CHANGE Illinois! Coalition Names Ryan Blitstein as President

Jan 31, 2013, 13:00 ET from CHANGE Illinois! Coalition

Organization Prepares for Politics Reform Drive

CHICAGO, Jan. 31, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Ryan Blitstein, a journalist turned foundation head, has been named the first President and CEO of CHANGE Illinois!, a coalition leading systemic political and government reform.

"We began in 2009 as an informal broad-based coalition of groups and individuals intent on changing the culture of corruption that flourished during the Rod Blagojevich years," said George A. Ranney, Jr., who helped create the coalition and is now Chair of the CHANGE Illinois! Board of Directors. "Our initiative resulted in the state's first-ever law limiting campaign contributions. It convinced us of the need for a new stand-alone, non-partisan organization to amplify the efforts of our coalition members, and bring more innovative ideas into the reform movement. CHANGE Illinois! is poised to become that organization."

CHANGE Illinois! (the Coalition for Honest and New Government Ethics) grew into a statewide coalition of civic, business, labor, professional, non-profit and philanthropic organizations, which represent more than 2 million members. Guided by a Statement of Principles (available at the coalition addresses issues that currently undercut the viability of our democracy, including ballot access, competitive elections, increased citizen participation, government transparency, unethical lobbying and redistricting. 

"We are now considering whether to gear up for a petition drive for a state constitutional amendment to improve the redistricting process," said Peter Bensinger, Vice Chair.  "As with campaign contribution limits, many in the state's power structure will try to derail redistricting reform, but voters throughout Illinois are eager for an opportunity to change from politics as usual by ending partisan gerrymandering and encouraging more competition in legislative elections."

"We are delighted Ryan Blitstein has agreed to lead this team," said Deborah Harrington, Vice Chair. "He brings CHANGE an exceptional skill set that well qualifies him to strengthen this unique organization: a record of entrepreneurial leadership; an ability to communicate across multiple forms of media; and a gift for developing new ideas across a variety of issues and sectors." 

Blitstein's selection is the result of an extensive search process led by Cindi Canary, the well-known reformer who until recently headed the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform.  Over 100 individuals applied for the position.

During the past three years, Blitstein helped create and lead the Chicago-based Susan Crown Exchange, a philanthropic foundation serving as a catalyst for social change on issues including education, health, and poverty, where he served as Executive Director.

"I have spent my career analyzing and addressing some of America's toughest challenges," Blitstein said. "As a fourth-generation Illinoisan, I am thrilled to have an opportunity to tackle them in Springfield and throughout the state.

"On issues from pension crises to poverty alleviation, I see our faltering political and government systems as root problems holding us back from solutions," he said.

"While there is no unanimity of opinion on controversial policy issues, people along the political spectrum agree that our representative government needs repair," he added. "When there is so much doubt about the honesty, fairness, and effectiveness of our government, many citizens get so discouraged they don't bother to vote or express opinions to their elected representatives.

"We are going to give all Illinoisans, regardless of political party or whether they even identify with a party, a reason to get involved, help us change the way Illinois works, and end the vicious cycle of citizen cynicism and dishonest government," Blitstein said.

Blitstein spent nearly a decade in Illinois, New York, and California as an investigative reporter, with specialties in politics, policy, and social innovation. In addition to Chicago publications, his reporting has appeared in TIME, The New York Times, The Boston Globe and Bloomberg Businessweek. He held prior roles in technology, public relations, and children's book publishing. He has a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and a bachelor's degree from Stanford University.

Blitstein's volunteer work includes serving as a member of the Chicago Committee of Human Rights Watch and as board co-chair of Global Press Institute, which trains and employs women as investigative reporters in 24 developing countries where their reporting ignites social change. He has advised dozens of local and national non-profits, including the Illinois Humanities Council, Chicago Votes, and The Insight Labs.

For more information about CHANGE Illinois! and how to help our reform efforts, visit

SOURCE CHANGE Illinois! Coalition