I truly appreciated this program…It’s so important for our community to have these courageous conversations!

Kelwin was amazing and so educationally informative”

“I was incredibly moved by your presentation and was trying not to cry the entire time.”

Kelwin Harris is a public speaker, city planner, and civic engagement professional who focuses on creating equitable communities, empowering people that have been historically excluded from connectivity, and dismantling inequality in Chicago. Kelwin has over 20 years of experience working at the city, county, and regional levels of Illinois government and in grassroots community development. Kelwin uses an urban planning and equity lens to combat multiple facets of systematic policies that produced housing segregation and the racial wealth gap. Drawing from his experience as a community leader on the South Side of Chicago, he offers strategies and interventions for the road ahead while translating complex social issues into things people care about around the kitchen table to inspire change.

Civic engagement

Kelwin is the Chief Civic Engagement Officer and Deputy Assessor with the Cook County Assessor’s Office, which is responsible for valuing the county’s nearly 2 million properties fairly. In this role, Kelwin created the organization’s Racial Equity and Real Estate Conversations series assembling local and national experts to address challenges and provide solutions to racial disparities in housing and real estate in Chicago. Prior to the Assessor’s Office, Kelwin was Senior Outreach Planner for The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) where he led public engagement for Chicago’s official regional plan, ON TO 2050. Other projects Kelwin contributed to in this role include: North Lawndale Quality-of-Life Plan, the South Suburban Economic Growth Initiative, and Robbins Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) and Industrial Area Plan. In addition, Kelwin led the organization’s Human and Community Development Committee, a multi-sector group of equity-focused public and private professionals and community leaders that guided the Chicago region’s inclusive growth and health equity strategies.

Community Development

Kelwin held numerous leadership roles with a social justice and outreach-focused church – St. Sabina. His work included community organizing and directing social services for the Auburn Gresham neighborhood in addition to leading programs to upskill residents, address food and housing insecurity, and combat violence. He led a social service community outreach center for Catholic Charities of Chicago as the Director of Social Services and also served as Executive Director of a non-profit organization where he led an Ivy League college exposure program for underserved high school students. Kelwin started his professional and civic tenure in Chicago in government relations as Assistant to Mayor Richard M. Daley where he managed the city’s public housing and human capital departments.

Professional Development

Kelwin was a 2020 IMPACT Fellow with the Chicago Urban League and a 2018 Marshall Memorial Fellow with the German Marshall Fund of the United States. He was also a member of the 2018 cohort of the US – Mexico Leaders Initiative in Mexico City with the Center for American Progress.


Kelwin holds a Bachelor’s Degree in City & Regional Planning from Cornell University and a Master in Urban Planning Degree from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. Kelwin also holds a Professional Certificate in Municipal Finance from the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy.

Kelwin lives on the South Side of Chicago in the historic Pullman neighborhood where he enjoys reading and finding new trails to bike. Kelwin is a Jazz and Hip Hop enthusiast (expert if you ask him) and provides music for special events in the Chicago area in his spare time. Don’t be surprised if you spot him behind the DJ booth at your next wedding – The Chicago Reader.

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