15 Years of
Forward Momentum

Stand up. Speak out. Make change. Innovate. Improve. Persuade. Educate. Collaborate. Influence. Protect. Partner. Build. Work hard. Move forward. Expand. Create. Succeed. Impact.

No matter how you define it, we’ve been helping our clients advocate and communicate in the pursuit of equity, justice and opportunity for the past 15 years. That’s an accomplishment worth celebrating!

Fifteen Years of Impact from ACS

How did we come this far?

Understanding where we are and where we’re going means appreciating where we came from.

When ACS President Lori McClung and Vice-President Scarlett Bouder met nearly 20 years ago, they found kindred spirits in each other. Even though they grew up states apart – McClung in the Midwest and Bouder on the East Coast – their parents instilled values of hard work, responsibility, and education, along with the knowledge that they had the power to change peoples’ lives. They were raised with the philosophy that you don’t get to complain about something unless you are willing to work to change the situation. Their passion to make a difference in others’ lives guided their professional journey as communicators and advocates in the fields of early childhood, youth development, public education, health, journalism, and politics. It eventually brought these dynamic women together as colleagues and business partners when they formed Advocacy & Communication Solutions in 2004.

 

Read the full story

Get to Know the Dynamic Women Behind ACS’s Success

ACS co-founders Lori McClung and Scarlett Bouder get real about why they do what they do – and why they work well together.

Meet the People Who Inspire Us

In our work, we meet some amazing people who dedicate
themselves to making sure our society is just, equitable and
full of opportunities for everyone. We’ll introduce 15 of
them to you throughout 2019

    • There’s probably no one who knows public education in Columbus better than Dr. Gene Harris. She started in the city’s public school system as a student and ended up as its superintendent for 13 years. Along the way, she also was one of the first women — and women of color — to be admitted to and graduate from Notre Dame. She also earned an M.A. from Ohio State and a PhD from Ohio University.  Dr. Harris led the school district to increase its high-school graduation rate from 50% to 80% (a trend that continues five years after her retirement), and convinced the city and the board of education to break of 30-year cycle of neglect by investing in the renovation or new construction of 40 Columbus school buildings. Her demeanor is always polite and professional, but we have seen the power and unwavering resolve that lies underneath. To us, Dr. Harris embodies the courage and clarity it takes to change a system for the better, even when the odds seem unsurmountable. In this way, she inspires us.

    • ACS Co-Founders met Mike Eugene when they worked together at the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, where he was COO. Mike inspired us then and all of the members of the ACS team now with his strategic thinking and political savvy when it comes to public policy — and he still does so today as General Manager for Facility Operations for Los Angeles County. Growing up, Mike was exposed to political and economic extremes in his own family, which helps him to look at all sides of an issue today. He thinks creatively and differently, always looking for the most efficient and effective ways to move forward. It’s no surprise that he’s consulted to government agencies at the federal and state level (including consulting to Ret. Gen. Colin Powell), as well as holding leadership roles in school districts in Cleveland, Orange County (FL) and Los Angeles. He also lectured at Harvard for five years. Mike will tell you that it’s a leader’s job to set the pace, set the standard, and set the structure, and then to create the support for teams to do amazing things. His actions demonstrate this philosophy at every turn – but we would add that as a leader, he also inspires his teams to achieve award-winning results and that inspires all of us.

    • When we think of out-of-the-box thinking on effectiveness and efficiency, we think of Kris Putnam-Walkerly. From an early career in nonprofit evaluation and grantmaking, Kris has emerged as a well-respected voice and consultant in the world of philanthropy. She’s long been outspoken about policies and practices that are unjust or simply inefficient — whether it’s fighting for someone’s rights or working with foundations that may hamper their own effectiveness with overly-complex systems of grantmaking. We first met when Kris took the bold step of moving her San-Francisco-based business to her hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, to marry and become an instant stepparent. That took guts. So did starting the National Network of Consultants to Grantmakers (an organization we’re proud to be part of), producing her first book, and creating a robust international consulting practice. But what inspires us most about Kris is her generosity of spirit — she’s freely shared her expertise with the field of philanthropy and other consultants through hundreds of blog posts, white papers, presentations and webinars, and in doing so inspired countless others.

    • In her 15 years at Towards Employment, Jill Rizika has helped tens of thousands of people attain stable employment and careers — not just in Ohio, but across the country. The Work Advance program she and her team developed has become a national model with demonstrated impact when it comes to helping gain employment for individuals coming out of the criminal justice system. Jill’s never been afraid to try new things, including working 15 years as an international development specialist in Africa and Washington, DC, before landing in Cleveland. We admire her tirelessness and fearlessness, and her ability to find unlikely partners and turn them into workforce development supporters.  When it comes to working toward solutions for creating lasting and sustainable employment for everyone, Jill is definitely an inspiration!

    • Susan DeVenny is a woman who leads with her heart in order to elevate the best in everyone. As the mother of four children, she understands the importance of family and has a passion for helping others thrive. Her unyielding commitment to her community and to all children is inspiring and her passion is contagious. Professionally, she’s worked across several sectors – 15 years in the private sector, 12 years leading South Carolina’s early childhood agency, and now as the president and CEO of the J. Marion Sims Foundation in Lancaster, SC. Susan is known for her vision and keen ability to see and then solve a problem quickly. While we have known Susan for more than 20 years, first meeting her as a fellow board member for Parents for Public Schools, during the last three years we have been a strategic partner of the Sims Foundation, helping to build a framework for local community engagement efforts, supporting Susan’s communication and policy efforts, and her work with the Board of Trustees to better understand community concerns and assets in an effort to align the foundation’s work to the community’s vision. Susan believes that by trying new things you can grow. She has no fear of failure. She can and does work hours that seem impossible and lives to give others every opportunity to succeed. Her humility, commitment, and steadfast belief in the goodness inherent in everyone are an unflagging source of hope and joy.

    • Few people understand building strategies for public policy as well as Marcia Egbert. Fewer still have dedicated their entire careers to pursuing policies that increase opportunity for everyone. We have worked with Marcia in various capacities, including as fellow advocates, since the late 1990s. There was and continues to be a special connection around our collective commitment to large-scale, long-term, and game-changing projects to make life better for individuals, families, children and entire communities. Marcia, an Ohio native, earned her law degree from the Ohio State University and quickly realized that the public sector was the place where she wanted to create change. Her career has produced an impressive policy and political pedigree, establishing Marcia as a leader on many policy issues in the public, non-profit, and philanthropic sectors across Ohio and around the nation. She has worked successfully on both sides of the political aisle, including working for legendary Ohio Speaker of the House Vern Riffe. She also served as the Government Relations Director for the Cuyahoga County Commissioners and was vice-president of a public interest lobbying firm, National Urban Policy Institute, before joining The George Gund Foundation. We admire the way Marcia combines her commitment to policy with razor-sharp strategic thinking as well as deep patience and a steady hand. In doing so, she’s helped shape policies on a wide variety of fronts – from preschool expansion to increasing healthcare access to establishing long-term housing supports and reforming the criminal justice system, as well as dozens more. To many Marcia is a known leader and innovator. To us, she is a trusted colleague and sage advisor – teaching us something new every time we work together.

    • Through decades of working with him, in both Ohio and North Carolina, we’ve seen first-hand Anthony Trotman’s unwavering commitment to helping children, families, and communities. In particular, Anthony understands and works to help those with multiple challenges, particularly low-income individuals, determine and follow a more hopeful path forward. When speaking about his work, he often says, “We need to shorten the time between talking and doing.” And “do” he does. Since we’ve known him, he has helped to reinvent two large human services departments, helping to turn them into customer- and solutions-focused agencies that serve all people with courtesy, dignity, and creativity. In addition to streamlining and boosting the effectiveness of traditional human service systems, he has created new ways to encourage families on public assistance to become champions of their children’s education, and created youth development initiatives. He also has broken down silos between human services, law enforcement, and health care to provide more comprehensive and responsive supports for families and children. Anthony slashes through red tape, inspiring and leading his team and others who know him, toward a new vision of public service that is focused on delivering measurable improvements for his fellow human beings. We have huge respect for this visionary leader and, quite frankly, we’d follow him anywhere.

    • At a time when leadership in our world is often mistaken as having the loudest voice, Kristen Ballantine talks softly but carries a big stick when it comes to professional muscle. Not surprising, considering she spent nearly two years as a U.S. State Department Special Assistant overseeing reconstruction projects in Iraq. That earned her the Benjamin Franklin Award for Public Diplomacy. Since then, she has worked her way up from managing state government relations for Walgreens, though director, senior director, and vice president positions at HMS, where she now oversees state and federal government relations. She is smart, savvy, thorough, and uses her political knowledge and expertise to move seemingly unmoveable forces to make change for the better. At one point, she accomplished her work while simultaneously battling breast cancer – traveling the country and meeting with political powers and earning a promotion while doing so. If that’s not powerful, we don’t know what is!

    • Debbie Neale is a trailblazer extraordinaire when it comes to elevating the roles of women in public policy. She stood out as a smart and committed lobbyist who paved the way for other women lobbyists at a time when they were the exception rather than the rule. She also has served as a mentor to countless other women – including us – always willing to share what she knows and what she’s experienced to help further the success of others. We particularly admire the way Debbie has always held her own and generated multiple “wins” in industries (such as plastics manufacturing) that were long assumed to be the purview of men only. When Debbie commits to a cause, she commits fully and unequivocally. Civic engagement courses through her veins, so it’s no surprise that she became Mayor of her community at a point in her career where others might start contemplating retirement. She also tirelessly hosts events to support progressive candidates and does whatever it takes to improve a candidate’s chance of election. Her commitment to the arts (she’s on the board of almost every arts organization in Cleveland) has helped create the strong community of arts and culture that Cleveland enjoys. And when a family member developed Alzheimer’s, Debbie became a huge champion of the Alzheimer’s association, advocating for support for caregivers, and fighting for a cure. In this regard, she also personally provided guidance and support for Lori as she helped care for a family member struggling with the disease. As a trailblazer, mentor, friend, and hero, we give Debbie our upmost honor and thanks.

    • We all know that group efforts may be rewarding and fulfilling on a good day, but it’s rare to see a group that is as consistently inspiring as The Ohio 8. We knew from the start, when we began our work with them in 2011, that the urban school district superintendents and union presidents who were leading this organization set themselves apart from other K-12 stakeholder groups. They are smart, savvy and sophisticated, and we learn something new from them every time we meet. They joined forces to declare that quality public education is a right, and they’ve actively defended that belief in the Ohio General Assembly every day – with clarity, vision, and integrity. Together, they have combined into a powerful voice for preserving investments in urban school districts, ensuring that those districts are run equitably and effectively, advocating for students whose needs extend far beyond the classroom, and protecting the collective bargaining rights of teachers. It’s no surprise, then, that the General Assembly members now call on The Ohio 8 for information and opinions to help shape education policy that will deliver the best possible experience for Ohio students – not just in their districts, but statewide. Our hats are off to the Ohio 8 Co-Chairs with whom we’ve worked throughout the years: Lori Ward, David Romick, Adrian Allison, Kevin Dalton, Eric Gordon, Julie Sellers, David Quolke, and David James. You are all inspiring individual leaders, and a collective force for improved educational outcomes.

    • Every now and then, you come across one of those rare people who exudes calmness and wisdom that help you catch your breath and refocus when everyone around you is running in circles. For us, that’s Doug Lumpkin. Doug is quiet, deeply thoughtful, and eminently reflective in scenarios that can trigger strong emotional responses for most of us. This has made him a phenomenal leader in health and human services in Franklin County (where he was Scarlett’s boss, once upon a time). Perhaps it’s because he spends more time thinking than simply reacting, but Doug understands every detail of public policy that affects the families he serves – how it’s created, and how it impacts the operations of state and local governments when its implemented. His calm, impartial analysis has made him a trusted source for Democrats, Republicans, stakeholders, and advocates alike. He is also a mentor for dozens of long-time and emerging leaders across Ohio. What’s more, he may just be the most kind and modest people we’ve ever met. He never toots his own horn or acknowledges the impact he makes, but he always makes personal thank you calls to others. So Doug, this is our way of sharing a big “thank you” to you for your leadership and for inspiring us!

    • Dr. Judy Van Ginkel is a woman who is and always has been ahead of her time.  At a time when society limited women’s professions to nursing or teaching, she chose neither. Instead, she pursued a Bachelor of Science from the Ohio State University, and a Master’s of Science and Ph.D. from the University of Cincinnati. Today, she is a professor of pediatrics at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center within the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. She has a distinguished career as a champion for women’s and children’s health, supporting program initiatives with research and technology to help thousands of women and children across the country. One such program has been Every Child Succeeds(ECS), an $8M home visitation program she spearheaded (and still leads). We were fortunate enough to represent ECS at the Ohio Statehouse and engaging federal agencies about home visitation policy within the Affordable Care Act. In working with Dr. Van Ginkel during that time, we learned how eloquently she can translate theory, brain science, and the impact of various support services into moving language that can persuade anyone. She is a guiding force within the healthcare, policy, and non-profit communities, respected and revered by leaders in Ohio and around the nation.