Greater Twin Cities United Way. “I’m really looking forward to working with her to advance our long-range plan with the goal of tackling poverty at the micro- and macro-levels. She will focus on fostering community collaboration and influencing and shaping the systems at play to help strengthen the nonprofit sector.”
Most recently, Ellis served as director of social justice advocacy at Catholic Charities. According to the nonprofit, under her leadership, the organization executed a public engagement strategy to secure millions of dollars from the state for permanent supportive housing and wrap-around services for people experiencing homelessness.
Prior to Catholic Charities, Ellis worked in government affairs and supplier diversity at Target Corporation. She also worked as a legislative aide to former St. Paul City Councilmember Melvin Carter (who is now mayor of St. Paul). In that position, she created the community development strategy for what later became the St. Paul Promise Neighborhood – a network of support to improve education outcomes and pave pathways of opportunity for children and their families in the Frogtown and Summit-University neighborhoods.
Ellis started her career in direct service to families and adults at Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Twin Cities and Summit Academy OIC.
Ellis currently co-chairs the Governor's Task Force on Housing, charged with producing recommendations to equitably address the state’s housing crisis. She also is a St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce board member. Previously, Ellis served as co-chair of the Metropolitan Council Equity Advisory Committee and was a Citizens League board member, as well as on the advisory board of the multicultural endowment fund of the St. Paul Foundation.
Ellis holds a master’s degree in public policy from the University of Minnesota, with emphasis in social policy and community economic development, and a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and sociology from the University of Iowa.