The Association for Consortium Leadership (ACL) was formerly known as the Interinstitutional Cooperative Program (ICP) and the Council of Interinstitutional Leadership (CIL). The beginning of the movement toward the ICP began in 1965 during an ACE Conference, entitled “Formation of a Professional Organization of Consortia,” when a number of consortia executives began to discuss the idea of developing an informal network to share experiences. This was one of the first steps in establishing an organization for consortia to share ideas, resources, services, projects, and personnel.

In 1968, CIL became a network of consortia under the direction of Dr. Lewis Patterson, who distributed a newsletter called "The Acquainter" and later published a Directory of Voluntary Academic Cooperation Arrangements in Higher Education bearing the organizational title of the Interinstitutional Cooperative Program. Dr. Lewis Patterson later became the ICP’s first executive director coordinating conferences, semi-annual meetings, a newsletter, The Acquainter and the Consortium Directory. During the early stages of development, funding and support were received through various organizations such as: AAHE, ACE, AGB, Danforth Foundation, Carnegie Corporation, Johnson Foundation, Lilly Endowment, and Ford Foundation.

Eight years later in 1975, steps were taken to strengthen and formalize the network of cooperative relationships by forming a new, non-profit, tax exempt corporation called the Council of Interinstitutional Leadership (CIL). During the first year of development, CIL became independent from its supporters and became the first cooperative program without sponsorship of another association. CIL established a Board of Directors, drafted By-laws, submitted an application for a certificate of incorporation in the District of Columbia, and applied for a 501 (c) (3) status. A series of cooperative publications were published by CIL for distribution which included: Consortium in American Higher Education (Dr. Lewis Patterson, 1970); The Comprehensive Bibliography of Interinstitutional Cooperation, Consortia and Regionalism (Dr. Fritz Grupe, 1977); Cost Collegiate Cooperation and Benefits of Collegiate Cooperation (Dr. Lewis Patterson, 1979); Sharing Collegiate Resources: The New Challenge (Dr. Richard Konkel and Dr. Lewis Patterson, 1981).

The Council of Interinstitutional Leadership remained active in producing publications, conferences, and workshops from a home office that moved between Washington, D.C; the University of Alabama’s Institute of Higher Education Research and Services, Alabama; the Central Pennsylvania Consortium, Pennsylvania; and Kansas City Regional Council for Higher Education, Missouri. In 1993 a strategic planning committee concluded that CIL’s name was not “serviceable” and the organization then became the Association for Consortium Leadership (ACL). Later that year the Kansas City Regional Council was no longer able to sustain the management of ACL and a move was made to the Norfolk, Virginia location where ACL remained under the direction of Dr. Lawrence Dotolo, Executive Director and Nicola Beltz, Director of Programs and Administration until December 31, 2012. In January 2013, ACL transitioned to the Claremont University Consortium in Claremont, California, until October 2016, when NELLCO Law Library Consortium, Inc. took over management responsibilities. From October 2017 to December 2022, ACL received management support from Impact Services. Since January 2023, ACL receives management support from Five Colleges, Inc and continues to thrive as a private non-profit organization led by a working, elected board. In October 2018, ACL celebrated it's 50th Anniversary.

Photo Gallery: ACL 50th Anniversary Celebration