Courageous Leadership: Building a Culture of Inclusion in Museums
May 6, 2018
Venue: Desert Botanical Garden
Phoenix, AZ


Dr. Johnnetta Cole
Principal Consultant, Cook Ross

Darren Walker
President, Ford Foundation


A commitment to diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion (DEAI) remains vital to the health, relevancy, and sustainability of museums in this current moment of widening inequality and rapid demographic change. By prioritizing inclusive practices in both their internal organizational cultures and their externally-facing efforts, museums can not only broaden their existing audience bases, but also ensure that those new audiences will be served by leaders who reflect their concerns and perspectives. Indeed, as Ford Foundation President Darren Walker said in his call for morally courageous leadership, “we need leaders who transcend the politics of division, who reject the language of exclusion.”

The 2018 CEO Summit explores the crucial role of museum leadership in creating cultures of inclusion and organizational habits that encourage the diversity of thought, ability, and experience in decision-making processes. Attendees will engage in issues including, but not limited to: social justice, structural racism, and diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion (DEAI) and the future of philanthropy.



The summit will help CEOs and directors to:

  • Understand the value of personal work as a first step toward a culture of inclusion
  • Explore the role of the director/CEO in reckoning with the histories and legacies of inequality in museums
  • Learn strategies to engage boards in embracing DEAI
  • Consider the extent to which museums function as sites of social change


The registration fee for this program is $500 and includes:

  • CEO Summit registration
  • AAM Annual Meeting registration
  • Transportation to and from the CEO Summit location
  • Continental breakfast and luncheon
  • Ticket to the AAM Annual Meeting CEO/Director Reception

Invitations are non-transferable and participation is limited to the first 60 registrants. Your registration for the summit also provides you with full registration to the AAM Annual Meeting. Please register by March 9, 2018.

Register Now


Sunday, May 6CEO Summit – Desert Botanical Garden
8:30 - 9 a.m. Check-in, coffee and conversation
9 - 9:15 a.m.Welcome
9:15 - 9:45 a.m.Dr. Johnnetta Cole & Darren Walker in Conversation
9:45 - 10:15 p.m.Q&A with Presenters
10:15 - 10:30 a.m.Break
10:30 - 11:30 a.m.Facilitated Conversation with Peers
11:30 a.m. - 12 p.m.Reporting Out & Next Steps
12 - 1:15 p.m.Luncheon


The CEO Summit on May 6 will be held at Desert Botanical Garden, 1201 N. Galvin Parkway. Transportation will depart from and return to the Sheraton Grand Phoenix Hotel, 340 N 3rd Street (annual meeting headquarters hotel).


Johnnetta Betsch Cole is a Principal Consultant with Cook Ross. Before assuming her current position, she served for eight years as the Director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art. After holding teaching and administrative positions in anthropology, women’s studies, and African American studies, she served as the president of both historically Black colleges for women in the United States, Spelman College and Bennett College, a distinction she alone holds. She has authored and edited several books and numerous articles for scholarly and general audiences. Dr. Cole was the first African American to serve as the chair of the board of the United Way of America. She formerly served on a number of corporate boards.  From 2015-2016 she was the president of the Association of Art Museum Directors.  She currently co-chairs the American Alliance of Museum’s Working Group on Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion. Dr. Cole is a Senior Consulting Fellow at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.  She is a fellow of the American Anthropological Association and a member of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences. She serves on the board of Martha’s Table in Washington, DC. Dr. Cole has received numerous awards and is the recipient of 68 honorary degrees. Throughout her career and in her published work, speeches and community service, she consistently addresses issues of race, gender, and other systems of inequality.

Darren Walker is president of the Ford Foundation, an international social justice philanthropy with a $13 billion endowment and $600 million in annual grant making. He chaired the philanthropy committee that brought a resolution to the city of Detroit’s historic bankruptcy and is co-founder and chair of the US Impact Investing Alliance. Before joining Ford, Darren was vice president at the Rockefeller Foundation, overseeing global and domestic programs including the Rebuild New Orleans initiative after Hurricane Katrina. In the 1990s, as COO of the Abyssinian Development Corporation—Harlem’s largest community development organization—he oversaw a comprehensive revitalization strategy, including building over 1,000 units of affordable housing and the first major commercial development in Harlem since the 1960s. Earlier, he had a decade-long career in international law and finance at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton and UBS.  Darren co-chairs the NYC Commission on Monuments and Memorials, and serves on the Commission on the Future of Riker’s Island Correctional Institution and the UN International Labor Organization Commission on the Future of Work. He also serves on the boards of Carnegie Hall and the High Line. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the recipient of thirteen honorary degrees and university awards, including the DuBois Medal from Harvard University. Educated exclusively in public schools, Darren was a member of the first class of Head Start in 1965 and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin, which in 2009 recognized him with its Distinguished Alumnus Award—its highest alumni honor. He has been included on numerous annual media lists, including TIME’s annual list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World, Rolling Stone’s 25 People Shaping the World, Fast Company’s 50 Most Innovative People, and OUT Magazine’s Power 100.