About IC

Meet the Founder

Bliss W. Browne


(The Rev.) Bliss Williams Browne is founder and president of Imagine Chicago, an Episcopal priest and a former Division Head of the First National Bank of Chicago, where she was a corporate banker from 1975-1991. Her civic leadership positions in Chicago have included serving as Chairman of the Center for Neighborhood Technology, the MidAmerica Leadership Foundation and the Chicago Ethics Coalition; as Trustee of the Chicago Sunday Evening Club; and as a board member of Public Allies, Archeworks, the Chicago Children's Choir, the Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions, and the Illinois Fatherhood Initiative. She served on the Community Advisory boards of the Field Museum and the Chicago Historical Society, the Alumni Council of Harvard Divinity School, and the Illinois Governor's Public-Private Child Care Council. She was among the first women ordained to the priesthood in the Episcopal church (1977), and the first female priest to preach at Westminster Abbey (1979). She has served in voluntary parish ministry for 40+ years. Bliss was a member of the Saguaro Seminar on Civic Engagement in America, convened by Robert Putnam at the Kennedy School of Harvard University, that drew together national innovators in developing social capital. She now lives in Florida where she serves as Chairman of the board of Helping People Succeed. A mother of three grown children, she is an eager playmate for her five young granddaughters.

Bliss graduated from Yale in the first undergraduate class of women (BA, History, the Arts & Letters, 1971), from Harvard Divinity School (M.Div, Theology, 1974) and the Kellogg School of Management of Northwestern (MM, Finance, 1978.) She serves as a keynote speaker, facilitator, consultant, coach and trainer nationally and internationally, in civic engagement, leading and managing systemic change, collaboration, youth development and developing the generative capacity of communities--working with community, government, education and business organizations. Bliss was a Rockefeller Foundation Fellow in 1974-75, a Kellogg National Leadership Program Fellow in 1989-91, and received the Eureka Community Award (1995-1996), the Chicago Mercedes Mentor Award (1998), the Chicago Justice Pioneers Award (2003), and the IWA Chicago Woman Extraordinaire Award (2008). She is an Associate of the Taos Institute and author of numerous journal articles and book chapters, plus two books: "Ten Years of Imagination in Action", a conceptual framework for imagination as a social movement and "Women Alive: A Legacy of Social Justice". A forthcoming book, to be published in 2020, about social innovation, motherhood and public life, chronicles the history and ideas of Imagine Chicago from the moment of inception to its catalyzing a global Imagine movement.

An interview with Bliss Browne in Kyiv about what motivates her

Bliss touches on a number of topics related to building community.