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.

More to come!