Ellen Shepard » Speakers Bureau

Ely Speakers Bureau

Welcome to the Lambda Alpha International Ely-Chicago Chapter Speakers Bureau. Our chapter members offer themselves as a resource for you across a wide variety of land economics industries. Members of LAI Ely-Chicago have a minimum of 10 years of professional experience in their land economics field. They have been selected by their peers as worthy of recognition for their commitment to excellence. Click on a category below to find your next speaker, panelist or moderator from our membership.

If you are an LAI Ely-Chicago Chapter Member, click here to apply for the Speakers Bureau.

Photo of Ellen Shepard

Ellen Shepard

CEO, Community Allies
Cell Phone: (773) 732-1701 Website: Community Allies


Ellen Shepard is CEO of Community Allies, a Chicago-based consultancy working across North America to build neighborhoods and cities where prosperity and opportunity are accessible for all. Ellen works as a strategic advisor to community leaders (including non-profit directors, government officials and staff, and funders), to support their efforts towards equitable economic development and deep community engagement. Ellen is also a skilled facilitator, trained to convene critical group conversations and turn the results into actionable plans.

Recent projects have included:

  • Small Business Ecosystem Assessment. Ellen partnered with Common Future and Next Street to conduct an assessment of the support and capital ecosystem for small businesses owned by people of color in nine cities across the country. Funded by JP Morgan Chase, the research was grounded in a community engagement process that invited local leaders and business owners to co-develop solutions to fill ecosystem gaps.
  • Urban Institute. Facilitated a two-day convening of practitioners, funders, evaluators, and intermediaries from across the country working on multisite, cross-sector systems change initiatives in order to gather data on key research questions about systems change work, including issues of racial equity and community empowerment.
  • Artist’s Laboratory Theatre. Provided strategy for a three-day, arts-integrated community visioning festival that brought city officials together with residents of the South Fayetteville neighborhood to plan for community-driven revitalization that would benefit the long-time residents and business owners.
  • National Main Street Center. Authored the “Community Engagement for Main Street Transformation” guidebook and led community engagement training for Main Street directors.

Ellen is on faculty at Roosevelt University’s Masters of Arts in Community Development and Action and Masters of Public Administration programs. Recent courses have included “Community and Regional Economic Development,” “Theories of Urban Planning and Design,” and “The Public Sector, Social Justice, and Community Organizing.”

Ellen was formerly the executive director of the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce and Andersonville Development Corporation in Chicago. Under her leadership, the Andersonville neighborhood revived and gained national acclaim for its thriving business district and its use of economic localization, place-making, and historic preservation as economic revitalization strategies. In 2015, Redfin named Andersonville the #7 hottest neighborhood in the country. Yelp named Andersonville one of the top fifty neighborhoods in the United States for economic opportunity for small businesses.

Ellen occupies a unique niche of working on the ground in economic development as well as collaborating with regional and national thought leaders on economic policy issues. For ten years, Ellen served on the board of directors of the national Common Future, and she was a member of the first cohort of Common Future Local Economy Fellows. She served on the City of Chicago’s Mayor’s Small Business Advisory Task Force and Retail Advisory Committee.

Ellen is a regular speaker and writer on the subjects of community engagement, neighborhood commercial district revitalization, and economic localization. Her writing can be seen most recently in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun Times, and YES! Magazine.