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Elise Zelechowski

Director of Social Impact, ThoughtWorks

Chicago

Elise is a social entrepreneur and social justice activist committed to working on solutions to address today’s most pressing social, economic and environmental issues. She is currently leading a social innovation practice at ThoughtWorks, focused on ways technology can be leveraged as a tool for social change.

Previously, Elise spent more than 10 years working in the non-profit sector in Chicago, most recently founding and leading the social enterprise, Rebuilding Exchange. There, she grew the organization to an annual budget of over $1 million in 5 years, developed the region’s first building deconstruction training program for people with criminal records and launched a furniture line, RX Made.

Prior to that, Elise was managing director of ventures innovation at the Delta Institute. She held numerous positions there during her 9-year tenure, leading new strategy initiatives, consulting engagements and policy projects aimed at fostering a more environmentally sustainable and economically vibrant Great Lakes Region. While at Delta, Elise led the development of the 2012 Cook County Waste Plan, the LEED Certification of the Merchandise Mart and the first market study to evaluate the economic impacts and opportunities of a regional waste to asset market for deconstructed buildings. Elise also spent 3 years with the City of Chicago, developing green building policy and training programs, and establishing partnerships with key stakeholders in moving the city’s green building agenda forward.

She is a founding member of the Illinois Task Force on Social Innovation, a 2013 Chicago Community Trust Leadership Fellow, and was recognized as Chicago Magazine's 2012 Green Entrepreneur of the Year. Elise is a TEDx speaker, a frequent speaker on social enterprise, and has been featured in the Huffington Post, Crain’s, Chicago Magazine and Chicago Tonight.

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