SOCIAL IMPACT PIONEER, EDUCATOR, COMMUNITY BUILDER
Commissioner Christopher Foltz is an award winning public relations and brand development strategist, and Founder of the Chicago based Social Policy Institute, which focuses in research, training, and policy initiatives in the fields of education, housing, employment, restorative justice, healthcare, public safety, veteran affairs, social enterprises, and the environment.
From his roots in national politics starting at the age of 12, to a battle with drug addiction, 119 days in county jail, and losing everything to the point of homelessness by the age of 25, Chris reestablished himself as a prolific initiator of social impact and development in Illinois, and across the nation.
From strategies lending the creation of meaningful brand partnerships, crafted messaging and corporate give-back models, to forging a path as a top strategist to start-ups, global leaders, entertainers, athletes, government organizations, nonprofits and the people he serves in his community. Chris dedicates the majority of his time to research and advocating for the underserved through pro-bono work, lobbying and initiative implementation. In addition to his humanitarian efforts, Foltz’s educational impact reaches the classroom through his role as an Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship & New Business Creation for both undergraduate and graduate school students at Chicago’s famed Columbia College.
Foltz has been featured in multiple newspapers, online publications, and media programs throughout the world and had the opportunity to speak across the nation on life, leadership, and organizational development. In addition to his work in social policy, Foltz currently serves as the Senior Advisor to the President of the National Women’s Political Caucus in Washington D.C. The NWPC is one of the most historically significant political caucus’ in America, and its founders contributed significantly in the passing of the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970’s. The NWPC is a multi-issue grassroots organization dedicated to increasing women’s participation in the political process and creating a true women’s political power base to achieve equality for all women
A genuinely humble man with an echoing presence and , Chris’ numerous accolades and accomplishments aid in defining his true ability to serve the masses, and offers an in depth look into his visionary insight. Foltz’s recent recognition includes three Chicago Innovation Award Nominations, a two time American Red Cross Hero nominee, recipient of a Trumpet Award from the Publicity Club of Chicago, recipient of the Chicago Area Peace Corps Association Service Award, and a Nebraska Art History Award for Contributions to Humanity. It’s hard to go far in Chicago without hearing Chris Foltz’s name or seeing evidence of his impact.
Read More About Chris Foltz's Interesting Journey Below
After leaving professional politics, Foltz returned to his hometown to aid his mother suffering from terminal cancer. During this time, Chris chose the road less traveled which resulted in drug addiction. His mother passed away and Foltz was arrested the day after his mother’s funeral for drug related theft. Chris spent the next 119 days in county jail undergoing drug rehab while his court case was being adjudicated. During this time, his mother’s house was foreclosed upon, all of his life possessions were thrown in dumpsters in the driveway, ultimately leaving Chris homeless upon release from jail.
Chris was court ordered to spend the next 6 months in Waukegan, Illinois residing in the Oxford House independent living program. Oxford House provides safe, drug and alcohol free living environments for people starting their lives over on the right foot. After getting a job as a bartender and server at a fine dining restaurant in the Chicago suburbs, Foltz worked with a team of people he met in the Oxford House program to expand the Grand Experiment Charities. Grand Experiment successfully opened several “Oxford style” houses around Greater Chicago. Chris moved to Deerfield, Illinois to expand the Grand Experiment into an existing recovery home in the village.
“If it wasn’t for the Grand Experiment Charities showing me how to take my past and affect other people’s futures in a positive way, I would never be here today,” Foltz stated in an interview, “Of all the amazing opportunities I’ve had in my life, the people I’ve met, and the lessons learned, I enjoy talking about the road I went down, and the path I ultimately chose to get where I am today.”
In 2010, Foltz used the last $140 to his name and started his first communication strategy firm Christopher Foltz & Company, with more partners than clients. As the partnership slimmed down, CFCo saw incredible growth in the field of marketing and public relations.
“I have never taken a public relations class, or necessarily believed that making brands look better was what I was good at. We would get typecasted. To some we were a web design firm, a PR or advertising agency, and some, just a punching bag. I was interested in making brands better, not just look better.”
In early 2013 Christopher Foltz & Company’s original partnership ended and Chris reincorporated as Christopher Foltz Collaborative, L3C. The Collaborative was recognized as the first agency in the industry to require charitable give-back models amongst their entire client roster and was the first public relations strategy firm in America to re-incorporate as a Low Profit Limited Liability Company (L3C) and function as a Social Business Enterprise.
In April 2013, Chris lost his closest childhood friend Josh Schiro to a heroin overdose. The same heroin addiction Chris and Josh started together, but thankfully Chris was able to overcome. This tragedy was the catalyst for Chris to reflect upon himself and the legacy he strived to achieve. His constant involvement in the community and charitable programs were at the forefront of this mission, as he moved the Collaborative’s headquarters from a loft in Chicago’s trendy River North location, to a ground level storefront in an underserved region in Chicago’s West Side. The same West Side Chris and Josh would venture into seeking heroin during their addiction, now serving as a home for his future endeavors.
Facing theft, vandalism, original business debt, potential eviction, Chris’ own operational shortcomings, a flood to the newly renovated basement and complete loss of funding from a “backer” that didn’t… back, Chris and his team faced every possible challenge to launching in the direction they had pursued for nearly a year, but Chris managed to hold everyone together to continue down a path he knew to be right.
This profound self realization led Chris and his core team to pursue his true north: The Social Policy Institute. Today, Chris has built SPI for the sole purpose of educating those who think they “can’t” – with the necessary tools to realize that they can. As an advocate for the underserved and a lobbyist for those who can’t speak for themself, SPI offers an opportunity to move the needle when it comes to social issues, and the causes of the people.
A former Republican Party leader during his undergraduate career, Chris had the honor of serving as Chapter Chairman, State Chairman, Midwest Caucus Leader, National Marketing Director, and National Board Member for the College Republican National Committee. During Foltz’s College Republican leadership tenure, he was responsible for the largest growth in Illinois College Republican Federation history, by fostering 38 new college level organizations in Illinois, creating a statewide minority outreach program, and bringing Illinois to national recognition as a pillar of state organizations at the College Republican National convention in Washington D.C.
In late 2009, Chris was nominated by the Mayor and appointed by the Board of Trustees as Chairman of the Community Relations Commission for the Village of Deerfield, Illinois. The Community Relations Commission studies and recommends various means of developing better relationships among all residents in a diverse and inclusive community. The commission also promotes and supports initiatives with federal, state and local governmental agencies, commissions, businesses, schools, civic and religious organizations, neighborhood and community events aimed at increasing goodwill and civic engagement among the residents and the global community at large.
At the age of 28, Foltz was the youngest commission chairman in the Village of Deerfield’s history, until 2013 when he was one of the authors amending the ordinance he changed a few years prior – allowing young leaders from age 14 to serve as Commissioner and play an active role in municipal government. By the stroke of a pen, Foltz made it impossible for himself to ever be recorded as the youngest commission in village history in the future. “This has never been done before, and I couldn’t be more honored to make history like this in a community I love. If I run for office in the future – I would be honored to lose to one of these two young Commissioners.” said Foltz at the recent introduction of the new Commissioners to the Village Board.
Upon completing being released from jail and now homeless, Foltz moved to Waukegan Illinois to start over in a recovery home. Chris was at odds with the Republican Party; despite all his accolades during his political career. “I remember my father telling me to not attempt to get involved with politics again – they wouldn’t allow it. I tried without luck at first. I will just say my entrance to Democrat politics wasn’t filled with roses and cotton candy either,” said Foltz in an interview. After a fight to get involved across the aisle, and after proving he wasn’t an implant from the old administration, Chris got involved with the Young Democrats of America (YDA) and served as a delegate and credentials committee member at the 2009 National Convention. He was later named the Communication Director for the Great Lakes Region of the YDA.
After his involvement with the YDA, Foltz reemerged as a political strategist getting an entire slate elected in Chicago North Shore, as well as serving as the successful campaign manager for the first female mayor in Deerfield, IL history. Chris served as both a political strategist and community organizer for Chicago’s 2011 Mayoral election. In the fall of 2011, Foltz was named to the National Finance Committee of Generation 44, the young professionals arm of President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign. Currently, Chris has chosen to leave partisan politics to not limit reach during his pursuit in making an impact amongst every community he can.
Foltz is currently an active member of both the Business Opportunities, and Outreach Committees of the Illinois Governor’s Taskforce on Social Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Enterprise. In addition to his ongoing mission to create social change, Chris has served as the Association Board President of A Safe Haven Foundation, one of the nation’s largest foundations focused on ending homelessness. In 2013 A Safe Haven Foundation was recognized as one of twelve “Champions of Change” by the White House. Foltz also served as a Metropolitan Committee member for Life Goes On – the Illinois Organ Donation Program and Chairman of the University of Illinois Chicago Robotic Kidney Transplant Ambassador Program.
In the academic arena, Foltz serves as Adjunct Faculty in the Arts, Entertainment and Media Management department at Columbia College Chicago. Foltz teaches both undergraduate and graduate studies with a focus on Entrepreneurship & New Business Creation.
Chris’ educational focus is not based solely in pursuit of a degree or a certification attainment. Instead, he is determined to inspire those who have the desire to learn for a purpose through practical application. His teaching style has received much attention from both students, faculty and attendees alike.
“I remember waiting to get the results of my first faculty review. I guess the real world isn’t just based around RateMyProfessor.com. I have never been one for getting high marks on reviews from administration as I relentlessly buck the status quo. I couldn’t have been more excited seeing the great things such a respected faculty member had to say. She did say she didn’t think I would be able to teach the same way with the same results in a larger class size. So I asked for a larger class size.”
Through various speaking tours, stages and media appearances across the world, Foltz has shared his message with hundreds of thousands of people. Whether he’s speaking on stage to those seeking advice on furthering their businesses and organizations, or preparing students enrolled in his college courses for the trials and tribulations an entrepreneur will face, one factor will always remain the same: help any and all who are passionate to learn not only for their own benefit but also for the benefit of others.
Chris and his team have been honored many times with awards, media acknowledgement, and the occasional thank you in a government report. Some notable recent honors include; A two time Chicago Innovation Award Nominee, the Corporate Award of Leadership Excelling from the Huntington’s Disease Society of America, Leadership Recognition – Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Chicago, Nebraska Art History Award – State of Nebraska, Trumpet Award – Publicity Club of Chicago, Chicagoan of the Week – The Top Sheet, and 2014 Nomination – American Red Cross Hero. In 2013, Foltz was named an Ambassador of World Peace by Claes Nobel, senior member of the renowned Nobel Prize family, and World Peace One.
During Chris’ college years he served as the Executive Vice Chairman of the Illinois Board of Higher Education Student Advisory Committee, Student Body Comptroller, President of the Delta Chi Fraternity, and leadership roles and involvement in countless campus and community activities. During his tenure as president of his fraternity, Foltz’s chapter was featured in USA Today, and received national recognition for their outstanding philanthropy program. Ending his undergraduate studies in 2003, Foltz was honored with inclusion on the National Deans List, listed in Who’s Who of America’s Colleges and Universities four consecutive years, and selected for membership in the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. During his senior year, Foltz was ranked among the top ten debaters in the United States competing in National Educators Debate Association collegiate debate. Chris was also selected for involvement in the international renowned The Washington Center internship program.
Foltz has been a member of the American Association of Political Consultants, American League of Lobbyists, Kiwanis International, Illinois Police Association, Young Democrats of Illinois, Deerfield Caucus Nominating Committee Chairman and Caucus Advisory Board Member, Deerfield Family Days Committee, Chicago’s Second Ward Democratic Organization, and is a Master Mason and past member of the Ben Hur Lodge of the A.F.A.M.