It takes VOTES, whatever they cost.

I am excited that last weekend marked the world premiere of Votes, the musical that I directed, at the Castillo Theatre! This dynamic and timely production features two characters based on Bill and Hillary Clinton, who sing, dance and question the underlying assumptions of the political game itself. I want to share with you an excerpt from the Author’s Note, by the playwright, Jacqueline Salit.

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Votes is a play-within-a-play, though not in the classical sense where the characters in a play put on a play, as in Shakespeare’s Hamlet or A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It is literally an original play, deposited inside a new play, written and set 17 years later.

In 1999, Castillo’s then-artistic director, Fred Newman, wrote and directed a musical, The Last Temptation of William Jefferson, a three-character piece based on the trials (literal and figurative) of a First Couple in the White House. William and Melanie Jefferson’s journey from the turbulent 1960’s to the pinnacle of power had blurred and corrupted their political vision and the personal pact, which enabled their rise.

For years, I thought the play was a small gem, with profound and comedic themes, which deserved another showing, particularly in light of the current electoral upheavals in which “Clintonism,” remade several times over to suit the times, was still such a force. Since Newman always felt that you should never leave anything lying around (he didn’t mean dirty socks or dishes, but creative and political products of one kind or another) I picked up his play last summer. I decided to recreate it, to repurpose it, to revisit the Jeffersons circa 2016 and to try to discover what had happened to them and to our country in the 17 years since these two had captured the White House, only to be held captive by it. I met some intriguing new characters along the way.

This play is, ultimately, about the price people must pay to be in the political game. I dedicate it to my very dear friend and compatriot, Lenora Fulani, a courageous woman who ran for President in 1988, not to win, but to change the rules of the game.

Jacqueline Salit
March 19, 2016

1399_149Due to popular demand, the show has been extended until May 22nd! You can purchase tickets to Votes here.

To find out more about how you can join us to build a new kind of community check out the All Stars Project website: http://allstars.org and follow me on Twitter: @ASP_CEO.

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Evaluating Success – creating new tools to measure Afterschool Development

It has recently been announced that the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation and nine other donors will be “awarding $1 billion to expand the reach of high-performing charities that serve low-income children and youths.” The billion dollar question is, how are they going to define the outcomes in order to identify “high performing” charities.

Outcomes-oriented policies and outcomes-based financing have been around for years, and their history has been surprisingly substandard. Last month, the Stanford Social Innovation Review published an article called “The Promise and Peril of an ‘Outcomes Mindset’”, in which they reviewed the 40-year history of how social sector funding, based on narrowly defined outcomes, has led to questionable results.

With the incessant drive by funders and others to improve test scores, both public schools and many afterschool programs have focused not on fostering development and creativity, but on knowledge acquisition, homework help and remedial learning. And now, many in the fields of education, afterschool and youth development are speaking out to say that this approach is failing our kids, failing our communities and undermining our country’s future.

All Stars Project founders questioned many of the assumptions in these fields, and we have spent the last three decades creating both a practice and a science of human development that has put us on the cutting edge of shifts that are now taking place on a broad scale in these areas.

At the All Stars we believe development — the capacity of human beings to continuously create and recreate their lives — is necessary to re-initiate learning. Performance is the tool we employ in our afterschool programs to produce development, onstage and in life.

Last year, the Center on Research & Evaluation at Southern Methodist University’s Simmons School of Education began working with us to create precision tools of measurement and evaluation for this new field of Afterschool Development. These are tools that are consistent with our approach and are focused on how development is understood and manifest. For us, our partnership with SMU has meant that we can demonstrate in more significant ways why and how the All Stars works.

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Last month, the All Stars Project was awarded the 2016 Simmons Luminary Award for our approach to Afterschool Development and our work to help young people create new possibilities for themselves and their communities. As we look to redefine what constitutes success and develop new tools, metrics, and benchmarks to measure development, I look forward to our continued work with the Simmons School and forward-looking institutions across the country to re-invigorate human growth and to fully recognize its impact and outcomes.

You can view my full remarks from the Luminary Award presentation here. I encourage you to check out our website: http://allstars.org and follow me on Twitter: @ASP_CEO to find out more about how you can help transform the lives of youth and poor communities.

Meeting Milestones – All Stars Project 2015 in Review

As we enter the All Stars Project’s 35th anniversary year, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the past year of growth and all that we have accomplished.

2015 was a year of milestones for the All Stars Project! For the first time in our history, we raised over $10 million from the generous support of 4,000 donors, marking 25 years of annual income growth!

From coast to coast, business leaders embraced the All Stars approach to “involvement philanthropy” by partnering directly with our youth and being champions for All Stars in their companies. Our Development School for Youth (DSY) placed young people in paid summer internships in all six All Stars cities and we are proud to announce that a record 381 young people practiced their professional performance at 146 companies across the country!

Closing out their second year of operation, our two newest cities – Bridgeport, CT and Dallas, TX – flourished, experiencing record growth in financial and program support.

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Also in 2015, when tensions on America’s streets were high, Operation Conversation: Cops & Kids, the All Stars’ police-community relations program run in partnership with the NYPD, was awarded the CISCO Community Policing Award by the International Association of Chiefs of Police. This prestigious award recognizes the All Stars innovative approach as a best practice that uses the power of performance and conversation to develop a mutual trust between police officers and inner city youth.

And perhaps one of the All Stars’ most significant accomplishments, as we head into a new year, is the recognition we received from the Simmons School of Education and Human Development at Southern Methodist University. Earlier this month, I traveled to Dallas to accept the 2016 Simmons Luminary Award for the All Stars Project’s approach to Afterschool Development and our work to help young people create new possibilities for themselves and their communities. This is such a strong testament to the work that All Stars is doing across the country and we were both honored and humbled to accept this award!

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Looking forward, I am excited to explore new opportunities for development in 2016 and beyond! I encourage you to check out our website: http://allstars.org and follow me on Twitter: @ASP_CEO to find out more about how you can help transform the lives of youth and poor communities.

Building Community

This month I am excited to feature a guest blog entry written by a number of All Stars Project corporate partners in Chicago. These individuals are all passionate about the importance of bringing together people from very different backgrounds with very different ideas, and trying to engage the issues of poverty. Below is their story.

Business Leaders Can Help Bridge the Divide Between “Two Chicagos”

Felicia Hill Murray and Mya Middleton, like thousands of other young people, were summer interns this past year. They worked at the Loop offices of law firm Polsinelli delivering mail, filing papers and making copies. They also learned how an office runs: how calls are answered, meetings are scheduled, and bills are paid. Some of it was mundane, to be sure, but for Felicia and Mya and 50 other young people ages 16 – 21 from the South and West Sides of Chicago, participating in the All Stars Project of Chicago Development School for Youth (DSY) program, it was life-changing.

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The commute from the girls’ Austin neighborhood on the West Side to downtown takes less than an hour. In some ways, though, it is a trip from one world to another: from one Chicago, the one that is too-often written off as crime-ridden or hopeless; to the other, the global city that powers the economy of the future. In learning how to navigate this journey, Felicia and Mya have become part of an important movement.

For Polsinelli, Equity Residential, Nuveen Investments, AMLI Residential and the 26 other professional companies participating in DSY, the presence of these young people is a symbol of our commitment to helping bridge the divide between the two Chicagos. And today, as we reflect upon both the charitable spirit of the holiday season and the tumultuous times facing our city, we recognize that the experience of being connected with young people from the other side of Chicago’s great divide was life-changing for us as well.

Too often we, as business leaders, leave things to the politicians, schools and social programs. We are so wrapped up in the day-to-day work of building our enterprises that we fail to see the big picture. The fact is that our futures are just as tied to what happens in the city’s most-challenged neighborhoods as Felicia’s and Mya’s futures are tied to what happens downtown. Yes, we strengthen the city by fueling its business economy. But that is not enough. If we allow one Chicago to fail, we risk the ruin of the other as well.

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Felicia, who wants to be a lawyer, attends the Legal Prep Charter Academy, and Mya, who hasn’t yet decided on a career path, attends the selective-enrollment Westinghouse College Prep. The program in which they participate, however, is open to all young people who want to grow, not just those attending top schools or making top grades. Though there is no GPA requirement, the interns have all successfully graduated from DSY’s rigorous 12-week training that uses a performance-based model — wearing the right costume, for example, and speaking so your audience can understand you — to prepare young people from struggling neighborhoods to participate in the vibrant economic and cultural life of the entire city.

Our companies provide internships, in partnership with the DSY, that create a high-quality environment — a stage upon which the students can perform in new ways. The employees who supervise them are also trained by the All Stars Project, with the goal of helping maximize the developmental experience for the young people. As they connected with each other over the summer, they found they are creating something new together: a bond that easily cuts across that supposedly “unbridgeable” divide between the two Chicagos. And both the interns and their supervisors feel better about themselves and their city for having participated.

We would urge our fellow business leaders to look at this and other worthy programs as more than just potential recipients of our end-of-year charitable donations, but as partners in moving our city forward.

There are sound economic reasons to try to connect our companies to the tremendous pool of untapped, under-developed talent here in Chicago. Beyond that, though, working together is quite simply the right thing to do. The business community can and must do its part to bring us back together as one city, one economy, one Chicago.

Margo Cook, Senior Executive Vice President, Nuveen Investments and Chair, ASP of Chicago Board and member, All Stars Project Board of Directors

Greg Mutz, Chairman & CEO, AMLI Residential

Tony Nasharr, Managing Director/Chicago, Polsinelli

David Neithercut, President & CEO, Equity Residential


To find out more about how you can join us to build a new kind of community, check out our website: http://allstars.org and follow me on Twitter: @ASP_CEO.

The Benefits of Involvement Philanthropy

As we enter the season of giving, one of the best ways to give is by becoming a part of involvement philanthropy.

This growing trend has captured the energies of thousands of corporate professionals, who are not only writing checks, but also becoming personally involved in transforming the lives of inner-city youth. In the process, they are doing new things, having new experiences, and growing themselves alongside the youth.

In Dallas last week, I spoke with corporate executives from the Truman Arnold Companies, Hunt Consolidated and EY who practiced involvement philanthropy last summer, when they sponsored their first summer intern, as part of the All Stars’ Development School for Youth (DSY). To a person, they spoke passionately about not only what the young person had accomplished, but also how deeply they had been personally touched by this involvement.

Founded 20 years ago, the DSY is a program that partners with the business community to help young people, ages 16 to 21, create a professional performance by leading development workshops and providing paid summer internships at their companies.

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“Business leaders are finding that when they interact with the young people of DSY, it energizes the company. People involved with DSY are getting as much out of the experience as they are giving,” commented Hunter Hunt, CEO of Hunt Consolidated.

This enthusiasm is confirmed by our recent survey of corporate professionals who participated in DSY. 91.4% of people surveyed said they were likely or very likely to recommend the DSY program to their colleagues or to other companies.

Today, 180 companies across America are participating in involvement philanthropy through the DSY, including 90 new corporate partners this year alone. Involvement philanthropy is catching on and spreading!

Involvement philanthropy is very personal: you experience the impact first-hand. Both young people and the corporate executives come home at the end of the day and share these direct hands-on experiences with their families and friends. This changes how people living in poor communities experience corporations, as well as how corporate professionals experience inner-city teenagers.

So as we enter the season of giving, and in advance of #GivingTuesday on December 1st – a global day dedicated to giving back – I urge you to become a part of involvement philanthropy. At All Stars we celebrate giving back every day, it’s not just once a year; and we know that it takes more than presents, it takes your “presence”. Our young people don’t just need your financial support, they need you at their side!

To find out more about how you can join the involvement philanthropy movement, check out our website: http://allstars.org and follow me on Twitter: @ASP_CEO.

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Americans Reject Extended School Day in Favor of New Developmental Approaches in Afterschool, All Stars’ National Survey Reveals

Welcome to my new blog!  I am a bit embarrassed to admit that not long ago I didn’t even know what a blog was.  But luckily I have the full 20 volumes of the Oxford English Dictionary in my house, so I can look up the word ‘blog’. I have become educated and enlightened!  Now I understand that a blog is a tool for communicating and engaging with people all across America and the world.

I decided to launch this blog so that I can share my thoughts, reflections and ideas as I work to make Afterschool Development a household name and a leading approach to social development and a new way of engaging poverty.

I will also be inviting guest bloggers to share their thoughts and ideas.

In mid-September, the All Stars Project conducted some fascinating research. We provided direction to a Harris Poll, which asked American adults what they believe poor inner-city youth most need to succeed in their lives. The poll offered many choices, like team sports, a longer school day, social-emotional skills and remedial afterschool programs, among others.  Among the findings:

  • The top response among 3 in 4 Americans is a focus on life skills (e.g., communication, teamwork, social/emotional skills).
  • The second top response noted among almost 2 in 3 Americans is experience in the workplace (e.g., afterschool jobs).
  • Surprisingly, the vast majority of Americans (75%) do not support the extension of the school year and day, despite the policies currently in place in dozens of cities across the nation.
  • In fact, the lower the income bracket, the lower the percentage of respondents who support this direction for dealing with the issues facing poor inner-city kids.

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It is fascinating how smart Americans are…and how far ahead of our government and its policies! In cities across America like Newark, New Jersey, where All Stars has a vibrant Center for Afterschool Development, extending the school day has been adopted as the policy for fixing the deeply troubled public education system.

Meanwhile our poll indicates that Americans do not believe “more school” is a successful strategy for creating success in the lives of inner city youth.   All the same, a leading afterschool network in New York City has revamped their mission turning afterschool into Extended Learning Time, in a case of government funding dictating policy.

In my monthly blog, I will shine a light on new solutions, on outside the box players and on true innovations being employed all over the country. Yes, there is a fundamental shift happening.   A shift towards creativity and performance based approaches that bring diverse people together (rich and poor; black, Hispanic, Asian and white; even cops and kids) and enable them to create something positive and new.

I hope you will join me on LinkedIn, engage with me on Twitter, read my monthly blog, and share your thoughts, projects and energies with me.