Prior to that, she served as the executive director of Leadership Southcoast (LSC), a regional community leadership program. At LSC, Downing introduced new curriculum and formats that strengthened the program, expanded, and diversified enrollment, and launched the organization’s first alumni engagement strategy.
Downing spent more than a decade in philanthropy working at the Garfield Foundation, a private foundation that awarded more than $2 million nationally to nonprofits addressing complex social and environmental problems through collaborative network approaches. She was responsible for both managing the operations of the foundation and serving as program officer for a place-based grant portfolio supporting economic and community revitalization projects in Greater New Bedford.
That experience sparked Downing’s interest in advancing collaborative leadership and cross-sector collaborative processes and prompted her to focus her graduate studies on the subject. In 2018, she received the Brian Webb Award for Outstanding Master of Arts Thesis by Union Institute & University for her paper, Action Learning to Develop Collaborative Capacity for Social Change.
In 2020, Downing was honored as a recipient of the John S. Brayton Community Service Award by the One South Coast Chamber of Commerce. She is currently the Chair of the Acushnet School Committee and has served on numerous nonprofit boards and committees, such as the United Way of Greater New Bedford Board of Directors, the New Bedford Regeneration Committee, the South Coast Neighbors United Board of Directors, the Civic & Political Leadership Working Group for the Women’s Fund’s Task Force on Pathways for Women to a Living Wage, and the YWCA of Southeastern Massachusetts’ Building Diverse Boards and Commissions Working Group. New England Business Bulletin selected Jennifer as one of their 2011 Top Young Professionals Under 40.
Jennifer holds a BFA from Marymount Manhattan College in New York City and an MA in Leadership, Public Policy and Social Issues from Union Institute & University. She is a proud 2009 graduate of Leadership SouthCoast and 2012 PLACES (Professionals Learning About Community, Equity & Sustainability) Fellow with The Funders Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities.