Public Allies

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 create a just and equitable society and the diverse leadership to sustain it.


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 go eat.

Mission and programs

Public Allies' mission is to create a just and equitable society and the diverse leadership to sustain it. They are changing the face and practice of leadership in communities across the country by demonstrating our conviction that everyone can lead, and that lasting social change results when citizens of all backgrounds step up, take responsibility, and work together.

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

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, D.C. 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

Public Allies’ six 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.
  • Innovation

Geographical reach and operating partners

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

Site Operating Partner Year Founded
Public Allies Arizona Arizona State University Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation 2006
Public Allies Central Florida Community Based Care of Central Florida 2010
Public Allies Chicago Corporate office 1993
Public Allies Cincinnati TBA 1998
Public Allies Connecticut Regional Youth Adult Social Action Partnership 2004
Public Allies Delaware University of Delaware Center for Community Research & Service 1994
Public Allies Eagle Rock Eagle Rock School & Professional Development Center 2002
Public Allies Indianapolis Indianapolis Neighborhood Resource Center 2009
Public Allies Iowa Iowa Community Action Association 2010
Public Allies Los Angeles Community Development Technologies Center 1999
Public Allies Maryland University of Maryland School of Social Work 2009
Public Allies Metro Detroit University of Michigan-Dearborn Integrated Learning & Community Partnership 2010
Public Allies Miami

(formerly known as the Human Services Coalition)

Public Allies Milwaukee TBA 1994
Public Allies New Mexico New Mexico Forum for Youth in Community 2007
Public Allies New Orleans Delgado Community College 2017
Public Allies New York City Corporate office 1999
Public Allies North Carolina North Carolina Institute of Minority Economic Development 1994
Public Allies Pittsburgh Coro Center for Civic Leadership 2006
Public Allies San Antonio Alamo Colleges 2007
Public Allies San Francisco/Silicon Valley Bay Area Community Resources 1995
Public Allies Twin Cities Pillsbury United Communities 2010
Public Allies Washington, D.C. Corporate office 1992


See also


  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.