Public Allies

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Public Allies
Public allies logo small.jpg
Founded 1992
Founder Vanessa Kirsch and Katrina Browne
Key people
Adren O. Wilson, Ph. D., CEO
Cris Ros Dukler, COO

Public Allies is an American nonprofit organization that operates an AmeriCorps program and is dedicated to young-adult leadership development.[1] Its mission is to advance new leadership to strengthen communities, nonprofits and civic participation.


Public Allies was founded in 1992 by Vanessa Kirsch and Katrina Browne, recent college graduates who wanted to challenge the notion that their generation was apathetic and uncaring.[2] Grounded in the belief that the untapped energy and idealism of young people can be a powerful force for transforming communities, Kirsch and Browne created Public Allies to provide a pipeline for diverse young leaders to begin careers in public life.

The first Public Allies program was launched in Washington, D.C. with 14 Allies (members), with funding from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and Surdna Foundation.[3] Its first year, the program also received a demonstration grant from the Commission for National and Community Service, under President George H.W. Bush.

In 1993, Public Allies Chicago was launched with 30 Allies under the leadership of founding Executive Director Michelle Obama. She served as Chicago director until 1996, and then as a national board member from 1997 to 2001. Also in 1993, President Bill Clinton named Public Allies as a model for national service.[4]

In 1994, Public Allies, along with Habitat for Humanity and YouthBuild, were among the first recipients of AmeriCorps grants, which allowed for expansion to Delaware, Milwaukee, and North Carolina. In 1995, Public Allies opened a site Silicon Valley and San Francisco, followed by Cincinnati (1998), New York and Los Angeles (1999), and Eagle Rock, Colorado (2002). Additional sites include Connecticut (2004); Arizona and Pittsburgh (2006); Miami, New Mexico, and San Antonio (2007); Indianapolis and Maryland (2009); Central Florida and the Twin Cities (2010); and Detroit and Iowa (2013).

In 2014, Adren O. Wilson, Ph.D., was appointed CEO, replacing Paul Schmitz, who had served as CEO since 2000.

Public Allies has about 6,000 alumni.


The Public Allies logo draws on Native American tradition to illustrate the impact individuals can have on their world. The handprint depicted in the logo represents the mark that people leave on their communities and on the people they touch in the course of their lives. The red swirl stands for the energy and idealism that drive people to serve their communities. The seven rays refer to a philosophy regarding the interconnectedness of the generations—the belief that an individual living today has been influenced by the three preceding generations, and will go on to leave a legacy affecting the three generations to follow.

Mission and Programs[edit]

Public Allies' mission is to advance new leadership to strengthen communities, nonprofits, and civic participation. Its leadership development approach seeks to attract and develop young adults from diverse and under-represented backgrounds for careers in public life (nonprofits, government, and civil society), and to practice values that invigorate public life: collaboration, diversity and inclusion, asset-based change, continuous learning, and integrity.

There are 23 Public Allies sites nationwide, 20 of which are operated in partnership with a local nonprofit organization or university. More than 80% of Allies come from the communities in which they serve.

Public Allies has employed three main strategies to deliver its mission: 1) Paid apprenticeship and leadership program in partnership with AmeriCorps, 2) Alumni engagement, and 3) Advocacy.


Public Allies combines a 10-month nonprofit apprenticeship program with a community-centered, values-based approach to foster leadership development. For four days each week, Allies serve at a community-based nonprofit, and the fifth day is devoted to rigorous leadership training. All members also engage in a number of community service projects.

Alumni Engagement[edit]

Public Allies continues to develop the leadership practice (i.e. their skills, career and network) and impact of the Alumni of its AmeriCorps Apprenticeship Program (#PAAlum) and those who've worked at Public Allies (#StaffAlum). As of March 2015, there are nearly 5,500 that comprise this network.

More than 85% of program graduates continue their careers in nonprofit and public service. In 2014, Public Allies organized its first Alumni Summit on Black Male Achievement in Washington, DC. Summit attendees included 30 African American male program graduates, who advised White House officials on the Administration’s “My Brother's Keeper” initiative.


Public Allies has been a leader in efforts to build the next generation of diverse talent and leadership for the non-profit sector. It has influenced the national service field to become more inclusive and has been seen as a pathway to opportunity. Working with Voices for National Service, the White House Council for Community Solutions, The Aspen Institute, and the Service Pathways Initiative, Public Allies played a major role in influencing AmeriCorps, the Corporation for National and Community Service, and the broader national service field to increase the diversity of the people engaging in national service.

Core Values[edit]

Public Allies’ five core values are integrated into the program:

  • Collaboration: The ability to facilitate, negotiate, build consensus, build strong teams, and empower others.
  • Continuous Learning: The ability to question assumptions and beliefs, understand strengths and shortcomings, and commit to continued growth within a community context.
  • Diversity & Inclusion: The ability to work effectively and inclusively with different people and understand how to adapt to different cultures and environments.
  • Focus on Assets: The ability to catalyze the natural leadership of everyone, be truly accountable to those served, and approach opportunities for change with awareness of community assets.
  • Integrity: The ability to meet commitments, act responsibly with public and personal trust, and be accountable for words and actions.

Geographical Reach and Operating Partners[edit]

Public Allies partners with nonprofit organizations and universities to operate 23 Public Allies sites nationwide.

Site Operating Partner
Public Allies Arizona Arizona State University Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation
Public Allies Central Florida Community Based Care of Central Florida
Public Allies Chicago Corporate office
Public Allies Cincinnati TBA
Public Allies Connecticut Regional Youth Adult Social Action Partnership
Public Allies Delaware University of Delaware Center for Community Research & Service
Public Allies Eagle Rock Eagle Rock School
Public Allies Indianapolis Indianapolis Neighborhood Resource Center
Public Allies Iowa Iowa Community Action Association
Public Allies Los Angeles Community Development Technologies Center
Public Allies Maryland University of Maryland School of Social Work
Public Allies Metro Detroit University of Michigan-Dearborn Integrated Learning & Community Partnership
Public Allies Miami Catalyst Miami / Human Services Coalition
Public Allies Milwaukee TBA
Public Allies New Mexico New Mexico Forum for Youth in Community
Public Allies New York Corporate office
Public Allies North Carolina North Carolina Institute of Minority Economic Development
Public Allies Pittsburgh Coro Center for Civic Leadership
Public Allies San Antonio Alamo Colleges
Public Allies San Francisco/Silicon Valley Bay Area Community Resources
Public Allies Twin Cities Pillsbury United Communities
Public Allies Washington, D.C. Corporate office


  • Omar Brownson (Silicon Valley '97) is the Executive Director at Los Angeles River Revitalization Commission
  • Jason Holton, (Milwaukee and National Office) is the Executive Director & Vice President at City Year Milwaukee
  • Charles McKinney (North Carolina '96, Program Staff of Public Allies North Carolina '97 - '99) is a Professor of Africana Studies at Rhodes College of Memphis, TN
  • Malik Yusef (Chicago '97) is a poet and Grammy Award winning recording artist.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "PUBLIC ALLIES INC". GuideStar. Retrieved 17 February 2013. 
  2. ^ Perry, Suzanne (April 14, 2008). "Fired Up and Ready to Grow". The Chronicle of Philanthropy. 
  3. ^ Perry, Suzanne (April 14, 2008). "Fired Up and Ready to Grow". The Chronicle of Philanthropy. 
  4. ^ Klages, Karen (May 10, 1993). "Communities find Allies among youth". Star-News Chicago.