Serving America: A National Service Agenda for the Next Decade
Publication Date: September 2007
Publisher(s): Center for American Progress
Author(s): Shirley Sagawa
There is strong evidence over the past eight decades that national service plays an effective role in solving specific problems in every sector of our society. In the 1930s, the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps started by President Franklin Roosevelt engaged 3 million unemployed young men to fight soil erosion by planting trees, building structures in national parks, and otherwise protecting America’s natural resources. VISTA volunteers working to alleviate poverty in the 1960s paved the way for national service programs dedicated to helping our senior citizens in the 1970s. Youth service in the 1980s led to the creation and a full range of national service programs that engaged American youth and adults, including the Points of Light Foundation, in the early 1990s.
The flexible and community-driven nature of these service programs resulted in a diversity of innovative initiatives, continuing this great experiment in national service despite the absence of authorizing legislation from Congress. Organizations ranging from local schools and afterschool programs to large national youth corps and brand-name nonprofits took part. Social entrepreneurs, in particular, looked to national service to provide the human and financial resources they needed to grow their new and creative social service organizations.