Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Youth Protests in Greece

The fatal killing of a young man on December 6th has many people in Greece outraged. After the death of 15 year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos, the largest protests in years occurred in the Greek capitol of Athens and quickly spread throughout the country. The outpouring of anger was caused by a policeman who shot to death the boy in the district of Exarchia, a stronghold of Athens’ anarchists.

The two policemen involved in the incident were arrested and an investigation on the exact sequence of events was conducted to clarify if the young man was shot deliberately or if he died tragically by errant warning shots fired by one police officer after their car was attacked by a mob throwing stones. As a reaction to this unfortunate incident, Greece faced protests at an unprecedented scale. Rioters marched to the police headquarters, torched cars, burned shops, blocked streets, burned petrol bombs and caused severe damage in the millions.

The question of why the death of this young person caused such a huge outburst of rage that spilled over to the entire country and spread to several European cities requires taking a deeper look at the circumstances. One major aspect which deserves attention is the increasing social pressure young people encounter in Greece. They are confronted with high unemployment which is severely affecting employment opportunities for young graduates. Another reason for the protests lies within the political system favoring nepotism and bureaucracy. Prime Minister Costas Karamalis, whose conservative party is holding a razor thin majority in parliament, was elected with the assumption he would realize his promise “to tackle corruption, make Greece a meritocracy and enable business to flourish.” Unfortunately, Greece “is still a country where money and influence talk” (BBC News).

Greece’s government is facing growing unpopularity due to financial scandals and ignoring the pressing need for reforms in the health, education and public policy sectors. Greece “is a land of European prices and African wages” and the government “was never radical enough to implement structural changes required to clean up Greece and enable its youth to flourish” (BBC News).

Young people identifying themselves as anarchists or communists and youths without any political affiliation were involved in the riots. Politicians, authorities and society in general must now acknowledge the existence and needs of a younger generation expecting a supportive policy environment and better opportunities for their future. The financial crisis and raised fears worldwide about an upcoming economic depression “greater than the great depression” (BBC News) has caused uncertainty and anxiety about the future among young people in general. This crisis shouldn’t be handled at the expense of ignoring the social needs of young people and cutting of investments in education. We are not back in 1968 but the mistrust towards the establishment is still alive.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Project Scotland Continues Despite Funding Cut

Scotland’s national youth service program, Project Scotland, was a roaring success, impacting youth and their communities across the country, until it received a major financial blow in April 2008. Despite efforts to lobby the government through petition and protests, the SNP government in Scotland passed legislation to drastically cut the program’s funding. The legislation reduced funding from £6.5 to £1.4 million in 2008, and then plans to effectively cease all funding in March 2009. †

Why was the funding cut for such a promising initiative? Representatives for the SNP party claim that they intended to direct the funding toward a wider range of organizations. Yet key findings of the report by Roger Tym & Partners, a leading economic development consultancy, concluded that Project Scotland is worth at least £21.4m a year to the Scottish economy. In addition, it is 10 times more effective than Jobseekers in helping young people into sustainable, long-term employment, it saves the government £1.7m a year in welfare spending, and it delivers benefits to partner organizations of £9m a year.

Despite the budget cut, Project Scotland will continue to serve as an independent organization and has taken innovative steps to secure alternative financial backing. According to its website, Project Scotland has launched a new fundraising program called Catalyst for Change, hoping to pair 50 businesses with 50 local volunteers. Companies involved in Catalyst for Change are asked to pledge £3,000 to sponsor a young person’s training and six-month placement. In return, the business receives updates about the trainee and community’s experience as well as positive press and bragging rights that they have given back to the community. Scottish businesses that are already involved include Weatherford, KCA Deutag and Opito.

Project Scotland, a national youth volunteering charity in Scotland, was known for its contribution to many Scottish communities and its distinctive way of connecting with Scottish youths through the media. The organization was established and funded by the previous Scottish government in 2004, to offer full-time volunteer placements for 16-25 year olds for three to six months in order to help their communities and develop skills for future employment. Project Scotland was also a way to address their country’s disproportionally high amount of dropout students and unemployed graduates.

Youth across Scotland were given a new hope with these unique and exciting opportunities. Scott Palmer of Auchinleck won a 2008 Young Scot award after leading a Project Scotland Initiative in his neighborhood. His team landscaped eight community gardens in their town. He then went on to start and lead Auchinleck’s first youth group. The 19-year-old left the program with a national award, a perked interest in land engineering, and a job offer. Scott and others like him are seeing brighter futures because of their volunteer opportunities, with or without government support.

Their website boasts, “Research shows that young people can and do increase their self-confidence and self-esteem, develop a range of communication skills and improve their ability to work with other people through volunteering. It can act as a catalyst for young people to engage more effectively with other learning or training and, indeed, many young people develop practical skills related to their specific experiences of volunteering.”

The Volunteer Summer 2008

Friday, October 24, 2008

Y2Y Global Youth Conference 2008

In Conjunction with the United Nations Week celebrations this year, the Youth-to-Youth Community (Y2Y) of the World Bank organized the 'Y2Y' Global Youth Conference 2008 held at the World Bank Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Y2Y is a community of young staff within the World Bank, its' mission is to mainstream youth issues within the World Bank and the broader development community and to engage with young people around the world through a participatory and demand driven approach. The conference is one of Y2Y’s main products and is organized by a dedicated and enthusiastic network of Y2Y volunteers. In previous years, the conference has attracted audiences of more than 300 individuals from around the world.

The conference discussed the holistic approach to youth development necessary to address the growing educational and employment needs of youth. The conference highlighted the importance of this approach by promoting a dialogue among various stakeholders on how to equip youth with the adequate tools and competencies that will enable them to earn a dignified livelihood while positively impacting their communities.

The theme of the conference – Empowering a Generation: Developing Skills and Capacities in Youth – emphasized the urgency to focus on and invest in the needs of young people the world over. The conference sessions featured organizations from Asia, Africa, Europe, the Americas, and the Middle East. Representatives from these organizations presented their key projects and engaged in discussions on the challenges, constraints and successes experienced during the implementation and evaluation of their work.

One of the programs highlighted was 'The Girl Effect' —a collaboration between the World Bank, several governments, and the private sector to promote the economic empowerment of adolescent girls in poor and post-conflict countries. Stuart Hogue, Senior Manager of Strategic Initiatives, Nike Foundation spoke about how empowering women is fundamental for a country's overall economic stability and prosperity highlighting that "The greatest resource in breaking the cycle of poverty is the adolescent girl."

Youth @ Annual Meeting 2008

*Cross post from www.youthink.worldbank.org*

October 24, 2008—Why should youth be involved in development discourse? Well, today's young people are the future world leaders, after all! Decision-makers today need to work with youth—both learn from them and help them learn. With some 1.5 billion young people between the ages of 12 and 24 in the world, youth represent a tremendous opportunity to accelerate economic growth and reduce poverty worldwide.

This year, for the first time ever, the World Bank and IMF Annual Meetings included a special three-day session devoted to youth! From October 8–10, 18 young leaders from around the world gathered in Washington to discuss their projects, goals, and development concerns. And while many of the sessions were gruelingly long and intense, participants stayed enthusiastic and engaged throughout. The result: the sharing of many great ideas and initiatives, plus tangible action plans for how youth can become bigger players in development.

What They Talked About

Over the three days, participants shared their views on topics including how young people can exercise citizenship and make their voices heard in society, the school-to-work transition, the World Bank's engagement with youth, and an action plan on how youth can be vital partners in development. Below are just a few of the many interesting ideas and comments raised during the sessions:

Mark Garcia of Silliman University in the Philippines, works on a project that aims to increase youth involvement in monitoring transparency in local government. He observed that low self-worth leads many young people to doubt their ability to make a difference. "If they're not convinced that they have value," he said, "they are hard to mobilize."

Ismaël Mamadou-Tanko, president of the Youth Development and Peace (YDP) network in Togo, discussed his fundraising efforts to help send girls to school. In his opinion, the solution for helping to educate Togo's youth is investment. "There aren't even enough computers in the classrooms," he said, "and teachers' salaries just aren't high enough."

Renata Florentino, who works on a project to improve cities in Brazil, with and for youth, talked about how important it is to involve everyone. "When you put all the groups together, you can really make a change," she said, adding that while it can take a long time to bring everyone on board, the end result is more participatory and therefore effective.

Action Plan: Teaming Up with World Bank

Participants brainstormed over how youth can be more involved in what the World Bank does, and came up with several tangible areas of interest:

  • Strengthen coordination of youth organizations at the local, national, regional and global level. This includes identifying Youth Advisory Groups, Youth for Development and Peace networks, and national Youth Councils that exist in a particular country
  • Enhance information dissemination and make information youth friendly and localized
  • Youth to get information on projects in the pipeline, and training on how to access information
  • Participation in the country assistance strategy—reaching out to the appropriate staff in country offices
  • Plan for the Youth @ Annual Meetings 2009

It was generally agreed that the sessions also helped to clarify what the World Bank is all about, and what it can and can't do.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Leonardo DiCaprio and other celebs pump up youth vote

*Cross post from Reuters*

Celebrities Leonardo DiCaprio, Forest Whitaker, Tobey Maguire and will.i.am are out to convince young people to vote — and they have made a series of public service announcements for the cause in partnership with Google, YouTube, Declare Yourself and MySpace.

While many of the celebrities have shown their support for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, the PSAs are meant to be non-partisan in tone and content, so don’t expect any digs at Sen. John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate.

In the first ad, stars including Jennifer Aniston, Halle Berry, and Ashton Kutcher, address viewers directly and urge them in a tongue-and-cheek way not to vote, before going on to not only call on the viewers to vote but to make sure they are registered and that their friends, too, are registered and are voting.

The PSA was produced by DiCaprio’s company, Appian Way Productions. This past weekend, we interviewed DiCaprio and he talked about his desire to get young voters to the polls. “My big message on this next election is that, hopefully, the youth movement will come out in full force this time,” DiCaprio said. “Hopefully we will have a true representation of this country because enough young people who care about policies for the next 50 years will go out to the polls and vote for the candidate they think best represents the United States.”

Alot has been made about the youth vote in this year’s election, and Obama has had a great deal of success in engaging young Americans. He even listens to hip hop music. Yet, time and again in U.S. elections, young people have failed to turn out at the polls in the numbers that older citizens do. Maybe this will help; maybe not. But it can’t hurt. If you’re in your 20s, will you vote? The election is Nov. 4.

Click here to watch the videos: http://blogs.reuters.com/fanfare/2008/10/02/leonardo-dicaprio-other-celebs-pump-up-youth-vote/

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Youth Come Out For International Coastal Clean-Up Day

On the third Saturday of every September, volunteers worldwide set aside time for one common purpose: to help clean up our oceans and beaches. This movement, known as International Coastal Clean-Up Day, started in 1986 in South Padre Island, Texas, when one woman organized a mass beach cleanup of 2,800 Texans. In the 22 years since that day, the movement has grown to include more than six million volunteers in 127 countries and in all 55 U.S. states and territories.

Youth volunteers have played a substantial role in this yearly event’s success. Approximately 2,000 sacks of garbage were hauled out of Manila Bay in the Philippines on September 15, 2008, by volunteers. Among government workers and representatives of the private sector, youth activists and organizations were present, including high school and university students, as well as members of the East Asian Youth Network (EASy), a group of young people, committed to protecting and managing the Seas of East Asia.

In Massachusetts, International Coastal Clean-Up day presented an opportunity for service learning. Young members of the My Turn organization, a non-profit working with youth aged 14-21, took time out of their day on September 24 to gather trash, clean, and collect data in the Nahant Beach Reservation. While helping to clean up their environment, these teens learned about the importance of protecting marine and coastal areas.

Youth in South Africa took the whole week to clean up rivers, canals and beaches in their country, following the tagline “Sea change starts with you!” Schools from Cape Town partnered with the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa and the Save our Seas Foundation to clear litter from various waterways while looking at river health and the effects of inland littering on bodies of water.

The youth from the Philippines, Massachusetts and South Africa join the ranks of hundreds of thousands of volunteers, young and old, that go to work each year removing millions of kilograms of litter from waterways and beaches around the world. But it doesn’t end there. By cleaning up the coasts, young people are seeing first-hand the negative impact that human culture can have on the environment and the impact of their own actions. A prime example of service learning, International Coastal Clean-Up Day improves our oceans by leaps and bounds, while inspiring a sense of responsibility for the environment. Global events like these demonstrate that the youth of the world can decide, to some degree, the state of the world that they will inherit.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Day of Action

Service Nation Summit 2008 may be over but the call for young Americans to service has not. The journey towards a unified service movement and a new America begans September 11 in New York City and will continue to the rest of America on the 27th of September which has been designated "Service Nation Day of Action"

Thousands of communities around the nation will mobilize on September 27, the Day of Action, to demonstrate the impact that service has – and could have - upon our country and the power of citizens to create large scale change.

Why September 27th?

This date was specifically chosen because it is firstly, the day after the first Presidential debate, the day after Congress adjourns for recess, and therefore most congressional members will be in their home districts on this day and lastly, National Public Lands Day, a day to highlight and celebrate our public green spaces across the country.

There are currently "2645 events planned" for this day.

Some of the events happening are:

New York, NY: HealthCorps invites you to join Dr. Oz, staff and friends for a special Zumba fitness class with over 200 people at the Jacob J. Javits Convention Center on the Day of Action. Learn more about HealthCorps’ proactive health movement and get tips on eating smart and staying fit for a healthy, wealthy America. WB and NY One will be there to cover the event.

Miami, FL: Pelican Harbor Clean-up - Come out for a fun-filled beach clean up day! Volunteers will take a short boat ride on the 49 passenger Pelican Island Skipper catamaran to Pelican Harbor. Volunteers will work on the island cleaning up debris to help keep the bays and beaches beautiful. At the end of the morning volunteers take a boat ride around the island and northern Biscayne Bay.

To find an amazing event in your community, go to http://events.servicenation.org.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Agents for Change in Addressing Community Challenges

On September 8, 2008, President Bush addressed a large crowd of service volunteers on the south lawn of the White House. He took this opportunity to show his appreciation for the time and effort given by members of the military, AmeriCorps, the Peace Corps and his initiatives, the USA Freedom Corps and the Citizen Corps.

President Bush addressed this “army of compassion” thanking them for their heartfelt gift of service. It is always encouraging to hear the President’s support for service programs throughout the US and internationally. However, the remarks of President Bush demonstrate shift in rhetoric regarding the role of service corps in the US and worldwide. While earlier presidents regarded service as a significant contribution to solving community problems and a responsibility held by all sectors of society, the current rhetoric addresses service instead as a compassionate act of good will.

It is important to note that the foundations for service in the US were not established as “armies of compassion,” but to fulfill the responsibility of all people to address the challenges facing communities in the US and worldwide. When President Bill Clinton signed the National and Community Service Trust Act of 1993, creating AmeriCorps among other things, he discussed the desire he witnessed on the part of young people to provide for their communities. He talked about getting things done and the responsibility of Americans to engage in service to meet the challenges of communities throughout the US, saying:

I hope, believe, and dream that national service will remain throughout the life of America not as a series of promises but a series of challenges across all the generations and all walks of life to help us to rebuild our troubled but wonderful land.

President George H.W. Bush promoted the thousands points of light (eventually the Points of Light Institute) of volunteering in the US. In his inaugural address in 1989, he discussed US volunteering with a sense of duty and responsibility.

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.

In 1961, President Kennedy signed Executive Order 10924 creating the Peace Corps. Through this order he authorized sending Americans overseas to help other countries meet their urgent needs for skilled manpower. At the signing of this order, President Kennedy also discussed the critical needs Peace Corps volunteers will meet through their service and the responsibilities of all Americans to contribute to global development.

We will only send abroad Americans who are wanted by the host country--who have a real job to do--and who are qualified to do that job. Programs will be developed with care, and after full negotiation, in order to make sure that the Peace Corps is wanted and will contribute to the welfare of other people. Our Peace Corps is not designed as an instrument of diplomacy or propaganda or ideological conflict. It is designed to permit our people to exercise more fully their responsibilities in the great common cause of world development.

Finally, in 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, signed into existence the Community Conservation Corps to bring together a need for jobs and a need for public works. President Clinton described the contribution the CCC made to communities in his 1993 remarks:

Sixty years ago in the depths of depression, Franklin Roosevelt created the CCC and gave Americans the chance not only to do meaningful work so that they could feed themselves and their families but so that they could build America for the future. And down to this day there is not a State in this country that is untouched by the continuing impact of the good work done by the people who labored in the CCC.

The words of former President’s as they created the service corps in history, exemplify their vision of service members as agents for change in addressing challenges faced by communities across the country and throughout the world. Their role is more than just acting with compassion, but also serving the community, investing in service and meeting critical needs.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Voices For National Service Draft Support Letter

*cross-posted from Voices for National Service eNewsletter*

Support of S. 3487, the Serve America Act

Members of ServiceNation and Voices for National Service have drafted a letter of support for the Serve America Act, legislation introduced last week by Senators Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT). The support letter is currently circulating for sign-on, and final copies will be shared with other Members of the Senate to encourage them to co-sponsor S. 3487. The goal is to have at least 100 organizations signed on to this support letter by Friday, September 19.

To add your organization’s name to the growing list of signers, email Greg Propper at gpropper@bethechangeinc.org. Please provide your organization's full name and the name of your CEO or Executive Director.

Click here to review the text of the support letter that will be sent from leaders in the national service field and movement.

Current signers include:

  • Alan Khazei, Founder & CEO, Be the Change, Inc.
  • AnnMaura Connolly, Member, Voices for National Service Steering Committee
  • Bill Basl, Chair, American Association of State Service Commissions
  • Eric Schwarz, President & CEO, Citizen Schools
  • Jacqueline Johnson, Director, Connecticut Commission on Community Service
  • James Cleveland, President, Jumpstart
  • Jason Patnosh, Associate Vice President, National Association of Community Health Centers
  • Jill Pasewalk, CEO, Camp Fire USA
  • John Bridgeland, CEO, Civic Enterprises, LLC
  • Nelda Brown, Executive Director, National Service-Learning Partnership
  • Marguerite Kondracke, President & CEO, America's Promise Alliance
  • Mark Lazzara, Executive Director, Western New York AmeriCorps
  • Martin Weinstein, Executive Director, Bay Area Community Resources, CA AmeriCorps Alliance
  • Michael Brown, Co-Founder & CEO, City Year
  • Michael Rubinger, President, LISC
  • Michelle Nunn, President & CEO, Points of Light Institute
  • Paul Schmitz, President & CEO, Public Allies
  • Sally Prouty, President & CEO, The Corps Network
  • Wendy Kopp, Founder & CEO, Teach for America

Legislative Update Congressional Hearing on National Service Scheduled

The House Education and Labor Committee will hold a full committee hearing titled "Strengthening the Country’s Commitment to National Service" on Wednesday, September 24. The hearing is scheduled to begin at 10:00 a.m. in room 2175 Rayburn House Office Building. Witnesses to be announced.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Senators Kennedy & Hatch Introduce Serve America Act

*cross-posted from Voices for National Service eNewsletter*

On Friday, September 12th, Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced S. 3487, The Serve America Act. A major legislative initiative to expand and improve domestic and international service opportunities, the bill will recruit Americans of all ages to do service work in health, education, environmental protection and anti-poverty programs. Senator Kennedy, Chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said in a statement, the “Serve America Act” will “connect every generation through service, and enable them to help tackle a wide range of national challenges, from the dropout crisis that plagues our schools to the lack of health care in our neediest communities to the energy and environmental crises that threatens our planet.” Senator Hatch said, “By harnessing the talents and efforts of the American people, faith-based groups and nonprofit organizations, we can empower more people, improve more communities and tackle more of our nation’s greatest challenges.”

S. 3487 will expand opportunities for people to serve their communities at every stage of life, from students and working adults to retirees. The original cosponsors include both presidential candidates, Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Barack Obama (D-IL), as well as Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS), and Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT).

The introduction of S. 3487 is the first step towards the passage of a comprehensive national service reauthorization bill that will build off the success of the existing national service programs. Programs like AmeriCorps, Senior Corps and Learn and Serve America have not been reauthorized in 15 years and legislation is needed to help strengthen and expand the federally supported service initiatives, stimulate community volunteerism, and increase accountability and efficiency within the administration of the programs. S.3487 builds and expands the national service infrastructure to further address critical community needs while developing civic competencies in those who participate.

Click here to read the Press Release from Senators Kennedy and Hatch upon the introduction of their bill.

Click here for an executive summary of S.3487, The Serve America Act.

Click here for S.3487's bill text.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Youth - towards a new agenda in the Middle East and North Africa

Youth are becoming an increasing priority for countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Youth are an asset that if properly nurtured can stimulate the economic and social development of the region. Countries are searching for effective policies to capitalize on this youth asset and an increasing number of governmental and nongovernmental institutions in the region are involved in youth related-work.

At the regional level an increasing number of initiatives are being organized with a focus on youth inclusion and participation. Governments and NGOs across the MENA region are increasingly moving towards policies and initiatives that are more inclusive of youth by encouraging the expression of youth voice in the process of policy formulations and/or project implementation. Several national initiatives are being launched which reflect the move toward youth-inclusive policies and programs that promote youth led development work in the region.

One such venture would be Peace Camps held in Egypt over the past summer.

The Suzanne Mubarak Women’s International Peace Movement (SMWIPM) launched its pilot “Summer Peace Camps” July 26th to July 31st, 2008. The summer peace camps (SPC) are interactive week long set of programs convened to empower youth in seeing the school as a space for active knowledge seeking and creating participatory learning environments.

Aimed at 13 to 15 year olds, the Summer Peace Camps’ ultimate goal is to empower youth in promoting messages of peace throughout their communities. Members of the Peace Movement’s youth network of young people aged 15 to 28 years of age are also receiving training to become certified trainers for the SPCs.

This pilot project adopts a ‘peer to peer’, youth-led development model for the camps. Peer education is an educational model that relies on different groups of young people teaching and learning from one another. Adopting the peer education model is part of the movement’s efforts to bridge the divide between different sectors of young people and to allow for open platforms of communication. All segments of the program will focus on creating cultures of peace through highlighting the values of tolerance, acceptance, communication and respect. The culture of peace is the main focus of these camps and takes different forms in the program through art, environmental, and sports activities. The program activities are tailored to promote attitudes of responsibility towards one’s community through caring for the environment and understanding the importance of team work and cooperation through sports. The program also concentrates on the internet as a tool of knowledge, maintaining the importance of internet safety. And it focuses on unleashing one’s creativity and imagination through artistic activities.

The camps will be extending beyond the traditional urban centers to include and link different communities from all over Egypt. Ultimately these camps are aimed at providing the youth of Egypt with a forum for critical thinking and creative responsibility, the first step in creating a culture of service and youth-led development amongst their young.

Friday, August 8, 2008

ICP’s Summer of Service Resource Center to Launched

As the culmination of approximately five years of development and incubation, ICP is pleased to announce the launch of our Summer of Service (SOS) Resource Center with the generous help of State Farm. The resource center will serve as a guide and reference for organizations and individuals seeking to partner and participate in youth service and service learning activities during the summer.

The Summer of Service Resource Center grew out of ICP’s 2005 report entitled “Summer of Service: A new American Rite of Passage?” because of an observed lack of information for interested youth and groups serving youth. Summer of Service is meant to provide a safe, positive and constructive alternative to the idleness and boredom that generally fills summer vacations.

For students moving between middle school and high school, Summer of Service would offer a welcome distraction from the monotony of unstructured weeks. The resource center provides tools and reference materials to help organizations create successful SOS programs. Furthermore, it will act as a forum for the exchange of SOS information and ideas with the goal of improving programs and further tailoring them towards the needs of the students and of the recipients of the service.

The Resource Center has 3 main components; a discussion forum, a program database and a materials database—all three of which will be continually expanded.

SOS Discussion Forum - The SOS Online Resource Center also includes an Online Discussion Forum. The first posted topic: suggestions on how to improve the SOS Resource Center. Please share your thoughts with us and post additional topics!

Program Survey – ICP is seeking to gather more information about Summer of Service programs and policies to add to our searchable database of youth service programs and policies. If you would like to add your program to our database, please fill out our quick survey. Visitors to our website can also search our database for Summer of Service programs – click here to go to the search form of our program and policy database, select “Summer of Service” under the Form of Civic Participation field, enter in any additional search criteria, and click “Do Search!”

Call For Materials - ICP is continuing to develop and expand the Resource Center, and welcomes any and all suggestions. If you have materials to contribute, information to share, or other suggestions for improve the Resource Center, please email Jean Manney at manney@icicp.org. Thank you!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

IANYS Global Conference Update

As the Secretariat for the International Association of National Youth Service (IANYS), Innovations in Civic Participation would like to invite all of our blog readers, national youth service advocates, and youth service volunteers around the world to attend IANYS’ 8th Global Conference on National Youth Service in Paris, France on November 19-22! Along with ICP, Unis-Cité and the Association of Voluntary Service Organizations (AVSO) will be hosting this international conference for all professionals involved in youth development and service. The conference will include four days of training sessions on policy and programming, workshops given by experts on policymaking, research, and volunteerism, site visits to local youth development organizations, networking, and receiving the latest materials on youth development.

Here at ICP we are very excited to announce that one of the conference’s keynote speakers is Kumi Naidoo, the current CEO and Secretary General of CIVICUS, a Rhodes Scholar, an appointee on the UN’s Persons Group on United Nations-Civil Relations, and former South African anti-apartheid activist. CIVICUS is an international coalition of over 500 organizations promoting civic engagement around the world. He has been a civilian activist against since the age of 15 when he protested apartheid in South Africa which he was later imprisoned and since then, he’s been active in several campaigns promoting social justice and fighting global poverty. He also writes extensively.

Past IANYS conferences have had participants from 48 different countries amongst the on-average 50 participants. However this year, we are hoping for these numbers to grow. All IANYS members are invited as well as anyone interested in learning, researching, or implementing national youth service policy or programs. For more information on the conference, including registration and accommodations for the conference, please visit ICP’s website.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

ServiceNation to Hold Presidential Candidate Summit on Volunteerism

On September 11th, ServiceNation, a National Campaign of a large group of non-profits, such as NCLR, Habitat for Humanity, the AARP and City Year, will be holding a Presidential Summit on National Service. The forum will be broadcast by CNN and moderated by Time Magazine in an attempt to shine a light on the importance of modifying and readying American National Youth Service (NYS) Policy for the near future and a change in executive branch leadership.

The Summit will include both a dialogue between the Presidential Candidates, as well as a call to action in support of Ted Kennedy and Orrin Hatche’s upcoming legislation on NYS. This will include a formal request that the legislation be enacted by the new president within one year of the start of the conference (by September 11th, 2009).

However, the “ultimate goal of the ServiceNation Summit" is to have US citizens sign the Declaration of Service, to increase the yearly national level of participation in community service from 61 million Americans to 100 million citizens by the year 2020.

Also, a part of the summit is meant to publicize the September 27th, 2008 Day of Action during which Americans across the country will engage in coordinated community service actions to show the power of civic service on a large scale. This event is scheduled to coincide with the first Presidential debate of the election season and continue to publicize the need for sensible and expanded National Service policy.

ServiceNation represents the growing tide of support for National Service from a variety of organizations who recognize the value of increased civic engagement.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Teach for America Goes Global


Last September Teach for America announced the launch of Teach for All, a new organization that will support entrepreneurs in other countries who are pursuing the development of the Teach For America model locally. Funded by the Clinton Global Initiative, the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, and the Amy and Larry Robins Foundation Teach for All is to be the international "franchise" of the TFA model. The basic model is for local organizations to channel the talent and energy of their countries’ top recent college graduates against educational disparities facing tens of thousands of children in their high-poverty communities. Initially Teach for All will support programs in India, South Africa, Estonia, Israel, and Germany. The program will raise $25 million over three years.

The Dell Foundation provided $2.5 million to support the initiative in India. According to Michael Dell, “India, with its 400 million children, stands to benefit greatly from the development and training of top leaders who can present the wonders and advantages education has to offer. We are pleased to support the international expansion of Teach For America, as its proven approach to placing effective teachers on the ground will ensure that more children in India are given the educational opportunities they deserve.” In addition to the support of these foundations, Teach for All is heavility supported by pro bono consulting from McKinsey & Company.

And the results of this effort are already being felt. Teach for India, in cooperation with the Times of India, is preparing a major roll-out this fall. According to the new Teach India website,

"Teach India is a nation-building initiative (or social initiative) from the Times of India that brings together children in need of education and people who can contribute a little time towards teaching them. It is based on one simple principle: If you have the desire to teach, we will put you in touch with underprivileged children who are willing to learn. With over sixty of India’s committed NGOs, corporates, schools and social organizations already supporting our cause, we now look for selfless individuals to come forward and help change the future of a child forever, by giving just a few hours a week to Teach India"

So far the program is proving to be wildly popular. A variety of companies have signed on as sponsors. The initiative is receiving virtually daily coverage in the Time of India. According to a report on July 31st, Teach India had over 55,000 volunteer applications--way above the 10,000 that were anticipated. So great has been the interest that Teach India has had to expand the program, seek new partners, and find new opportunities to involve volunteers.

Teach for All is an amazing initiative that ICP wholeheartedly embraces and supports. We have long known and seen the benefits of youth civic engagement and are happy that others in the field are taking an increasingly international approach. The time is right to invest in youth civic engagement in South Asia. That's why ICP is following Teach for All's example and launched our own South Asia program. Look for details in a future post!

Youth Service in the EU

In a recent article from the Times of Malta, the European Commission’s plans to expand international youth service within the EU were announced. There are already several existing programs to do volunteer work, but most lack the ability to volunteer across national borders. In light of the potential for volunteer work to act as another dimension of education, this has struck an especially positive note. The article elaborated on the plans:
Thus, volunteering is being taken one step ahead as a cross-border opportunity to offer "young people a special experience that can have strong beneficial effects on their personal development."

In fact, earlier this month the European Commission launched a proposal with the aim of "encouraging member states to improve the interoperability of national youth volunteering schemes in order to make it easier for a volunteer from one country to participate in the volunteering schemes of another."

The initiative targets people under the age of 30 who wish to carry out voluntary work in another country rather than in their home country.

"Such voluntary activities differ from formal employment, since they are usually unpaid (except for some pocket money and expenses) and cover a limited period of time, typically several months. Volunteers are active in a whole range of areas, from civil protection and social inclusion to cultural preservation and the environment."
This type of program is incredibly valuable, as it allows youth an opportunity to gain a sense of solidarity with their peers across the European Union. Not only will this benefit the host countries, but the volunteers themselves stand to reap considerable rewards for their efforts. The consequences of their work could include increased proficiency in foreign languages, breaking down cultural barriers, and the acquisition of marketable skills in an increasingly competitive job market. Once this program is established and running, it will be exciting to see the results unfold.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Deadly Youth Riots Erupt in Kenya

Over the weekend, more violent riots broke out in secondary boarding schools across Kenya. Numerous dormitories were vandalized and burned, leading to one death in Nairobi and roughly 200 arrests. The upheaval has caused 200 schools to be closed across the country in the last 3 months. Articles from AllAfrica.com and BBC have attempted to explain why young students across the country are violently protesting school administrations by destroying millions of dollars of property and killing a classmate. One student blamed the upcoming mock exams. Some have blamed overcrowding since the government’s recent increases in school attendance due to a new bill offering free secondary education to over a million students, while others eye complaints of poor food quality for boarders and unbearable rules enforced by the administration. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education blames a ban on corporal punishment passed 5 years ago for creating a nation of undisciplined and violent youth.

How does this crisis relate to youth service or national youth service policy? Kenya’s situation exemplifies the significance and challenges behind how a government views and treats its youth population. The events have highlighted a clear communication breakdown between the youth and the government. The current government is in transition from a punishment-based education system to a modern education policy based on expansion through equality. This change and potential instability alongside major education initiatives cannot be understated. Although Kenya’s education minister, Sam Ongeri, had good intentions in paying the tuition for 1.4 million more students this year, Kenyan infrastructure has been as of yet unable to support this expansion and as a result, the youth cannot be expected to tolerate insufferable learning and living conditions. In dealing with these issues, Kenyan youth need to find and be helped to find a voice and stake in their futures as citizens.

Kenya does have a national youth service policy that was instated shortly after independence. However, the service policy is focused on internal security, recruiting police officers and members of the military. In June of this year, the National Youth Service budget was increased by $3 billion, creating 15,000 more jobs – 8,000 police, 1,000 nurses, and 6,000 teachers, illustrating the government’s emphasis on primarly internal security. This is reasonable since Kenya has experienced violent social turmoil due to elections and youth discontent in the last year. Thus, the government treats the youth as both a security liability and the answer to security. This measure is divisive, as there are youths in government service under the national youth policy attempting to control the civilian youths fighting to have their grievances heard. In considering a means to achieving sustainable peace in Kenya, the need for the 8,000 police and $3 billion budget increase could be diminished if youth programs for service were created to proactively address the students’ issues. These could include after-school programs that build schools, teach food preparation, hold gardening classes to improve quality of produce, or the planning and hosting of youth conferences discussing national testing and elections. Of course this is the idealistic approach: Kenya’s youth improving school’s food quality while learning to garden or sitting at a round-table to discuss the unfairness of national tests. This would mean the government’s perspective on youth would again need to transition from viewing the youth as a group that needs to be controlled to a group that has a positive and active role as well as acknowledging the group’s potential contributions to the democracy.

Until productive strategies and programs are in place, successful public schooling will be a dream, just as independence from oppressive colonial leadership was nearly 60 years ago. Weathering the storm of change towards progress instead of reverting back to older systems will push Kenya towards a more inclusive democracy. National youth service programs based on community welfare could be the peaceful means for Kenyan youth to publicize their grievances and help incorporate Kenya’s youth into a more consolidated democracy.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Music National Service Initiative (MNSi) and the Music Service Corps Proposal—A Logical Next Step for National Youth Service Policy?

A recent Blog by Kiff Gallagher on Huffington Post explores the merits of creating a national service to bring music to underprivileged areas of the United States. Gallagher reports on the Music National Service Initiative’s MusicianCorps, which would attempt to foster the “critical skills a child develops when she struggles with her instrument, writes a song, joins a band or finds her voice in a choir”—skills that would help a young boy or girl succeed and contribute to the economy and help address future challenges. These capabilities are also what employers in high-end industries look for in their search for productive, flexible, adaptive and imaginative employees.

The correlation between engaged and active youth and music education has been proven in a variety of instances. Involvement in the arts results in lower rates of recidivism, 17% higher rates of graduation and better test scores in English and science. This is due, in no small part, to the fact that young men and women love music. In a MTV survey cited by Gallagher, teens said that music “defines them more than family, moral values, religion and style.” MusicianCorps would provide a medium through which successful and more affluent people could connect and impact society for the greater good—transcending social and economic boundaries.

This truly innovative route towards civic participation deserves support and advocacy from any service oriented non-profit. Already on board with the MNSi’s proposal are City Year and ServiceNation, who are both organizational partners. This group, led by MNSi, has begun to push legislators for consideration of an Artist or Music service along with current GreenCorps and HealthCorps Initiatives. MusicianCorps is a logical addition to US national youth service policy in the spirit of the founders of AmeriCorps.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

IANYS Conference Plans Progress During Susan's visit to Paris

Last week, ICP’s Executive Director, Susan Stroud, spent a day in Paris meeting with our partners at Unis-Cite and AVSO to work out some details of the planning process for the 8th Global Conference on National Youth Service.

The conference will be held at the Fondation des Etats Unis at the Cite Universitaire in Paris from 19-22 November 2008. Last spring, ICP became the secretariat for the International Association for National Youth Service (IANYS), a global network of practitioners, researchers, and policymakers working in the field of national youth service, service-learning, and youth development. IANYS hosts a global conference every two years, and as the new secretariat for the network, ICP is responsible for hosting the 8th Global Conference. We have partnered with IANYS Global Council Members at Unis-Cite and AVSO to host the conference in Paris, and received the venue as a generous in-kind donation from the US Embassy in Paris.

Plans for the conference are progressing very well. Conference sponsors include the University of Minnesota, UN Volunteers, the European Commission, and the Benoit Foundation…and more are coming in each day. We also have secured Kumi Naidoo, Secretary General of CIVICUS, to be a keynote speaker at the conference.

Check out www.icicp.org/ianys for more news as plans for the conference progress.

Photos: IANYS Conference Planning Committee in Paris from Left to Right:
Elise Depecker, Susan Stroud, Magalie Schickele, Agnes Uhereczky, Marie Trellu and Universite de Paris, Cite Universitaire

Friday, July 11, 2008

Botswana Announces 5th Annual Youth Awards

Rewarding Youth Service is important in motivating increased participation. Botswana has taken a lead in nationally recognizing youths and projects that have made a difference in local communities. Earlier this week the Botswana Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture announced the start of the process to nominate and give out their 5th Annual Youth Awards.
Ministry arranges 5th youth awards

The Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture, through the Department of Culture and Youth, will be hosting the 5th Botswana National Youth Service Awards this year.

The awards ceremony will be held on 28 November. As the National Youth Service awards seek to recognise all deserving youth nationwide, the department has started mobilising the youth to nominate their projects for the exercise. The awards seek to reward young people who make a difference in their communities in terms of development and empowerment.

The awards are for projects that have been primarily thought, planned and carried out by the youth and also individuals or youth groups whose services and objectives are aimed at youth development.

The theme for this year's awards ceremony is: "Young People's Active Participation in National Development Processes: An imperative".

Entry forms are obtainable from all District Youth offices countrywide. The completed forms should be hand-delivered to the District Youth offices by 25 July, which is the deadline.

Youth Service requires motivated membership, and awards are especially effective in achieving this goal. National recognizance also increases visibility of the programs and projects, helping involve non-profits and stimulate funding. Indirect forms of compensation are pivotal in successful Youth Service Programs, as evidenced by the scholarships and tax credits given to members in countries across the world. Botswana's 5th Annual National Youth Service Awards are an effective example of this strategy for increasing participation.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Millennial Generation: Serving Main Street or Wall Street?

A recent New York Times article by Sara Rimer has again raised the question of the civic role of our nation’s elite universities and their privileged graduates. The article examines the perception that a growing number of Harvard graduates are forgoing careers in public service (or at least public interest) for more lucrative jobs on Wall Street with hedge funds, investment banks, and consulting firms. According to the article, 20 percent of Harvard graduates were heading into financial services and management consulting this year. As Harvard education professor Howard Gardener put it, “Is this what a Harvard education is for? Are Ivy League schools simply becoming selecting mechanisms for Wall Street?” To many of us who have never been part of the “Ivy League” the professor’s shock seems somewhat ironic—“becoming,” really, becoming? After feeling slighted for approximately 30 seconds when I failed to make the “Ivy” cut I proceeded to one of thousands of other extremely rigorous private or public institutions that dot the American higher education landscape, where I received an education worthy (I think) of any investment bank or federal agency. But I digress. Perhaps Professor Gardener and Harvard’s new president Drew Gilpin Faust are on to something? Certainly they are not the only ones to worry about the supply of qualified public servants.

In May Representatives David Price (D-NC) and Christopher Shays (R-CT) introduced H.R. 6160 The Roosevelt Scholars Act of 2008 to establish a scholarship program to encourage outstanding graduate students in “mission critical” fields to pursue a career in the federal government. The legislation would provide for the cost of graduate tuition for up to 5 years of study in exchange for at least 3 and not more than 5 years of service in “mission critical” federal positions (Mission-critical positions are those a federal agency identifies as essential to achieving its core functions). According to the Office of Personnel Management, approximately one third of the government’s top scientists, engineers, physicians, mathematicians, economists, and other highly specialized professionals will be retiring in the next five years. A report by the Partnership for Public Service suggests that over the next two years, our largest federal agencies project that they will hire nearly 193,000 new workers for "mission-critical" jobs.

What seems apparent is that the retirement of baby boomers, particularly those in public service will create an enormous demand for a new generation of civil servants. However, the rising cost of a college degree and the growth of student debt combined with the difference in compensation between Main Street and Wall Street is bound to push graduates towards private gain at the expense of the public good. Now, I am all for private gain, but I am also for individual choice, and I know that some graduates, if given the choice (i.e. it was financially viable) would select a career in public service. Money aside, there is of course the question of the relative ‘prestige’ associated with the two career paths, but on the whole I think the relative prestige tends to reflect the differing financial rewards rather than say, an underlying cultural value in favor of derivatives trading. Perhaps, (it certainly cannot be ruled out) I am woefully out of touch with the present culture. Otherwise it would seem the question is one of incentives: Are public servants sufficiently compensated? Are investment bankers over-paid (as the shareholders of Bear Sterns)? Should graduates pursuing careers in public service (as opposed to financial services) receive the same support in their course of study?

Regardless of where you come down on the first two questions I think most people could agree that it is in the public interest for public monies (in this case federal financial aid) to give preference (the two should not be mutually exclusive) to students who in turn intend to pursue a career in public service. And on the whole I think most people would agree that it is in partial fulfillment of their civic role that University’s offer financial assistance to students interested in public service that may not be available to students on other career paths.

Thus, the most sensible means of adequately staffing public agencies and encouraging a new generation to consider public service is to incentivize education in exchange for service. Doing so could take the form of the Price-Shays legislation that would award scholarships in exchange for federal service. It could also include increasing the AmeriCorps education award and tying it more closely to the rising cost of a four year degree (as opposed to the CPI) as Senator Dodd’s National Service Legislation would. The new GI Bill is another means. Or perhaps the creation of a U.S. Public Service Academy--based on the model of the military academies—which would train an elite cadre of dedicated civil servants (the Academy similarly noted and responded to the Times article).

Finally the examples set by Universities like Amherst, Tufts, and U Penn should inspire other institutions to consider their own civic roles (Tufts will pay off student loans for graduates who choose public service professions). It’s time for the folks at Harvard to quit their hand-wringing, put their money where their mouth is (all $ 36 billion) and follow the example of innovators like Tufts. Maybe then the John F Kennedy School can again claim to be a school of government.

National Service Continues to be an Important Election Issue

Using the July 4th holiday as a pulpit, presumptive Democratic Nominee for President Barack Obama's July 2nd speech at CU-Colorado Springs has continued to consolidate and strengthen his argument for increased patriotic service by every American.

Obama backs the current bipartisan GI Bill introduced by Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) and called for an Educational Tax Credit to motivate increased civic engagement. Obama's vocal support of service legislation is coupled with public calls for a reorientation of American society--"We were ready to step into the strong current of history, and to answer a new call for our country. But the call never came. Instead of a call to service, we were asked to go shopping."

This is the most important and progressive part of Obama's National Service platform--for the first time in recent memory a high level American political leader has made a concise appeal to our patriotic instincts and coupled it with feasible legislation to motivate increased civic engagement. Support and acknowledgment of the power of youth civic engagement and service learning is the first step towards educating a generation of young men and women on the merits of positive and constructive patriotism.

Article Addressing McCain and National Service

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Zimbabwe National Youth Service and the 2008 Election: Lessons for the National Service Community

In recent days, the political climate in Zimbabwe has continued to deteriorate, as hopes for a peaceful democratic transition have been dashed. Last week, in the face of growing violence and repression, opposition leader and presidential candidate Morgan Tsvangirai withdrew from the Presidential Election Runoff between himself and President Robert Mugabe. Although election monitoring is not typically within ICP’s purview, the role of the faulty Zimbabwe National Youth Service (NYS) in a campaign of state-sponsored repression and violence against the opposition Movement for Democratic Change clearly necessitates ICP’s comment.

Zimbabwe’s National Service Act of 1979 created rules for who could be incorporated into the Zimbabwe National Youth Service and the military; however, it was not until 2001 that a formal NYS program was created. The Service was created as an alternative to school for 10-30 year-olds and was intended to be a gateway to national economic and social development. The Zimbabwe National Youth Policy states in part that,
“It is acknowledged that the development of young people in Zimbabwe requires the involvement of different groups and sectors. The National Youth Policy, therefore provides a means whereby these different sectors (Government, Non-Government, Community, and Private) as well as young people themselves, can work together to achieve common goals.”
However, the function of Zimbabwe’s NYS has diverged from its mission as stated in the 1979 Service Act. For example, many of the camps have been shown to be centers for political indoctrination and military training that serve as a pipeline to the ruling party militias, called the Zimbabwean African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF). Zimbabwean youth are drawn to NYS by the promise and advantage of better work opportunities, as many jobs only consider candidates with NYS alumni status. However once in the NYS camps, many members encounter brutal conditions and are coerced into learning military skills.1 According to The 2008 Child Soldiers Report published by The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers,
“Training centres provided militia training in a 120-day program for 1,000 young people at a time, although numbers declined as the economic and food crisis intensified in the country. Several thousand children and young persons had received training by March 2007. Training focused on paramilitary skills and political education, and allegedly included torture and killing techniques. It was reported that girls were repeatedly raped by other trainees and staff.”
Rather than contribute to the socioeconomic development of the nation, ZANU-PF sponsored groups have been used in order to intimidate, injure and kill political rivals since as early as the 2002 Presidential election. Firsthand accounts, verified that “uniformed graduates of the youth service” perpetrated violence against opposition political supporters. This trend has continued up until present, as the ruling party has continued to use the NYS to perpetrate acts of aggression towards political rivals and supporters. According to the 2008 Child Soldiers Report,
“Youth militia, as well as ruling-party supporters and the army, were used to intimidate the opposition in the 2005 elections. Youth militias were also deployed in “Operation Sunrise”, in which they harassed motorists and commuters when a new currency was introduced in 2006. Violence involving youth militia intensified from March 2007, with reports of beatings, abductions and arbitrary detention targeting opposition figures. Militias were used to enforce price controls, especially from mid-2007 in “Operation Reduce Prices”, when youth militias were sent to enforce price reductions of 50 per cent by supermarkets, shops and stalls. Allegations of political intimidation and attacks on opposition supporters, forced displacement, killings, torture, rape and the destruction of property by members of ZANU–PF youth militias continued up to the end of 2007.”
Not surprisingly, this violence has carried over to the hotly contested 2008 election—during the time between the disputed outcome and the resultant runoff, at least 80 opposition supporters have been killed and 10,000 people injured as well as twice as many homes destroyed, and over 200,000 displaced by the violence. This has culminated in the withdrawal of opposition presidential candidate Morgan Tsvangirai from the race citing danger to both the survival of his party, The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and his supporters. Tsvangirai was quoted as saying, "Zimbabweans . . . have withstood years of brutality, impoverishment and intimidation. But we in the MDC cannot ask them to cast their votes on June 27 when that vote could cost them their lives."

The Zimbabwean Ministry of Youth Development and Employment Creation has denied opposition accusations that its members have participated in and helped organize the recent political violence. They maintain that NYS programs instill patriotism, discipline and self esteem in the members and are much like the National Youth Service programs in the US and other western countries. However, what separates Zimbabwean NYS from effective youth service programs like AmeriCorps and the South African NYS is the methodology used for reaching these goals.

National Youth Service as a concept is vastly different from what the Zimbabwean government has applied in practice. Innovations in Civic Participation defines National Youth Service as “A civilian program in which young people spend several months meeting local communities’ needs in exchange for minimal financial compensation. National youth service programs provide young people with training, essential self-knowledge, skills, and hands-on experience.” National Youth Service in the Zimbabwean context means service towards the support of the ruling party resulting often in violent action to suppress opposition politics, which itself is a violation of the human rights that youth civic engagement is meant to express.

The National Youth Service (NYS) of Zimbabwe is a corruption of the ideals of National Youth Service. Civic engagement is meant to be constructive, yet the actions of the Zimbabwean NYS are divisive, counterproductive and have corrupted at least a generation of young men and women—teaching them that fear and violence are the way to achieve change.

International experts fear that the rampant political indoctrination and militarization occurring in Zimbabwe will lead to ethnic cleansing and civil war. NYS programs require effective oversight, funding and participation to achieve positive changes for countries and for young and eager participants. NYS is meant to promote positive and active engagement to improve society and hold leadership accountable. The Zimbabwean NYS has achieved the opposite, through youth engagement in ways that rupture the fabric of society and support the ruling doctrine. Youth Service should serve as an environment for the incubation of one’s own political ideals, cultivated around an understanding of shared fate and community responsibility.

Zimbabwe’s problems prove how powerful youth groups can be. When this collective strength and eagerness is harnessed correctly, important community building can result. However, when they are formed with ulterior motives, for political indoctrination or as a militaristic youth corps, NYS groups become powerful tools against community building, inclusive government and peaceful society—fighting against the very goals of youth service and service-learning initiatives across the world.

1 Rejoice Shumba’s “Social Identities in the National Youth Service of Zimbabwe” is an extensive exploration of how exactly the Zimbabwean NYS operates.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

National Service and the Presumptive Republican and Democratic Nominees for President

After June 3rd, the US Presidential race is down to two major-party candidates, John McCain of the Republican Party and Barack Obama of the Democratic Party. McCain and Obama have both shown a willingness to discuss the expansion of AmeriCorps and new ideas for national and community service in the US. Here at ICP, we have paid close attention to their platforms, as the future of National Service both in the US and abroad is contingent upon the policies of the two candidates.

Both candidates have called for young men and women to serve their country in some capacity—in the armed forces, AmeriCorps, or the Peace Corps. Along with this call, the candidates have proposed implementing specific new program initiatives and policy changes in order to achieve the goal of increased civic engagement, though Obama’s platform is more comprehensive than McCain’s.

John McCain voted against the AmeriCorps bill in 1993, but later became an advocate for the expansion of AmeriCorps. In 2003, he cosponsored the “Call to Service” bill with Senator Evan Bayh, which would have vastly increased the size of AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps and provided monetary compensation for the work.

However, more recently his support has waned as he has admittedly focused more on security issues. In 2005, he called for US citizens, even those who oppose the war, to contribute 2 years of service to the United States as an act of patriotism. In an Op-Ed in the Dallas Morning News, McCain wrote:
“There are few greater ways of infusing your life with meaning than by spending two or more years in the service of your nation. The military obviously forms an exceptional way to serve America and our ideals, but it is not the only route. The Peace Corps and AmeriCorps also provide excellent and fulfilling ways to serve.”
At present, the Republican candidate’s major policy initiative related to civic service is his support of “Troops-to-Teachers,” which creates incentives for returning military service people to transition into careers in teaching. In a March 15th, 2008 speech in Columbus, Ohio, McCain spoke about his vision for National Service and the US educational system in 2013:
“Public education in the United States is much improved thanks to the competition provided by charter and private schools; the increase of quality teachers through incentives like merit pay and terrific programs that attract to the classroom enthusiastic and innovative teachers from many disciplines, like Teach for America and Troops to Teachers.”
Although vocally supportive of AmeriCorps and Teach for America (an AmeriCorps program), McCain has failed to present a dynamic and thorough policy for expanding and funding these programs. When asked by ServeNext (an organization dedicated to advocating for increasing the visibility of National Service programs as well as funding them) to sign their “Presidential Pledge to Expand National Service1,” McCain declined, saying, “I stand on my record, not on pledges.”

On the other side of the aisle, Barack Obama not only signed the ServeNext Pledge, but has also developed a more comprehensive proposal to address the need for national youth service and civic engagement. On his website, Obama has a page dedicated to service under his “Issues” section. Here, Obama details his plan for improving support and funding for National Youth Service Programs.

One of his major initiatives would include expanding AmeriCorps from 75,000 slots annually to 250,000, as well as doubling the size of the Peace Corps. Obama also provides for changing American culture to be more receptive to national service by stimulating service learning in middle and high schools and by offering a $4,000 tax credit to college students willing to contribute 100 hours of public service a year.

Obama has made several speeches, including his December 5, 2007 speech, “A Call to Serve” at Cornell College in which he laid out the national service platform for his campaign and his May 25, 2008 commencement address at Wesleyan University, which outlines the vision he has for youth service in the context of the future of the United States. In the speech at Wesleyan, he said,
“As President, I intend to grow the Foreign Service, double the Peace Corps over the next few years, and engage the young people of other nations in similar programs, so that we work side by side to take on the common challenges that confront all humanity… …You know, Ted Kennedy often tells a story about the fifth anniversary celebration of the Peace Corps. He was there, and he asked one of the young Americans why he had chosen to volunteer. And the man replied, “Because it was the first time someone asked me to do something for my country.” I don’t know how many of you have been asked that question, but after today, you have no excuses.”
This speech went beyond a simple endorsement of the AmeriCorps program—it was a call to young men and women to serve their country in any way possible. In his speech at Wesleyan, Obama made clear that his support for national service derives in part from his own experience as a community organizer on the south side of Chicago – a connection that links national service to a progressive view of national service as a vehicle for social change and justice

In a world where civic engagement has become increasingly popular and where young men and women have increasingly attempted to donate their time and skills to help create change, support for programs like the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps from the highest levels of government has never been more important.

(For more current information with regards to Presidential Candidate Obama's position, also see this speech at CU-Colorado Springs.)

ServeNext does not have the Presidential Pledge uploaded to their website; however, they do have the
Congressional Pledge, which is the exact same pledge, only that it instead asks the congressperson to join the Congressional Caucus for National Service.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

I am joining the blogging world

Today Susan Stroud and Innovations in Civic Participation have officially joined the blogging crowd. I intend to use this blog to keep folks updated on the work I am doing here at ICP. In particular I will use this as an opportunity to share with you all the interesting resources I encounter regarding youth service and civic engagement as well as offer my own views on the latest developments in the field. Finally, I will keep you up to date on the events ICP sponsors or that I attend and the traveling I do in order to stay abreast of all the latest news, research, and programming in the field of youth service.

Looking forward to getting started!

Please give me feedback on how to best utilize this space or to comment on specific posts.

Happy New Year!!!

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