Service is a Strategic Weapon

by Mark Feldman

As I travel back from the Points of Light Institute’s Presidential Summit on Community Service, hosted by Former President Bush (41) and President Obama, I am inspired by the direction and fresh momentum of the national and community volunteerism movement. Discussions have moved well beyond volunteerism as a “nice to do” or “a civic responsibility,” toward a focus on using service as a tool to achieve targeted social outcomes.

Here are some highlights from the Summit:

  • President Bush celebrated the 20th year of the Points of Light initiative and Awards.
  • President Obama called national service a truly bi-partisan issue that we must all rally behind. He showcased some of his administration’s recent milestones, including the Kennedy Serve America Act and the formation of the White House Office on Social Innovation.
  • Michelle Nunn, President of Points of Light Institute and Founder of the Hands-on Network, demonstrated her rapidly expanding leadership in the space and announced that collectively local Hands-on affiliates now execute over 1000 volunteer projects each day.
  • Michelle Nunn and Bobbi Silten, Chief Foundation Officer of Gap Inc., announced Reimagine Service, a new initiative geared to strengthen the capacity of the service field to focus on impact.  Their white paper will be released later this week at ReimaginingService.org.
  • Neil Bush, Chairman of Points of Light Institute, announced that the number of national TV shows which will embed volunteerism themes into their episodes next week should exceed 120.  This will be part of theiParticipate Initiative, spearheaded by the Entertainment Industry Association (EIF).

I think Jean Case, President of the Case Foundation, best summed up my current feelings about the future of community service when she said “service is a strategic weapon.”  I too believe that we must work even harder to harness the power of service in a strategic way and focus our resources on creating meaningful outcomes. Today, the service movement feels stronger than it has in years. I am looking forward to first getting off of this airplane, and then being a part of the next chapter in the always evolving service field.

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