Saturday, June 07, 2008

Maximizing Value from Civic Engagement



Last week the National Conference on Volunteerism and Community Service was held in Atlanta. I attended in my role as a Commissioner for the Illinois Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service, and as President of Cabrini Connections and the Tutor/Mentor Connection.

When I attend conferences, seminars and meetings I always have a note pad. I fill several pages quotes and web references. I'm always thinking of how these ideas can be put to work in my own organization. I'm a visual thinker so I scribble diagrams of ideas, which outline ways to put what I'm hearing into actions that help us help kids.

I've been recruiting volunteers from colleges and business to help me convert these ideas into animations and sophisticated forms of understanding. Click here to see a few examples of work that has been done

During the coming week I'm going to share some of the ideas from this conference. I'll try to post one idea each day. Today, I'll talk about the first idea, which I feel sets the stage for all others: How do we maximize the value provided by the millions of hours and billions of dollars that are spent doing volunteer service in America, or the world, every year?

During the conference there were many workshops on this theme. I attended the business track, which focused on unleashing the talent withing the business sector, to support the infrastructure of non profits. Here is a copy of the idea I outlined as I listened to some of the speakers during the first day of the conference.



Above you can see what this looks like once I converted it to a power point slide.

The main point of this slide is that thousands of people are engaged in National Service each year, and many more are volunteers in tutoring, mentoring and many other forms of service.

If the organizations they support provide good training, good customer service, and help volunteers become bonded to the cause, many of these volunteers should stay involved with the agency or the cause, in the years after they leave direct service.

Thus, if a 20 year old youth does one year as an AmeriCorps volunteer, working with a tutor/mentor program, that youth will be more knowledgeable about the cause, and further along in his/her career ten, 15 and 20 years later. This should lead that person to be proactive in the ways he supports the cause, and in the ways he/she recruits others to also support the cause.

If our service programs grow millions of leaders in industry, universities, politics, etc. such leaders can become a much more sophisticated, and powerful source of support for social benefit organizations than what we have now. For tutoring/mentoring programs, that would mean more kids succeeding in school, in life and in their future work careers.

So, how do we make this happen? I'll show some ideas that I diagrammed this week. If you want to peak ahead, you can view these at in the Tutor/Mentor Institute section of our web site.

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