by Phil Rockrohr
Open Communities has tapped a Highland Park man to advance the social mission it expanded under outgoing executive director Gail Schechter, the agency announced March 30.
David Luna, a 30-year advocate of social justice in the Midwest, will assume leadership on April 25, said Jes Scheinpflug, spokeswoman for the Winnetka-based civil rights, housing and social justice advocacy group.
“From the moment we met David in his interview with our team, my colleagues and I were impressed by his passion and experience,” Scheinpflug said in a prepared statement. “His arrival at Open Communities, bringing fresh energy and ideas to our cause, could not be coming at a better moment.”
Luna, who is principal consultant at his own firm, Teammates for Health Equity, said he is thrilled at the opportunity to serve the 17 north suburban communities served by Open Communities.
“I’m terribly excited,” he said. “It’s an excellent, excellent organization. It’s a wonderful opportunity for me to do something direct and impactful in the world of social justice.”
Schechter told Pioneer Press in November that she is stepping down to pursue other opportunities, but declined to specify.
“The organization is really stepping up…it just seemed like after 22 years, this is the perfect time,” she said then.
Luna is “uniquely qualified” to address a wide range of social justice and civil rights issues, Scheinpflug said.
“We are bearing witness to a time in our country’s history in which hatred, violence and fear of ‘the other’ are on the rise,” she said. “It is our mission to counteract this trend by cultivating a culture of welcome, inclusion and diversity. David knows this and is determined to transform mission into action.”
Schechter, who has served as executive director since 1993, has already enacted a strategic planning process, Luna said.
“We’re going to conduct a thorough review of the planning process in the next few months to identify key opportunities where we might have an impact and where we might avoid redundancy,” he said. “We’ll be going through the strategic planning process to see where we might make our best contribution.”
Luna is committed to advancing the agency’s mission of creating a “more diverse, inclusive and welcoming environment” in its communities, Scheinpflug said.
“After conducting a thorough search during which we considered over 100 applicants, the members of the board selected David due to his outstanding professional qualifications, his extraordinary passion for justice issues and his experience helping mission-driven organizations turn their visions into reality,” Board President Liliana Fargo said.
Under Schechter, Open Communities expanded its mission beyond housing justice to cover a broader range of social issues, Fargo said.
“Given David’s expertise in organizational change, strategy development, policy advocacy, diversity and inclusion, and leadership coaching, he is the ideal leader to carry Gail’s baton forward and advance our expanded mission,” she said.
During nearly 10 years with the Latino Institute in Chicago, Luna served as director of advocacy and as director of leadership and organizational development, he said.
As principal of his own consulting and coaching practice in Chicago and Grand Rapids, Mich., Luna helped organizations in the health justice field develop and execute their strategic plans, Scheinpflug said.
“I customize various strategic planning processes to fit the needs of an organization,” Luna said. “What is key in strategic planning and strategic thinking is to be very clear on the values an organization holds and the vision it seeks to accomplish for the community it serves, and to be very clear on its mission and to identify high-impact opportunities and develop strategies for capitalizing on those high-impact opportunities.”
Luna also served as vice president for health equity for Mercy Health Saint Mary’s hospital in Grand Rapids, where he oversaw efforts to eliminate disparities in health care among patient groups, Scheinpflug said.