This blog was co-authored by Case Foundation Senior Fellow Sonal Shah
“I have spoken of a thousand points of light, of all the community organizations that are spread like stars throughout the Nation, doing good…I will go to the people and the programs that are the brighter points of light, and I will ask every member of my government to become involved. The old ideas are new again because they are not old, they are timeless: duty, sacrifice, commitment, and a patriotism that finds its expression in taking part and pitching in.”
President George H.W. Bush, 1990
One of our country’s greatest strengths is our commitment to community and service. President George H.W. Bush modeled that both in his personal life and as President, with the creation of the Corporation for National Service and the National and Community Trust Act of 1993.
Since then, subsequent administrations have continued to build on that legacy of prioritizing service — the creation of AmeriCorps under President Clinton, President George W. Bush’s creation of the first Council on Service and Civic Participation, and the Obama Administration’s passing of the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act and creation of the Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation.
We know that millions of Americans give and serve locally and globally. And we believe there is still much more we can do to prioritize service and civic engagement. For that reason, we were so pleased that President Obama announced a new initiative on July 15 during a White House event honoring President George H.W. Bush for his lifelong commitment to service.
The President announced the creation of a Task Force led by the Corporation for National and Community Service and the Domestic Policy Council to identify opportunities for the federal government to build better intergovernmental and public-private partnerships to expand national service. This was a national moment to see Presidents Obama and Bush and national service leaders focused on amplifying the work of the nation’s innovators and problem-solvers.
The announcement comes at an important time, as our country needs to double down on addressing some of our toughest challenges. We have the skills, the ingenuity, and the entrepreneurial spirit that can make transformational change. The President’s announcement catalyzed the sector by asking federal agencies to make national service a priority.
We have seen the power of collaboration within the federal government, as well as the power of partnerships that reach out to multiple stakeholders — corporations, nonprofits, foundations, and others — to drive social change. This is the moment to propel national service to achieve real outcomes. The Case Foundation looks forward to working with the government and programs like Reimagining Service to continue to help build innovative partnerships by working with government, corporations, foundations, and the social sector.
We currently support A Billion + Change in leading a movement for companies to enable their employees to provide skills-based volunteer services to nonprofits. Companies are finding that it’s more valuable — for the company, for the employee, and for the nonprofit — for an individual to lend her skills, and not just her time. Indeed, at more than $2 billion worth of time pledged, it’s the largest corporate commitment to service in America.
There are also other programs finding new ways to provide resources to the social and public sectors — Code for America and FuseCorps field tech geeks and other professionals on fellowships with city and state governments to improve service provision; Taproot and Catchafire connect individuals with pro bono opportunities; and Venture for America fields top college grads on fellowships with startups in areas that are struggling financially. The demand for these programs is growing. People want to find ways to serve.
The Franklin Project, led by General Stanley McChrystal, John Bridgeland, and Alan Khazei, is convening thought leaders from across the country on how to drastically expand civilian national service. And within the government, US Chief Technology Officer Todd Park and Deputy CTO Jen Pahlka have launched the second class of the Presidential Innovation Fellows, which is mobilizing some of the best minds from the private sector to solve problems across many federal agencies.
We are inspired by the innovators, service members, and the millions of Americans who give their time to make our communities and our country a better place. It is why we were excited to see President Obama continue President George H.W. Bush’s legacy to lift up the thousands and thousands of points of light represented by those who, through their service, strengthen our communities and our nation.